According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals
and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power
is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. - anon

Monday, December 12, 2011

Merry Christmas from Sweden!


Yogi Yorgesson Yingle Bells




I have a Swedish inheritance that I do not remember much of except for its bits and pieces strung together and lost to the ravages of time in my failing memory of its lore and traditions. A few years ago, my folks visited my grandmother's relatives in Sweden (apparently we have a lot of family members in the Stockholm area) and told us again how our great-grandparents came to America as young men and women. As talented craftsmen, after years of dreaming and building, they were able to realize the Johnson & Johnson Furniture Company in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which they managed from 1908 to 1963. I was eight when the company was sold, and lived on a distant farm disconnected with my mom's rich past, but can still remember the touch of a good piece of wood shaped and lacquered under my little hands, as they swam over Johnson furniture pieces feeling the run of the grain underneath.

One of the things I remember are Grandma and Grandpa Johnson's great love for Christmas and the fun they would have on Christmas Eve where they hosted a large, and happy, family party for all their grand kids. After punch, eats, treats, and dinner, it began with a recital of the Christmas Advent and the lighting of candles (they were Lutheran) and ended with a rowdy rendition of "Yingle Bells" which we all greatly loved to sing very loud and very off-key.

Then, beneath the handcrafted ornaments that we had made from the weekend before (mostly from whatnot - sponges, cardboard, string, tinsel, and glitter spray) entered grandpa to his "Ho, Ho, Ho's" bearing a large bag of presents on his back. He was a kind of stringy fellow with great, good humor, but the red suit and fake white whiskers hid him well enough as his eyes dashed and glinted at the commotion he caused while we danced and pranced around his jolly figure (oftentimes too jolly because the uncles by then had started their own earlier celebration).

We excitedly welcomed Santa and patiently waited each one of us for our paper-wrapped gift or two which we opened with little care to the bows or wrappings, and then shared with one another our games, trucks, dolls, and toys. Those were fun memories that wander my mind and soul each Christmas Eve as I remember the long drive home along the river bed gazing through the trees that ran beside us into the cold starry sky above. Looking for Santa streaking across the winter airs to our home far ahead on a snowy night that was too hard to sleep until wearily we did in nodding repose under thick comforters mom lovingly had fashioned from needle and thread.

Then wake to dad's excited exclamations and his folks loudly jingling sleigh bells underneath our bedroom windows as they trundled through the snow from their ancient farmhouse next door in the early morning dark. Excitedly padding down the long wooden hallway my brothers and I toppled into a living room filled with the love and joy of Christmas we remember each year with one another even now with our own families as we celebrate Christ's good birth, and goodwill, to one and all.

To honor this grand family heritage I thought it might be fun to put together a variety of web links related to Old World Swedish Christmas customs and traditions in remembrance of this time of year (if there are better web links please let me know!). And, as they say in Swedish, "God Jul!" which means in Swedish - and spoke with a twinkle in the eye and a bit of mischievousness added - "Merry Christmas" to one and all this happy season of good tidings!

R.E. Slater
December 12, 2011
update January 9, 2014; December 10, 2016


Swedish christmas - Astrid Lindgren tributevideo:
Barnen i bullerbyn



Christmas through the generations:
"When adults look to their youth,
and youth to the stars ahead."

Just a little X-mas video I put together for you all. One more time I've used clips from one of  Astrid Lindgren's masterpiece. This time it's "The children in Bullerby village." I wanted to show what a traditional Swedish Christmas could look like. It's the best in the world! The song is sung by a Swedish group, Bubbles. Hope you enjoy the video and have a wonderful Christmas!



A Swedish Christmas Poem

My Grandmother wrote this poem about those Christmas celebrations in the "Old Country" If not for the discussion on Christmas traditions I would not have gotten to revisit her words. Thank you for letting me share.

Diane Johnson


Jul-Tide Pilgrimage

In fancy, I go to the Northland,
At Christmas time long, long ago,
When my Mom was a small girl in Sweden
And forests were laden with snow.

She helped choose the spruce on the hillside -
The prettiest one to be found;
Granddad felled it and loaded the stoneboat
With small folk and tree, homeward bound.

Red lingon have long since been gathered
For jam as a holiday treat;
They grow in the moss-covered marshes,

Come hither to fill their wood buckets
And thrill to the cuckoo's call,
That chimies from the top of a pine tree -
A peace and good will song to all!

The candles are moulded from tallow,
Good Julbread and fruit soup is made;
Round cheeses, stuffed sausage and lutfisk,
Will humble festivity aid.

Preparedness is now in full motion,
The floor is sand-scrubbed and looks white,
With a door mat of evergreen branches -
Some on stove for incense delight.

This Christmas is full of surprises,
Red apples now sway in the tree;
Dear presents - so graciously home-made,
And eyes that are starfilled, I see.

It's Christmas Eve! In this lowly dwelling
The true Jul-tide Spirit abides,
The head of the house reads the Story -
The love of the Christ Child presides.

At dawn, on their brisk walk to God's House,
Groups carol the long six-mile way -
Thus honor the Babe with their presence
And worship on this Blessed Day.

May you, too, have a heart-warming Christmas,
Find you in each good thing God lends
And thrill as each candle-light hallows
The Gift that His Love to you sends.



by Phoebe Carolina Swanson Johnson
December 1962
Sioux Falls, South Dakota



Swedish Sled with Gifts
  

A few Swedish links

Christmas in Sweden

Traditions around Christmas

The Christmas Goat in Gavle, Sweden

Ulla-Janes Jul-hörna dish!

My Christmas Page

Have a Swedish Christmas


http://thesoriamoria.com/2013/11/scandinavian-christmas-soria-moria/


http://www.scandinavianchristmastraditions.com/christmas-in-sweden.html

Celebrating Christmas Yule in Scandinavia

Christmas Markets in Scandinavia

Christmas in Sweden

Christmas in Sweden, more than any other holiday, is the time for sentiment and joy. Stored feelings come out in the open and the freedom to express what is in the heart is joyously embraced.

There is no need to fear being considered emotional or sentimental, because everyone is prompted by the same feelings.


This release of emotions makes for a warmer companionship, and at no other time of year are there such gratifying attachments formed as at Christmas. Formality is put on the shelf – and Swedish formality can be strong – letting the Christmas spirit take over.

To the children the anticipation is almost unbearable. They count the days – the day before the day, before the day . . . – until at last the day itself arrives, Christmas Eve.

That is the day of climax in Sweden as in the rest of Scandinavia, not Christmas Day. Weeks of scrubbing, weeks of baking, weeks of cooking terminate with this day. The house smells Christmas!

The Christmas tree is brought inside and with it fresh air and the fresh scent of pine. The children flock around father as he puts the star at the top of the tree and mother searches through boxes for the familiar trimmings and ornaments. Garlands of small Swedish blue and yellow flags are common, and if the family has relatives in other countries such as the United States there will be garlands of small flags from those countries too.

The Swedish Dopp I gryta must for all practical reasons be enjoyed in the kitchen. Serving the meal buffet style facilitates the ceremonial procedure in front of the stove where members of the household now gather to dip their bread in the pot or gryta, that is, in the hot broth.



Saying Merry Christmas in Swedish: God Jul

In this collection you will find over 300 holiday postcard images to bring Sweden’s Christmas traditions to life.

The charm, warmth, and beauty of a Swedish Christmas is captured in this remarkable collection of 300 colorful, fun, and historic postcards dating back to the 1800s.

Each postcard reveals the magic behind Christmas, Scandinavian tradition and folklore.

Here, the tomte/nisse meets Santa and children play with angels.

With traditional postcards from renowned artists such as Jenny Nystrom, Elsa Beeskow, and Aina Stenberg, accompanied by explanations of the cultural and historical past, God Jul will make everyone that is even a little bit Swedish homesick for an Old World Christmas.



From a very old christmas story comes this description of Christmas in Sweden:

In Sweden there is a general house-cleaning before Christmas; everything must be polished, scrubbed, beaten, and made clean, and all rubbish burned, for dirt, like sinful thoughts, cannot be tolerated during the holy festival.

Christmas in Sweden - preparations

As early as the first of December each housewife starts her preparations for the great day. Many have worked all the year making gifts for the occasion, but now the carpets must come up and be beaten, the paint must be cleaned, and the house set in order.

Above is an album of Swedish singing of Christmas favorites, the now world famous Peter Mattei is featured along with choral singing of the first rank. You will be pleased to hear it!

The silver which has been handed down from generation to generation, together with that received on holidays and birthdays, has to be cleaned and polished, so must the brasses-the tall fire-dogs, the stately andirons, and the great kettles-all must be made to reflect every changing ray of light.

Christmas in Sweden - baking

Then the baking for a well-ordered household is a matter of great moment, and requires ample time. It is usual to begin at least two weeks before Christmas. Bread is made of wheat and rye flour, raised over night, then rolled very thin and cut into discs twelve or fourteen inches in diameter, with a hole in the center.

After having been baked, these are strung on a stick and left to dry under the beams of the baking-room. As they will keep a long while, large quantities are made at this season in each household. Then follows the making of sweetened, soft, rye, wheat, and other breads, as well as the baking of the light yellow (saffron), the chocolate-brown, and thin gray-colored cakes, and those that are filled with custard.

Christmas in Sweden - Christmas Drinks

The preparing of Christmas drinks always requires the close attention of good dames, for there must be an inexhaustible supply of Christmas beer, made of malt, water, molasses, and yeast, and wine with almonds and spices, and various other decorations.

Then the cheese must be made ready, not only the usual sour kind, but the more delicious sweet cheese that is made of sweet milk boiled slowly for hours and prettily moulded. The Swedish wife is relieved of the burden of making pies, as her people know nothing about that indigestible mixture so acceptable to American palates.

Christmas in Sweden - the Christmas Tree

The festivities begin with the dressing of the tree the day before Christmas. In this the older members of the family, with friends and relatives, join with great gusto, preparing paper flowers with which to bedeck the tall evergreen tree which reaches from floor to ceiling. They cut long ribbons of colored paper for streamers, and make yards of paper fringe to wind with the tinsel among the boughs, from which are hung bright colored boxes of sweetmeats, fruit, and fancy balls.

The children are, of course, excluded from the room and obliged to content themselves with repeating the tales of Santa Claus, (Christmas in Sweden is connected with "Tomten", the Swedish version of Santa Claus) as told by their elders. When a gift is offered in person, or, as is more generally the case, is thrown in the door suddenly by an unseen hand, there rings a merry Glad Frill (God Jul = Good Yule) meaning "Merry Christmas," for that is the wish of the preceding day or days, rather than of Christmas itself.

Christmas in Sweden - Christmas Eve

On Christmas Eve at early nightfall, when the colored candles are ablaze over the entire tree, and the great red ball of light shines from its topmost branches, the children are admitted to the room amidst a babel of shouts and screams of delight, which are increased upon the arrival of a veritable Santa Claus bestrewn with wool-snow and laden with baskets of gifts.

On the huge sled are one or more baskets according to the number of bundles to be distributed in the family. Each bundle bears the name of the owner on its wrapper, together with funny rhymes and mottoes, which are read aloud for the amusement of all. Santa Claus always gives an abundance of valuable counsel and advice to the young folks as he bestows upon them his pretty gifts.

After the distribution of gifts and the disappearance of Santa Claus, all join in dancing and singing around the tree simple, childish jingles such as the following: "Now is Christmas here again, Now is Christmas here again, After Christmas then comes Easter, Cheese and bread and Christmas beer, Fish and rice and Christmas cheer! -etc."

One of the prettiest dances is that of "Cutting the Oats," in which girls and boys-there must be an extra boy-dance in a circle, singing: "Cut the oats, cut the oats, Who is going to bind them? That my dearest will have to do, But where will I find him? "I saw him last eve in the moonlight, In the moonlight clear and bright, So you take one and I'll take one, And he will be left without one."

The boys represent the cutters and the girls the oats, and great merriment prevails as the cutters' arms encircle the waists of the pretty oats, leaving the unfortunate cutter, whom they all dance around, bowing scoffingly as they shout: "No one did want you, Poor sprite, no one wants you, You are left alone, You are left alone." Many of their games are similar to "Blind Man's Buff," "Hunt the Key," and "Hot and Cold," or "Hunt to the Music," the latter being one which by its modulations from pianissimo to forte indicate the hunters' nearness to the object sought for.

The game of "Blind Feeding the Blind" causes much amusement among the juveniles; two players sit opposite each other blindfolded and endeavor to feed one another with spoonfuls of milk, and their mishaps are very entertaining to the on-lookers. Christmas in Sweden: Between the hours of ten and eleven comes the grand Christmas supper, when all adjourn to the dining-room to partake of the annual feast for which the housewives have long been preparing.

The table is usually tastefully and often elaborately trimmed with flowers and green leaves. The corners of the long snow-white homespun cloth are caught up into rosettes surrounded with long calla or other leaves; possibly the entire edge of the table is bedecked with leaves and flowers.

The butter is moulded into a huge yellow rose resting on bright green leaves, and the napkins assume marvelous forms under the deft fingers of the artistic housewives.



Christmas in Sweden - Swedish Christmas Traditions

Amazon link here
Christmas in Sweden evokes fond memories of delicious homemade breads and pastries, simple and beautiful wreaths and ornaments, and handmade crafts fashioned by the fire on a snowy day.

Here readers will learn how to bring those warm traditions into their own homes, wherever they live.

Included are instructions to make mulled wine, homemade peanut brittle, red candied apples, crisp pepparkakor, lightly browned Swedish meatballs, candles, wreaths, and more.

Each recipe and project are accompanied by beautiful full-color photographs.

From fashioning centerpieces to baking delicious cookies to hand-making Christmas tree ornaments, this book will inspire readers to rediscover the joys of a Scandinavian Christmas.

The Christmas mush (rice porridge) holds the first place in importance among the choice viands of the occasion; it is rice boiled a long while in milk and seasoned with salt, cinnamon, and sugar, and is eaten with cream. Several blanched almonds are boiled in the mush and it is confidently believed that whoever finds the first almond will be the first to be married.



Christmas in Sweden - Customs

While eating it, each one is expected to make rhymes about the rice and the good luck it is to bring them, and the most remarkable poetical effusions are in order on these occasions.

The Christmas fish is to the Swede what the Christmas roast-beef is to the Englishman, an indispensable adjunct of the festival. The fish used resembles a cod; it is buried for days in wood ashes or else it is soaked in soda water, then boiled and served with milk gravy.

Bread, cheese, and a few vegetables follow, together with a pudding made of salt herrings, skinned, boned, and cut in thin slices, which are laid in a dish with slices of cold boiled potatoes and hard-boiled eggs, covered with a dressing of cream, butter, and eggs-then baked and served hot.

The fish, rice, and a fat goose are said to be served at every table on Christmas from that of the king to that of the commonest of his subjects.

Christmas in Sweden - Christmas Morning

Christmas morning opens with an early service in church, to which the older members of the family go in sled parties of from forty to fifty sleds, each drawn by one, two, or even three horses, over whose backs jingle rows of silver-toned bells.

The sled parties are a special feature of Christmas in Sweden. They start out while the stars are still twinkling in the sky, and the lighted trees are illuminating the homes they pass.

The day itself is observed with less hilarity than other days during the season; the "Second Christmas Day" or day following, being far gayer. Then begin the family parties, with the looking forward to the great Twelfth-Night ball, after which the children and young folks end their evening parties by untrimming the tree of their entertainer amidst peals of laughter, songs, and shouts.

The tree, of course, has been supplied anew with candles, fruit, and candy. The first are blown out and the last two struggled for while the tree is drawn slowly toward the door out of which it is finally pitched by the merry crowd.

Christmas in Sweden - Official Holidays

The Swedes have four legal holidays at Yule, beginning the day previous to Christmas, and they make merry while they last. Besides having the Jul-gran or Christmas tree, each family places in the yard a pole with a sheaf of grain on top for the birds' Christmas dinner, a pretty custom of Christmas in Sweden and common to many other countries.

Business is very generally suspended during Christmas in Sweden, the day following, Twelfth Day, and the twentieth day. "Do as your forefathers have done, and you can't do wrong," is said to be the motto of the Swedes.

So the customs of their forefathers are strictly observed at Yule-tide - Christmas in Sweden. Svea, the feminine name of Sweden, the "Queen of the North," contains what is popularly believed to be the burial-places of Wodin, Thor, and Freya.

The mounds are about one mile from Upsala and are visited by travelers from all parts of the world. Antiquarian researchers, however, have recently had a word to say in doubt whether these mounds contain the remains of the renowned beings, those ancient travelers.

The Swedes, however, still cling to the belief that the bones of Wodin, the Alexander of the North, rest beneath the sod at Upsala. In these mounds have been found the bones of a woman and of a dog, a bracelet of filigree work, and a curious pin shaped like a bird, but no sign of Wodin's presence.

Yet peasants believe that Wodin passes by on dark nights, and his horse's shoe, with eight nail-holes, is exhibited in the museum at Utwagustorp.

New Year's Day is of comparatively little importance; the Christmas trees are usually relighted for the enjoyment of the poorer children and gifts are made to the needy. The Yule festivities are prolonged for two weeks in many places, during which the people visit from home to home and enjoy many social pleasures.

The devout attend church services each day, abandon all work so far as possible, and on January thirteenth generally finish up the joyous season with a ball.

A folk tale depiction of Father Christmas riding on a goat.


The Yule goat is a Scandinavian and Northern European Yule and Christmas symbol and tradition. Its origin may be Germanic pagan, and has existed in many variants during Scandinavian history. Modern representations of the Yule goat are typically made of straw. The custom of wassailing is sometimes called "going Yule goat" in Scandinavia.



The Swedish Gävle goat in 2006


The Gävle Goat (Gävlebocken) is a traditional Christmas display erected annually at Slottstorget ("Castle Square") in central Gävle. It is a giant version of a traditional Swedish Yule Goat figure made of straw, and is erected each year at the beginning of Advent over a period of two days by local community groups. It is notable for being a recurring target for vandalism by arson, and has been destroyed several times since the first goat was erected in 1966.





Swedish Christmas celebrations begin with the first of Advent. Saint Lucy's Day (locally known as Luciadagen) which is the first major Christmas celebration before Christmas itself. Electric candles and glowing stars are placed in almost every window in December month in Sweden. Although December 25 (juldagen) is a Swedish public holiday, December 24 is the day when the Jultomte (or simply Tomte) brings the presents. Although not a public holiday, Christmas Eve is a de facto holiday in the sense that most workplaces are closed, and those who work, for instance in shops or care homes, get extra wages as a compensation. (See also: Public holidays in Sweden for further explanation of this concept.)

Scandinavian folklore


The Jultomte was originally a small invisible Christmas house gnome or dwarf from the Nordic mythology, who watched over the house and its inhabitants. An old superstition still calls for feeding the Tomte on Christmas Eve with a small bowl of porridge. If a bowl of porridge is not laid out for him somewhere in or outside the house, he will bring bad luck to everyone in the house the next year. The modern "Tomten", nowadays is a version of Santa Claus in red cloth and white beard, except that he doesn't enter the house through the chimney, but knocks on the door and asks "finns det några snälla barn här?" ("are there any nice children here?")

In the 1840s, an elf in Nordic folklore called "Tomte" or "Nisse" started to deliver the Christmas presents in Denmark. The Tomte was portrayed as a short, bearded man dressed in gray clothes and a red hat. This new version of the age-old folkloric creature was obviously inspired by the Santa Claus traditions that were now spreading to Scandinavia. By the end of the 19th century this tradition had also spread to Norway and Sweden, replacing the Yule Goat. The same thing happened in Finland, but there the more human figure retained the Yule Goat name. But even though the tradition of the Yule Goat as a bringer of presents is now all but extinct, a straw goat is still a common Christmas decoration in all of Scandinavia.

File:N2 Christmas tree.jpg
Christmas tree in Stockholm, Sweden

Swedish Customs

Christmas is, as everywhere else, an occasion celebrated with food. Almost all Swedish families celebrate on 24 December with a Christmas table, called Christmas smörgåsbord (julbord), a display of several Christmas food items. Almost all julbord has Christmas ham, (julskinka) accompanied by other Christmas dishes, such as small meatballs, pickled herring, spareribs, small hot dogs, lutfisk, pork sausage, salmon, Janssons frestelse (potato casserole with anchovy), and rice pudding. The Christmas julbord is served with julmust and beverage like mulled wine, Christmas beer or snaps. A Scandinavian speciality is the glögg (mulled and spiced wine with almonds and raisins), which is served hot in small cups. The different dishes of the julbord may vary throughout Sweden, from South to North. Businesses traditionally invite their employees to a julbord dinner or lunch the weeks before Christmas, and people go out privately to restaurants which also customarily offer julbord during December.

Examples of candies and treats associated with Christmas are marzipan, toffee, knäck (quite similar to butterscotch), nuts and fruits: figs, chocolate, dates and oranges decorated with cloves.

Television also plays a big role, many families watch the Disney Christmas special Kalle Anka och hans vänner önskar God Jul (From All of Us to All of You), Karl Bertil Jonssons julafton (animated short), or a re-run of the Svensson, Svensson episode God Jul! (Merry Christmas) on the TV channel SVT1.[25]

File:Gavle christmas billy goat.jpg
Julbock, a giant Christmas goat at the Gävle town market, Sweden

After the julbord on December 24, the presents are distributed, either by Jultomten or a family member, and usually from a sack or from under the Christmas tree where they have been lying all day or for several days. Many Swedes still adhere to the tradition that each present should have a rhyme written on the wrapping paper, to hint at the contents without revealing them.[26] In older days a yule goat was an alternative to Jultomten, nowadays it is used as an ornament, ranging from sizes of 10 cm to huge constructions like the giant straw Christmas Gävle goat, famous for frequently being vandalised or burnt down. If one has two families to celebrate Christmas with, it is common that one of the families move their celebrations to Christmas Day or the day before Christmas Eve (commonly referred to as little Christmas Eve).

Stor bonad - Slädparti från julottan, 1940 tals-motiv

After December 24, the Christmas celebrations have more or less come to an end. Some people attend the julottan, an early morning church service on December 25. This particular service was the main service of Christmas historically—nowadays, the Midnight Mass has become increasingly popular. Others attend a simpler service called Christmas Prayer in the afternoon of Christmas Eve; however, many Swedes do not attend church at all during Christmas as the country is very secular. Even so, most families do set up a Julkrubba (Christmas Crib). On January 13 (locally known as knutdagen or tjugondag knut, English = twentieth day Christmas), 20 days after Christmas, the Christmas celebrations come to an end and all Christmas decorations are removed.

Swedish Angel Chimes

Swedish julkrubba nativity with candles

The Christmas Story Worldwide

File:Sinterklaas 2007.jpg
Sinterklaas or Saint Nicholas, considered by
 many to be the original Santa Claus.
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ,[5][6] celebrated generally on December 25[2][3][4] as a religious and cultural holiday by billions of people around the world. A feast central to the Christian liturgical year, it closes the Advent season and initiates the twelve days of Christmastide.[7] Christmas is a civil holiday in many of the world's nations,[8][9][10] is celebrated by an increasing number of non-Christians,[1][11][12] and is an integral part of the Christmas and holiday season.

The precise day of Jesus’ birth, which historians place between 7 and 2 BC, is unknown.[13] In the early-to-mid 4th century, the Western Christian Church first placed Christmas on December 25, a date later adopted also in the East.[14][15] Theories advanced to explain that choice include that it falls exactly nine months after the Christian celebration of the conception of Jesus,[16] or that it was selected to coincide with either the date of the Roman winter solstice[17] or of some ancient winter festival.[16][18]

The original date of the celebration in Eastern Christianity was January 6, in connection with Epiphany, and that is still the date of the celebration for the Armenian Apostolic Church and in Armenia, where it is a public holiday. As of 2011, there is a difference of 13 days between the Julian calendar and the more generally used Gregorian calendar. Those who use the Julian calendar or its equivalents thus celebrate December 25 and January 6 on what for the majority of people is January 7 and January 19. For this reason, Ethiopia celebrates Christmas, both as a Christian feast and as a public holiday on what in the Gregorian calendar is January 7.[19]

Many of the popular celebratory customs associated in various countries with Christmas have pre-Christian or secular themes and origins. Popular modern customs of the holiday include gift-giving, music, an exchange of Christmas cards, church celebrations, a special meal, and the display of various decorations; including Christmas trees, lights, garlands, mistletoe, nativity scenes, and holly. In addition, several figures, known as Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas, and Santa Claus, among other names, are associated with bringing gifts to children during the Christmas season.[20] Because gift-giving and many other aspects of the Christmas festival involve heightened economic activity among both Christians and non-Christians, the holiday has become a significant event and a key sales period for retailers and businesses. The economic impact of Christmas is a factor that has grown steadily over the past few centuries in many regions of the world.


Swedish Christmas
(Swedish Christmas Advent songs and traditions)



Trailer for a new app and DVD with Swedish Christmas songs and traditions.






How to do a really Swedish Christmas
(this link is no longer operative)

Christmas is very special to Swedes plain and simply because a Swedish Christmas is very special. Many people who do not have any Swedish roots have also adopted some of the picturesque customs that have been globalized by IKEA, Ingmar Bergman’s “Fanny and Alexander” and Swedish generally by Christmas enthusiasts spread around the world.

The real enjoyment of a Swedish Christmas is in the preparations. The “getting there” should be just as joyful as the real thing. This is important because many an ambitious housewife is too exhausted to enjoy the actual festivities.

The Christmas stress is fuelled by “countdowns” in the form of the Advent Candles and the Advents Calendar that provide for a reminder that Christmas is fast approaching.

The advent candle custom came to Sweden from Germany as late as in the 1920s. Any holder for four candles will do, and you can fill it with moss and small toadstools. You can also improvise with four separate candlesticks. Light one candle on the First of Advent, the first Sunday in December or at times the last Sunday in November. Let it burn down a little and then light it again on the second Advent together with the second candle and so on.

In Sweden you can also buy tall candles with 24 pre-printed dates. You can make your own with a marker pen.

The first widespread advents calendars evolved from the 24 gingerbread cookies with numbers made of melted sugar that Gerhard Lang got from his mother. When he grew up and became a printer, he adapted the idea to make decorative printed advents calendars in 1903. Today most children in Sweden get a Swedish Television calendar that is based on a serialized story that they can follow as they open each window.

In North America you can buy the chocolate calendars that are popular in Sweden too. Many families make special advents calendars of their own with a small gift or a message for each day. You can hang 24 small dated packages with everything from chewing gum or stickers against a colourful backdrop or make a little chest with 24 drawers out of small matchboxes.

General Christmas preparations can be divided into three categories - decorations, gifts, and food and entertaining. And tucked somewhere in there is the compulsory thorough cleaning of the house including changing curtains and draperies.



Colourful Christmas lights are quite a late development in Sweden where white lights still dominate as an outdoors Christmas decoration. The origin of this may well be the advent Christmas tree that the Swedish church introduced around the same time as the Christmas tree was introduced in Sweden in the late 19th century. Each advent the church lit seven candles in the advent tree so that in the end there were 28 burning candles in the pine or juniper tree. Between Sundays the tree was placed outdoors in the snow without any decoration other than the candles and this is probably the inspiration for the way Swedes do their decorating outdoors.



Door decorations are a relatively young feature in Sweden where it has traditionally been customary to decorate windows with candles, hyacinths and home-made decorations. In the 1940s the founder of H&M, Erling Persson made a small fortune getting Swedes to hang an electrically lit paper star lantern in their windows. Nowadays the most popular window decoration is an electric 7-candle candelabra that you can buy at Swedish gift stores or at Ikea.

As for the centerpiece of Christmas decorations, the tree, most families in Sweden wait until the day before Christmas Eve to bring in the tree and decorate it with Swedish flags on ribbons, lights and hand-made trinkets collected through the years. Candles are still used and many homes keep to a theme like all red trinkets or angels of all kinds.

The Christmas tree is not thrown out before the Twentieth Day Knut, that falls on January 13. And of course this has to be done with a bit of pomp and ceremony. It is fun to throw a party on this day and dance around the Christmas tree for the last time before “plundering” it and throwing it out through the window.

In the olden days farmers spent the dark autumn evenings working with straw. Fewer and fewer people make billy-goats and other ornaments from straw themselves these days. Even the straw is in short supply so it may even be hard to get hold of the traditional sheath of hay to place outside the home for the birds.

Luckily you can get “Swedish” Christmas straw ornaments that are imported from Asia in gift stores and at Ikea and pet stores have many alternatives to sheafs to feed the birds.

Nevertheless it is great fun and very gratifying to make some decorations as well as small gifts by yourself. Reserve an evening for do-it-yourself “pyssel” . You can make heart baskets out of brightly coloured paper, cardboard angels or crackers made of brightly coloured tissue paper. Use scraps for other decorations and for personalizing Christmas cards. In Sweden 80 percent of households send an average of 20 Christmas cards each and it is always the personal touch that counts.

Christmas in Sweden is all about lighting a cozy fire and having as many candles as you can squeeze in. If you are entertaining it is also nice to have candles outside the door or if there is snow you can make “snölyktor” like snow caves made of snowballs with a candle inside.

In rural Sweden of the past, special candles were made for each family member at Christmas. The performance of each candle was given much importance because it foretold all kinds of thing. Candle-making has long been a favourite pursuit but this is quite a fussy business. You can take a short-cut by recycling old stumps. Make a small hole in the middle of the bottom of an old soup can and stick a thick wick through it and tie a knot at that end. Straighten the wick out and tie a pin to the other end on top of the can. Melt candle stumps in a double boiler and pour in about two centimeters of the wax into the can at a time. Let cool and continue the process making sure you don’t get any air bubbles in the wax. When the wax has solidified, open the bottom of the can with a can opener and slide the candle out.

Candles make nice personal gifts. If you are not a good knitter or seamstress or terribly handy with wood, you can put in a little personal touch into bought gifts with a poem or a personal wrapping with sealing wax.

In Sweden you go to the local “julmarknad” to get the traditional ornaments and to get into the Christmas spirit. In Stockholm you don’t want to miss the market at Skansen or at Stortorget in the Old Town. In North America Swedish and Nordic organizations set up Christmas fairs where you can get traditional handicraft.

Hospitality flourishes during this season. In the old days a visitor to a house was not allowed to leave without eating or drinking something “otherwise the Christmas spirit would leave the house.” A glögg party is one of the nicest ways to start off the Christmas season. There are lots of different recipes for this mulled wine. You can be creative but the spices - cinnamon, cloves and cardamom - are essential. You can also buy the ready-made stuff at Ikea and mix it with wine or even keep it non-alcoholic. Serve the glögg with almonds and raisins in small glasses with spoons. All you really need as an accompaniment are ginger snaps. These days however glögg parties have become elaborate affairs where you get a pre-taste of the Christmas buffet.

Many people have their glögg party on December 13, Lucia Day. This day starts early in the morning with a female member of the family clad in white with a bright red sash, and wearing a crown with lit candles serving coffee and Lucia buns to the members of the household. You can use a nightgown if you don’t have a white gown and it may be advisable to get the battery-operated plastic Lucia crown instead of using real candles. The very first documented Lucia in Sweden actually wore angel wings and had the candles on the tray so this the only really Swedish Christmas tradition is open for interpretation. The Lucia rite is repeated throughout the day in various forms in schools, offices and at organized events everywhere.

One of the last nights before Christmas must be devoted to baking and the making of candy. Saffron buns and gingerbread figures are the classics but most families also make various kinds of cookies. Seven types - sju sorters kakor - was the prescribed number in the olden days.

For candy you can make figurines out of marzipan and dip them in chocolate or embark on the other two classics - knäck and ice chocolate that are somewhat more time-consuming. Other favourites are Pink Caramels, Mint Kisses and Brandy Balls.

On a more ambitious level you can make a gingerbread house from scratch or get an assembly-ready one at Ikea and concentrate on the decoration and with the help of cotton for snow and a mirror for a frozen pond create a winter wonderland filled with santas and other figures. This is in essence the non-religious version of the manger.

The Julbord - the Christmas buffet - requires quite a big of pre-preparation.. Much of the food eaten on Christmas Eve has to be prepared ahead which is practical because it makes for a more relaxed day. Nowadays you can take quite a few shortcuts and you can pick and choose the items you want to concentrate on. December 9 is the day when you have to think about lutfisk if you are preparing it from scratch. These days most people buy it ready made which is also true for the ham that you buy cured and bake and dress. If you are ambitious you can make your own sausage and flavour vodka to make your very personal schnapps - aquavit.

The best thing about a Swedish Christmas is that Santa often comes in person to deliver the gifts. In Sweden you can rent a Santa (for about SEK 400) but in North America you have to be creative. Normally the tomte comes in the evening of Christmas Eve and asks if there are any nice children there before he plunks down his sack and distributes gifts. To make the wait for tomte even shorter many families have introduced a “little santa” who comes in during the night and fills stockings with gifts to occupy children with until the big tomte comes.

Before he makes an appearance, it is time to enjoy the Julbord with the compulsory ham, herring, gravlax, herring and beat salad, meatballs, Jansson’s temptation, sausages, ribs, paté, veal brawn, red cabbage and “dip in the pot” all downed with mumma and aquavit and rounded off with rice porridge with its hidden almond.

In Sweden all Christmas Eve activities stop at 3 in the afternoon when the Donald Duck Special comes on television and everybody, absolutely everybody sits down to watch this hour-long programme that has become as much a part of Christmas celebrations as the ham and the tomte.

Some time during this special day there has to be dancing around the Christmas tree and music in some form or another.

Christmas day, December 25, is a quiet day for Swedes. It starts off with a church service in the wee hours of the morning. Julotta services are held in many places in North America.



An Old Documentary on
Christmas in Sweden 1940





Please write of your memories of the Old Country and the Swedish traditions
that your family have passed on to you and your children in the comment
sections below. Thank you and Merry Christmas to one and all. - res




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