It’s Christmastime! Swedish Christmas Decorations to Put Up

After my massive bashing on Swedish fashion, I figured I would at least credit Sweden with awesome decoration for Christmas.  I mean, I’ll still be hater on fashion here.

It’s definitely Christmastime in Stockholm.  The lights on Hornsgatan are lit up.  Ahleans has the pretty Christmas lights.  And even the Pressbyrans and 7-Elevens have that Christmas smell of Lussekatter.  Yummmy ! But for us foreigners, what is a Swedish Christmas and what do eat, do, and decorate during this six weeks of food eating?

No fear, Sapphire’s here! :P  At least to help with decorating your apartment to look like a proper Swedish Christmas one.  Here’s your Swedish Christmas wikipedia guide.

Tomten – The Santa Claus

The tomte is Santa Clause in Swedish.  Sweden has adorable Santas as they are not really full sized old men with beards and hats kind-of dolls.  They are little round balls with white fuzz as a beard and a red hat, basically an abstract version of Santa.  Be sure to get a couple tomtar and keep one near a window or on the counter.

A very tall tomte. I think his hat was two feet tall!
Tomten - Swedish Santa

Varmljus – Candles

Plenty of candles are needed during the cold, dark Swedish winter.  Little tealights are classic and can be safely placed almost anywhere in the house.
This photo below is for when you put up the countdown from Advent to Christmas. Every Sunday until Christmas, you light a candle.
Advent Candles

Julstjärna – Swedish Stars

It’s quite possibly the most Swedish thing you could do: putting up white Swedish Christmas stars at the window.  Watch all the neighbors near you, in three weeks, stars everywhere.  Alas, at least now, people are getting more creative with different colors.
Christmas Stars

Änglar – Swedish Angels

Maybe not super Swedish per se, but angels are needed in all good Christmas decorations. I guess since the snowman is not as popular, angels will do.

If you want to support a great cause and buy Swedish goodies, I highly recommend Sally Ann – The Salvation Army store.  It’s a tiny store on Hornsgatan 94 in Sodermalm and all the products are fair trade.  The Swedish Angels below as well as the candles from above are from there.  I’m going to buy the rest of xmas decor from there!
Swedish Angels
and the most awesome of all…

Julbocken – Swedish Goat (aka the Gävlebocken)

The randomest of all, the julbock is the goat from Gävle, a city three hours north of Stockholm.  In the city square, a 42 feet tall, 23 feet wide, 3 tonnes straw goat is erected. Stig Gavlén, a marketing man, invented the goat in 1966. At that time it only cost 10,000kr to build.  Today it costs 100,000kr and for the last twenty five years, its been burned down.  Yea, a three tonnes beast burned on New Year’s Eve at midnight, all good fun.

Oh, did a little more research about the Yule Goat and its history goes back to pagan times of the Norse gods. Thor, one of the major gods, rode in the sky in a chariot drawn by two goats, Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr. Goats were very valued then. Up until the 19th century in Scandinavia, it was julbocken that distributed christmas presents, not santa claus.

Julbocken - Gavle Goat

Since most us cannot put up a 40 foot tall goat in our apartments, we have little straw goats instead.  Just don’t place them near the candles.

17 thoughts on “It’s Christmastime! Swedish Christmas Decorations to Put Up”

  1. Everyone! You’re actually in far more of a hurry than Sapphire lets on – decorations (at least stars and candle holders for the four advents) should be up next Sunday, November 29th, which is the first of advent. :)

  2. I uhhh better get started then, thanks Emma. I thought advent was on the 5 December. Time to do shopping!

  3. Well, tomte and Santa claus isn’t really the same thing. Tomte has roots in old nordic folk lore, while Santa Claus is something entirely different.

  4. Ahhh, the Gävle Goat!
    I need to make a 40′ one and set it on fire. Oh wait, that already happens! :)

    Actually, the tomte are adorable. Gonna bring home a few for friends and family. Maybe, just maybe, one will pop up in my window!

    Candles? I don’t trust myself with fire :p. I’d leave it, fall asleep and next thing POOF!

  5. really a nice post :) but, you spoke only about the decorations.. what about the food ? how do they spend their Christmas time ? For instance, we are quite homey, we like gathering in front of a table and play several typical Christmas games as well as some common card games. In the meanwhile we eat all the Christmas sweets that we can find in our house :)

  6. Matthias – My bad, I didn’t realize that. Very cool how the pagan and Christian traditions blend together. Do you anything else about the history of tomte?

    Puntino – I have you covered! This week will be a post on all the Swedish Xmas holidays plus another post on Christmas food. ;)

  7. I may be wrong but I think the Gävlebocken is usually subject to arson attacks and vandalism rather than the event being seen as a fun occassion to come and watch a giant goat burn…

  8. I want to go burn down a giant straw goat. Sorry Kay, burning down a goat is more entertainment than arson.

  9. Heh, even if not intended. I think it quite funny the dedication some people must have to destroy it. They guard it and soak it in flame repellent yet it usually still ends up the same way.

  10. And the fact that the goat is the symbol for Capricorn which starts at the date of the Winter Solstice – December 21st.

  11. Hi, those Swedish stars are beautiful! Do you know of any place in the US to purchase them? Thank you, Nicole

  12. Well, the Julbock is not that random.

    In fact it is quite possible the original Santa Claus. The Americans out there might find it wierd, but it is most possible the original (We can’t really say it 100% because the katolic church burned everything on the subject when they “invaded”). When the christians came to the north this was considered heretical (it was part of the pagan beliefs, and did not carry any presents). You were supposed to offer food to it, for safety…if I remember it right.

    So we had to invent a saint Claus (Klas) to get to keep it, and probably only because it was at about the same time as the birth of Christ. So instead of a goat we eventually got a fat man who (was offered) liked gruel, with BUTTER on top. Yes, you heard me, swedish corngruel with butter on top…and milk.Sugar if you could afford. It’s good.

    The emmigrants took it with them to the US, and it mingled with the other versions spread over Europe to become the abomination it is today. Happy holidays ;D

    BTW: The southern Europeans have some other drivel they will try to feed you about it, but these are the facts. Cheers!

  13. I spent last Christmas in Sweden and the 7 candle holder with electric candles were in all windows. Where can I buy them? No luck at IKEA and other sights seem to just have real candles

  14. @Saphire & Robbi: That’s exactly the kind you see in windows all over Sweden around Christmas!

  15. My grandmother emigrated to the US from Sweden. I grew up with the paper cutouts of tomte hung from the fireplace mantel every Christmas. We had one of the candle holders that was made out of wood and said God Jul on it and held seven candles. Real candles not electric ones. Also my mother would always bake Spritz cookies. They were so delicious.

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