As a non Swede, I’m not quite sure what’s the deal with all the Christian holidays in a very pagan country. I just feel it is another reason to drink, eat, and drink again. And be really crazy. So I put together a little list of all the dates you should know during the Christmas season, the Swedish way.
Until today, I had no idea what Advent is but it is the official Christian Christmas holiday season. Advent starts on the 4th Sunday before Christmas, so this year it’s on November 28th. Get your Swedish Advent decorations up folks and get the little Advent calendar. You know that calendar, the awesome little booklike thing with push through boxes in which chocolates hides.
SVT and Sveriges Radio has official Advent programs everyday so kids can open the daily window in their calendar and listen to a story on the tv/radio.
You need four candles for Advent, one for each Sunday and a candlestick holder. Also put up stars in the windows; they represent the Star of Bethleham.
If you would like to see an advent ceremony in Stockholm head to Skansen or Stadshuset. All other cities in Sweden will have ceremonies in the local kyrkan or stadshuset.
St. Lucia – December 13th
Early in the morning the Lucia parade (lussetåg) headed by Lucia, Queen of Light, would go around the house. The Queen, usually the youngest daughter in the family, wears a crown of candles (yes totally wild!) and a white dress with a red sash. Following her are her maids (tärnor), star boys (stjärngossar), and
santa claus Tomte. And for yummies, the procession walkers carry saffron buns (lussekatter) and spicy gingerbread cookies (pepparkakor).
December 22nd or so…
Put up that Christmas tree, julgran. I’m sacrilegious and put my tree up at Thanksgiving. Swedes put the tree up a couple days before christmas.
Christmas Eve (Julafton) – December 24th
If you love Donald Duck and Disney, Christmas Eve in Sweden is THE most awesome holiday ever. Donald’s always been my favorite disney character (seriously, screw Mickey) and in Sweden he hosts the the Christmas Special. At 3PM. Every year. Without fail. Look for Donald’s Swedish name, Kalle Anka, and his special called Kalle Ankas Jul.
Once you’ve gotten over the splendid short clips from Bambi, Pinocchio, Cinderella, and more, it’s time to eat. Swedish Christmas food is both delicious and slightly strange at the same time. You will drink lots of glogg, pudding, lax, potatis, and more and more. Till you are stuffed.
After food, jultomte visits! If you’re good, lots of Christmas presents will come you way.
… by the way, December 24th is not a red day in Sweden. The 25th of course is a red day.
Christmas Day (Juldagen)– December 25th
After all the drinking and eating, it’s time to haul your ass to church. Seriously, yes get up! Because after church, you will drink and eat all day.
Twelfth Night (Trettondagsafton) – January 5th
Twelfth Nights marks the official end of Christmas, which is on the 12th day. Pretty original and how the song 12 days of Christmas came to be. Most importantly, this is the day the Magi, aka the Wise Men, visited Jesus Christ and is called Epiphany Eve.
As trettondagsafton is the end of Christmas, many people take down their decorations. However with Knutdag, Swedes take down their decorations on the 13th. You know, just to be really different.
January 6th, is a red day, so yes another awesome holiday!
Knutdag – January 13th
Christmas ends on Knut’s dag. The tree is taken down, or plundered by the children (julgransplundring)