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What’s It Like to Celebrate Christmas in Sweden

This week I am happy to have Samantha Angell sharing how they celebrate Christmas in Sweden. I’ve been following Samantha for a little over a year, starting when she was an expat in Sweden and continuing to enjoy her adventures as she has returned home. We visited Stockholm a few years ago, and the city is fabulous. I can imagine the rest of the country is just as beautiful. Find out what Samantha has to say about Christmas in this Scandinavian country!

Christmas in Sweden Holiday Celebrations Around the World-Kids Are A Trip

Why You Will Love About Christmas in Sweden

Today, we are going to take a look at how Christmas is celebrated in the Scandinavian country of Sweden. Christmas in Sweden is celebrated throughout several weeks. In Sweden Christmas is translated as Jul, and Sweden’s holiday greeting is “God Jul”.

I moved to Sweden in August 2013, and was able to experience the Christmas season both in 2013 and in 2014. With Christmas quickly approaching again, and living back in the U.S., I jumped at the chance to speak a little bit about Christmas in Sweden and the Swedish Christmas traditions!

Västerås Christmas in Sweden-Kids Are A Trip

St. Lucia’s Day

One of the most popular Christmas celebrations in Sweden actually occurs several weeks before Christmas on December 13. December 13th is known as St. Lucia’s Day (or St. Lucy’s Day), and it is a marvelous celebration!

St. Lucia’s Day commemorates St. Lucia, a young Christian girl who became a martyr after being killed for her faith in 304 AD. The story goes that she would secretly bring food to the persecuted Christians in Rome, living in catacombs under the city. She would wear a wreath of candles on her head so both hands would be free to carry food and other necessities. Lucy means “light”, which makes her very appropriately named.

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Currently, St. Lucia’s Day is celebrated by girls wearing white dresses with red sashes around their waists and a crown of candles on their head. Younger girls will wear electric candles, but it is still traditional to use real candles (and fire!) for older girls. Often, schools and towns will have their own St. Lucia, and Sweden also selects a national Lucia.

St. Lucia's Day Christmas in Sweden-Kids Are A Trip
Photo credit: Creative Commons

Christmas Food in Sweden

St. Lucia first began as a celebration in the 1700s in Sweden. It is also celebrated in Denmark, Norway, Finland, Bosnia, and Croatia.

My personal favorite part about the Christmas holidays in Sweden is julbord. In Sweden, people will say “God Jul” as a way of saying Merry Christmas, and Christmas is known as Jul. Julbord is the Christmas buffet traditionally eaten at lunchtime on Christmas Eve. However, it is also often the end-of-the-year dinner for groups of friends or companies. Each of the last two years while living in Sweden, we were able to celebrate and have Julbord with my husband’s entire team.

Julbord is traditionally cold meats and cheeses, “julskinka” or Christmas ham, salads, breads and butters, “prinskorv” or small sausages, meatballs, and other various vegetable and potato dishes. In my experience, I have been to julbords served both as a plated meal and a buffet. No matter what, julbord is a great way to celebrate the Christmas holidays!

Two of my other favorite aspects of Christmas in Sweden would be pepparkakor, or gingerbread cookies, and glögg. The cookies are marvelous, but the glögg is even better! Glögg is a spiced, mulled red wine, often with brandy added to it. It is the perfect way to warm up on a cold winter evening!

Swedish Christmas cookies pepparkakor - Kids Are a Trip

One thing about Swedish Christmas (and really, Easter too!) that I do not understand is Julmust. Julmust is Sweden’s special Christmas soda, and Swedes tend to go crazy over it. The first time I tried a sip I almost spit it back out, because to me it tasted like a three-day-old rum and coke that had gone flat. Not my cup of tea, thats for sure!

Julmust for Christmas in Sweden-Kids Are A Trip

Christmas in Sweden is similar to many places throughout Germany and the rest of the European Christmas markets. Friends and families always make plans to gather at the local market during the holiday season.

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The last tidbit of information about Swedish traditions that I have to offer is definitely a fun trivia fact. Each year on Christmas Eve, the local TV station plays Donald Duck and friends, or “Kalle Anka och hans vänner”. A little bit of a different tradition, that’s for sure!

Stockholm Christmas market-Kids Are A Trip

About the author: My name is Samantha Angell, and I began my blog while living in Sweden with my husband while he was playing professional hockey. I have since moved back to the U.S., but my blog focuses on travel throughout the world and the U.S.! Recent destinations of mine include Napa Valley, Germany, and of course Sweden!

For other posts in our Holidays Around the World Celebrations, you can read: Christmas in London, Diwali, Christmas in Japan, and Día de Muertos.

Christmas in Sweden-Kids Are A Trip

41 Comments

  1. These traditions are so fun to learn about – and I love that there is a fun event on the 13th too! It would be such a fun goal to spend Christmas in a new city each year (or at least some years!)

  2. Loved learning about their unique traditions! I’ve always wanted to go to Sweden… maybe one day!

  3. I love this! My mom has a little book ornament that explains how all the different countries celebrate Christmas. It is really fun to read through. One of my favorite Christmas traditions is one my mom started when I was really small, a Christmas Eve party every year. Her tiny house was always overflowing with people. And now we do it at my house. I love it!

  4. Sweden looks absolutely beautiful! I have always wanted to visit. Their St. Lucia’s Day sounds wonderful!

  5. I love the dresses with the red sashes. plus getting to wear those crowns . . .so much fun

  6. I hear so much about how beautiful Sweden is. I hope to visit it one day.

  7. Sweden has some truly gorgeous celebrations at Christmas I find it fascinating to discover what other countries do during the festive season..

  8. That’s a great idea Alexandra. I would love to do that!

  9. Fingers crossed!

  10. What a wonderful tradition. We used to go to one at a family friend’s house every year too. It was so much fun. Never thought about doing it ourselves, hmmm. Something for next year maybe. Happy holidays!

  11. Logan, doesn’t it sound fabulous? All those girls with their dresses are so cute!

  12. Right Laura? Who doesn’t want to wear a crown? LOL

  13. It really is stunning. Expensive, but stunning.

  14. Thanks Ana!

  15. I’d never heard the story of St. Lucia’s Day. So neat. That soda sounds like it would be terrible to try. HA! I love that they celebrate over several weeks. My family would love to live somewhere that did that. I certainly looks beautiful there in winter.

  16. I love Christmas. I love to hear about how different cultures celebrate and this article is so interesting. Thanks.

  17. Wow! This is very awesome! My grandmother was from Hungary and growing up I loved hearing about their traditions. (Also, I’m pretty excited for the Krampus horror movie – that was one of the things she’d tell us about and then my Dad, of course, would scare us with stories haha). I love the St. Lucia & the Glogg part! I’m going cookie baking with friends on Saturday and part of our tradition is to make Gluwein (which is just the german word for Mulled Wine). So amazing that you got to have these experiences!!!!

  18. Or well, Samantha did. Haha but thank you for having her guest post this! So neat!!!

  19. I have always thought the tradition of the girls wearing crowns and sashes is so beautiful. Sweden is on my travel bucket list!

  20. oh how lucky you are to experience the holidays in the arctic! We were just studying this morning about the Midnight Sun!

  21. I just returned from a trip to Denmark. And I have to say they really know how to celebrate Christmas! The Christmas season starts official the middle of November. I loved visiting the Christmas Markets!

  22. Mmmm, I’m thinking Julbord sounds like a great way to have a low-key Christmas Day dinner for us, since it’ll just by my husband and I this year. Thank you for sharing about Swedish Christmas customs and I love the tidbit about Donald Duck cartoons being a local television tradition!

  23. My favorite Christmas tradition is driving around the neighborhoods on Christmas eve to see all the lights. I imagine all the family inside finishing up their Christmas desserts. As parents secretly plotting when they’ll be able to put the presents under the tree. And the little ones inside try not to eat the cookies their saving as a bargaining gift for Santa.

  24. The soda does sound terrible doesn’t it Mimi? It does look beautiful in the winter doesn’t it, but I bet it is awfully cold!

  25. Katy, can I just say that movie looks so scary! I hope your Glühwein tastes better than some of the stuff we just had in Germany. That stuff is potent! Can clear your sinuses in an instant! Have a great time at your party.

  26. Good catch!

  27. It is really pretty isn’t it Roxanne? I hope you get to Sweden soon!

  28. That’s so cool that you are studying this. We were hoping to see the Midnight sun when we went last summer but we were too late (August). Samantha was lucky enough and experience it firsthand. Maybe she could teach your kids a thing or two about that!

  29. First of all Stacey, your trip looked fabulous. Aren’t the markets amazing? They really get you in the festive mood and I love the greenery everywhere. It really puts you in the mood for the holiday season.

  30. That sounds like the best type of Christmas dinner doesn’t it? I thought the Donald Duck part was really cute. When we were in Germany my kids would watch Looney Toons endlessly because there was barely any speaking in German! Funny how they have made it across the globe.

  31. We love doing that. They used to have a holiday light show that you could drive through, but that closed this year. We’l have to find a new holiday tradition. I like yours!

  32. I enjoyed reading about St. Lucia’s Day, and the traditions. The girls in the dresses (and the fire) are something that I would like to see. We’ll be driving to Michigan to spend the holidays – out of town…but no where close as nice as Sweden 🙂

  33. I love these pictures. Your post are making me want to go to sweden for Christmas. Thanks for sharing!

  34. You are welcome! I want to go too!

  35. Scandinavia definitely knows how to do Christmas! I’d love to get over there for some Christmas markets at some point. Definitely on my bucketlist 🙂

  36. Mine too!

  37. This was fun to read and really very accurate, I live in Sweden myself. Funny thing about Lucia, some foreign guests being woken up by singing ladies dressed like ghosts and singing gloomily, kinda terrified one or two 😉

  38. That’s too funny! Stockholm is one of my favorite European cities. Would love to go back sooner than later, especially at the holidays.

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