Sofia Winroth - Moz Sweden

Author: Sofia Winroth

The traditional Christmas tree


The traditional Christmas tree

History of the Christmas tree

The tradition of having a pine tree indoors comes from Germany and Switzerland somewhere between the 1500-1600’s. It was first and foremost a decoration for the high society – such as rich and noble people – and often decorated with candy. From the late 1600’s it was spread to France, Belgium and Holland, but didn’t reach Swedish homes until the 1800’s.

Although; we do know that the very first Christmas tree in Sweden appeared in the home of the wealthy family Wrede-Sparre in 1741, who lived on Södermalm – one of the islands of Stockholm. But the tradition didn’t spread to every home until the late 1800’s. So we could say that the Wrede-Sparre-family was super modern for their time!

In the 1700- and 1800’s the Swedish decoration of the tree was quite similar to the traditional decoration we have today. The tree would have live candles, apples and (if you’re lucky) candy hanging from the branches. In the end of the 1800’s it was common to buy Christmas tree decorations in small stores, such as garlands of the Swedish flag, paper crackers and decorative red hearts to hang in the tree.

Woman decorates a Christmas tree with Swedish flags
  • Woman by Christmas tree
  • Girl talking to Santa
  • Woman sitting by Christmas tree

The vikings and the Christmas tree

The word ”Christmas’ ‘originates from Christ, another name for Jesus, and many countries refer to Christmas as the birth of Jesus according to the Christian religion. But in Swedish, the word for Christmas is ”jul”, and has its origin way back to the roots of the Vikings.

The Viking celebrated the holiday ”Yule” as the midwinter occurred. It was a way to acknowledge that the darkest time of the year was over and they were heading towards lighter and warmer times. The Christmas tree – or the plain pine tree – was a big symbol for these dark and cold times since it was the only green tree in the forest. It symbolized continuous life and life force, as every other tree dropped its leaves during autumn.

Legends say that trees were highly respected and honored in Viking culture, and it was common to decorate pine trees outside and wear wreaths made of pine tree branches.

Man puts a star in top of the Christmas tree

How to decorate a Christmas tree

Traditions sure change, and today there are no rules on how to decorate a Christmas tree. During the early 1900’s the Christmas tree was decorated in the color red – today, every family has its own tradition.

Here are some decoration tips if you want a Christmas tree of your own:

  • Christmas balls are a given. You can find them in almost every store in Sweden, and the colors vary. The traditional colors though are red, silver and gold, and the balls are made of either plastic or glass.
  • Glitter garlands can be found in either silver or gold, but white glitter garlands are also quite common. You can either let the garlands run around the tree, or have them running from the top down to the bottom.
  • Electric lights really spruce up the tree and make it shine beautifully when darkness sets. Today it’s just as much of a tradition to have big electric candles that resemble real candles, as it is to have small light dots.
  • If you want a touch of the olden days, you can make some decorations by yourself using extra strong paper and scissors. There’s so much inspiration to be found if you search for ”DIY Christmas tree decorations”, and it’s a fun way to spend time with family and kids.
  • Don’t forget that a Christmas tree is just like a flower: it needs plenty of water to not go brown and die. All tree stands can contain water, and make sure it’s always full for the tree not to dry out.

It’s common to see different color matches in today’s Christmas trees. An all red tree – where every single piece is red – is very powerful and popular. Another modern trend is to look past the red and try other things that still feel ”Christmasy” – one example is green and gold, where the golden touch can be found in straw-decorations and fabric, while the green can be moss-decorations, plants and tree decorations. Gold and green resembles the forest and the colors within, while an all white and silver decorated tree resembles the snow and winter landscape. White and silver sure are colors of the Nordic: both in home styling and in nature. To bring nature inside is popular, and white Christmas decorations – all the way from the tree to the pillows and fabric – is also a very popular and modern trend.

But, to summon up: there are no rules. Decorate the tree the way you feel like, and after your own preference. The big thing is to find the Christmas spirit and have a lovely time together with family, while finishing your Christmas tree.

Homemade hot chocolate


Homemade hot chocolate

Making your own hot chocolate for hiking or a picnic tastes lovely and is easy to make.

How to make your own hot chocolate

Homemade hot chocolate is easier than you think, and it tastes extra nice on a cold winter’s day. Make sure to store it in a good thermos so it keeps warm, and drink it together with a cinnamon bun and some friends. Here’s how to make it:

Ingredients for one cup:

  • 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder
  • 1,5 tablespoons of white granulated sugar
  • 0,5 deciliter of heavy cream
  • 2-3 deciliters of warm milk (depending on how strong you want your chocolate)
Woman drinking hot chocolate Moz cup

Instructions:

Mix the cocoa powder, sugar and cream into a thick cocoa batter. Make sure to mix it thoroughly until smooth. Heat up the milk, but don’t let it boil. Add the milk to the cocoa batter and blend until the batter has totally dissolved. And if you want to make more for a whole thermos, simply double the recipe for more people to enjoy.

It’s best served with a click of whipped cream on top, but is just as lovely as it is!

A cup of hot chocolate

Celebrating Christmas in Sweden


Celebrating Christmas in Sweden

Every country has its own way to celebrate Christmas, and Sweden is no exception. And even though every family has their own traditions, some things are exactly the same in almost every household on the 24th of December.

The Christmas food buffet

The Christmas food buffet can almost be described as a museum of Swedish culinary history. The traditional buffet is filled with foods and dishes only eaten on Christmas. Some culinary historians mean that the Christmas buffet is a way to keep connected to our past and our ancestors: things that young people eat today could be the same thing and the same recipe that family members ate hundreds of years ago.

The oldest food on the buffet today is ”lutfisk”. Lutfisk is a dried fish, bleached in birch ashes until white, hard and thin. In order to eat it, the fish must be soaked in clear water for a week. It’s eaten with green peas, butter and white hollandaise sauce. The old recipes though, dated back as far as to the 1400’s, also include almonds and raisins.

Fat med julmat

Today’s classics

One of the most popular dishes today is the Christmas ham. It was introduced in the end of the 1800’s, and is traditionally covered with a crispy mustard crust. It’s eaten chilled, sliced into thin pieces, together with a strong Swedish mustard on the side.Another mandatory part of the buffet is pickled herring and salmon. The pickled herring can vary in many different flavors, and the salmon is served either warm smoked, cold smoked or rimmed.

Julskinka på fat
Minnesvärda stunder, Couople hugging, Swedish sayings. Minnesvärda stunder, Couople hugging, Swedish sayings.

Kalle Anka – Donald Duck and his friends

It’s said that Sweden has two collective times in a year: the bell for New Years Eve – and the time for Kalle Anka on TV. Every Christmas Eve at 15:00, the public channel airs a Christmas show called ”Kalle och hans vänner”. It’s a cartoon show – same every year – showing small stories of Donald Duck and his friends, old Disney classics and some new glimpses of modern films. The show has been aired since the 60’s in Sweden and brings everyone together – no matter how old you are!

Man och kvinna tittar på TV
  • Girl in red dress hugging Moz
  • Wrapping of Christmas presents
  • Granddaughter, daughter and grandmother with Moz
  • Baking gingerbread Moz

Santa Claus and presents

Every child awaits the evening. That’s when Santa Claus – or ”tomten” in Swedish – arrives in the dark to deliver presents. The classic tomte has red clothing, a big white beard, a top hat and big black boots. He’s big and round, and speaks with a dark (but kind) voice and brings the presents in a big fabric bag.

Tomten is often played by someone in the family – maybe a dad or a grandad, but a mother dressed up with pillows for roundness is just as perfect! The traditional get-away-phrase is ”I need to go and get the newspaper”, which would be a legit reason for accidentally disappearing when Tomten arrives. 

When Tomten enters the room he asks ”Finns det några snälla barn här?” which means ”Are there any kind children here?”. The phrase refers to the fact that you only get presents if you’ve been kind throughout the year. Maybe the same should go for adults?

Tomte delar ut julklappar till två flickor

Making your own traditions

One beautiful thing about Christmas is about making your own traditions. Every family has their own little things they love – some eat before Kalle Anka, some eat after. Some open a few presents in the morning, and others wait until late in the evening. Some have a very special herring recipe or eggnog drink, while others can’t have Christmas without a crackling fire.
That’s one of the most important things about Swedish Christmas today: sticking to the things you love, and making up your own traditions as celebration goes on – year after year.

Mamma och barn öppnar julklappar i sängen

Vitsippor – the white flowers of spring


Vitsippor – the white flowers of spring

A clear sign of warm spring is when forests are filled with white anemones. These lovely little flowers are called ”vitsippor” in Swedish, and picking them has been a loved outdoor activity for centuries.

When do anemones blossom?

The warm period of spring usually happens in April or May, depending on where you live in Sweden. A clear sign of the warm weather coming back is when ”vitsippor” are starting to appear everywhere in the forest. They usually blossom from the end of April and all through the month of May, making the ground beautifully white.

There are actually two types of anemones: white ones and blue ones. The white anemones are free to pick, and there are plenty during spring! The blue anemones, called ”blåsippor”, have a bluish-purple tone and must be left alone. They are protected by Swedish law, since there aren’t many of them left in nature. It’s such a well known fact that blue anemones are protected, that we even have songs about them wanting to be left alone.

Vårkänslor, Feeling of spring, Swedish sayings. Vårkänslor, Feeling of spring, Swedish sayings.

Why do Swedes pick vitsippor?

Picking white anemones has been a tradition for many, many years. Since they’ve become such an associated sign of spring, a small bouquet of anemones can be found on almost every dinner table. It’s a way to welcome spring into the house, and many kids pick the flowers to bring home to their parents.

Another part of the anemone-history is how kids back in the days would pick smack bouquets and sell them by the road. When people traveled with their horse and carriage, they could stop and buy a bouquet for a penny – or ”öre” as the small piece of coin is called in Swedish. It was an easy way for children to make some money and help out at home – and this tradition is even portrayed in Swedish movies, such as ”Glasblåsarens barn” or Astrid Lindgren’s classic story of Emil i Lönneberga!

Illustration, Moz with flowers Illustration, Moz with flowers

Creating a flower wreath


Creating a flower wreath

Not only the maypole is decorated with flower wreaths – it’s also a traditional head piece that you can make yourself.

Loved tradition

Hundreds of years ago, the flower wreath was an easy way to dress up – even for a wedding. The beautiful flowers were free and blossoming during summer, and if you couldn’t afford a bridal crown, one made of flowers was a good choice. The wreaths were also great ways to preserve the magic of summer, and keep it all the way into cold winter times. It was said to bring good luck if you put the dried Midsummer flowers in your yearly Christmas bath.

Today, the flower wreath is a loved tradition amongst both children, older people, men and women. They were traditionally worn by women, but anyone can wear one today.

Woman with flower wreath, sitting on a swing

How to make your own flower wreath

There are no rules when making a wreath. Some people prefer to use only green leaves, some wish to mix it with flowers, and others want purely flowers in their wreath. Let your imagination set the standards, and choose whatever you think looks great.

There are several ways to make a wreath, and an easy one is to create a round base of strong wire, on which you attach the flowers. Here’s the list of things you will need:

  • strong/thick wire for the round base
  • thin wire to attach flowers
  • flowers and greens of different sorts – make sure the shafts of the flowers aren’t too short
  • a fabric or satin band (optional)
Woman making a wreath of midsummer flowers

Step by step

  1. Create a circle of the thick wire, and adjust it to the size of your head. This will be the base of the whole wreath.
  2. Attach the thin wire to the base, and start adding flowers.
  3. Attach one flower at a time by twining the thin wire around the shaft. Alternate flowers and greens and keep twining the wire to attach everything
  4. When the whole base is covered with flowers, end the twining and hide the thin wire.
  5. You can preferably decorate the wreath with the satin band and end it with a bow.

One last tip: don’t be afraid to experiment or let the wreath become big, proud or exciting. Nothing is wrong when it comes to midsummer flowers and wreaths. Let your imagination flow, and enjoy the flower crown you’ve created.

Woman teaches girl how to make a wreath
Illustration, Moz with flowers Illustration, Moz with flowers

Midsummer’s eve


Midsummer’s eve

Midsummer is a Swedish summer tradition that’s been celebrated for hundreds of years. This is the time of year when the sun never really sets, and the magic of never-ending summer nights are welcomed with a flower decorated maypole, dancing, singing, typical summer food, friends and family.

The maypole

The old name for the Swedish maypole is ”majstång”, but does not refer to the month of May (”maj” in Swedish). The Swedish word ”maj” is actually an old word that means ”to leaf something” – or, in more modern terms: to decorate something.

Quite suitable, since the maypole today is richly decorated with leaves and topped off with two large flower wreaths, formed as a big cross-like statue of wooden poles. Songs and dances are held around it, and it doesn’t matter how many – or few – people there are to celebrate: the dancing will take place, no matter what! So what do we sing about? Well – jumping frogs, laundry day, and the famous fox sneaking around an iced lake… of course with matching dances.

People dancing around a may pole

The magic of the Midsummer night

The night of Midsummer’s eve is magical. Today, the magic lies in the fact that the sun never sets, enjoy the company of family and friends, maybe take a midnight swim and feel the silence of nature in the evening.

However, hundreds of years ago, this magical night was something else: it was a way for farmers to wish for rich crops and a good harvest. Young girls would pick flowers in silence, in the hopes of dreaming of their future husbands – and if you were to roll around in the dewy meadow, you could significantly strengthen your health.

Some traditions still live to this day – such as picking flowers at night and dreaming of your future love. Although you believe in it or not, the traditions might live on just because it’s a wonderful way to enjoy the bright night.

Woman and girls picking flowers in a meadow

The holiday of friends and nubbe

If Christmas is a family holiday, Midsummer’s eve is more of a holiday for friends. We gather to eat sill – herring in different pickled variations – summer potatoes, sour cream with green onions and of course to drink nubbe. Nubbe – or ”snaps” – is a Swedish hard liquor, originally made from potatoes or grain, and is always served ice cold. Today there are many different variations in taste and seasoning: from a fresh hint of lemon and elderflower, to the bitter taste of wormwood. And since singing is a big part of the Midsummer celebration, you can’t drink a nubbe without a small song – or maybe an anecdote. After the song, you raise the small glass (snapsglas) and cheer ”SKÅL”. After that, the night never seems to end.

Midsummer celebration, eating and drinking

Swedish crayfish party – an August tradition


Swedish crayfish party – an August tradition

Crayfish is a delicacy in Sweden, and the fishing season starts in August and ends in September. That’s why Swedes celebrate the tradition of catching crayfish with a late summer party called ”kräftskiva”.

The history of kräftskiva

In Swedish, crayfish are called ”kräftor” – why the whole celebration is called ”kräftskiva”. Swedes have caught crayfish for many, many years, but it became regulated by the Swedish state in the 1920’s because of the fear that crayfish would run out in Swedish waters.

The regulation limited crayfish catching to the months of August and September, and quickly became a celebrated tradition when the season started. Still to this day it’s a beloved tradition, often celebrated with friends, great food and of course the thing Swedes do best: silly hats and weird songs.

Friends cheering at crayfish party.

Go crayfish hunting

Kräftskiva is a real food feast, where certain foods are mandatory. The crayfish are a must of course, and it’s even better if you’ve caught them yourself. It’s not hard to catch crayfish – all you need is an alarm clock, cages and some time.

Crayfish cages look like long cylinders, with a special entrance that prevents the crayfish from slipping out once they’re in. Load the cages with something really nice – fish heads for example – and tie a long string or small rope to the cages. Lower them into the sea or in a lake late at night, and make sure they rest on the seafloor. Tie the rope to a tree or something similar, so you’ll find the cages in the morning.

The longer you wait, the more crayfish you might catch – but don’t wait too long! If you leave the cages for too many days, the crayfish can start eating each other, or die and go bad. The best thing is to get up early the next morning (or maybe two mornings after) to collect the cages and your crayfish catch.

Oh, and one small warning: live crayfish are dark grey, or even black in color. So don’t be afraid you’ve caught the wrong kind – they go red once you cook them.

Wooden bucket and trap for crayfishing.

Decorate for kräftskiva

The decorations of a kräftskiva are quite special. No other holiday has this kind of decoration, and Swedes find nothing weird about it. Here are the must-haves for a proper decorated kräftskiva:

  1. A long table – the more people the merrier – with a nice table cloth
  2. Hanging garlands of colorful little flags
  3. Round, hanging lamps made of paper, with a picture of a smiling face
  4. More hanging decorations made of paper, in the shape of crayfish
  5. Bibs for adults – of course decorated with a crayfish
  6. Small party hats – decorated with what? Crayfish!

Additional decorations can be put on the table, and one such thing is the song book. Swedish snaps-culture demands that you sing a small song before drinking a snaps. They can be quirky, weird or even a bit vulgar, and the higher you sing, the better. A crayfish-party tradition is to take these small songs and rewrite the lyrics to whatever you want. It can be a fun way to sing about personal anecdotes or something else that brings you together.

Oh, and since you eat crayfish with your hands: don’t forget to load up on napkins!

Table decorated for crayfish party.

Chanterelles – the gold of the forest


Chanterelles – the gold of the forest

Chanterelles are called ”kantareller” in Swedish, and are beloved amongst many Swedes. The peak-season is early autumn, when you can find almost every other Swede out in the forest looking for the gold.

Chanterelles are popular and easy to recognize

Chanterelles are one of the most popular mushrooms in Sweden. They are easy to spot in the forest since they are bright golden-yellow, and often pop up in groups on the same spots year after year. Their specific looks – the way they’re shaped and colored – are quite unique, which makes them hard to mix up with other mushrooms. In other words: it’s easy to head out and pick chanterelles!

Another thankful thing about the mushroom is their love of sunlight. They thrive in mixed and bright forests, and they often grow by the side of the forest path. So you don’t have to walk far into a dark, thick forest to find them – sometimes you can pick a whole basket full of them without having to deviate from the path.

Woman picking chanterelles.
Känn lugnet bland träden, feel the calmness among the trees Känn lugnet bland träden, feel the calmness among the trees

What to bring on a chanterelle-hike?

If you’re going on a chanterelle-hike, you don’t need much to have a lovely time. Make sure the weather is nice, so you don’t have to walk in the rain, and that you’re heading out during the right season. Chanterelles grow between July to October, and the chances of finding them are bigger during late summer and the beginning of autumn.

So – what to pack? Well, you can pack whatever you want to a lovely mushroom-walk in the forest, but we recommend the following:

  • water to drink
  • kanelbulle or some other sweet snack
  • coffee, or a hot beverage of you liking
  • a separate basket for the mushrooms
  • a camera or your phone to take some nice pictures
  • a blanket or similar to sit on when taking a break
  • a friend for company
Couple picking chanterelles.

Best way to find chanterelles

Finding chanterelles doesn’t have to be a hard challenge – here’s what to look for to finn plenty of them:

  • bright places in the forest
  • mixed forest (not a thick pine tree forest)
  • look closely to the path you’re walking on
  • if you’ve found chanterelles on one spot before, it’s likely to find them there again
  • golden yellow clusters of mushrooms!

And of course there are several delicious ways to cook chanterelles. The most classic – and easy – dish is butter-fried chanterelles on toast. Another is to make a warm side sauce on chanterelles, especially delicious together with meatballs and potatoes.

Last but not least: good luck on you chanterelle hunt!

Woman wonders in forrest, mushroom hunting.
Illustration, Moz by his house

Winter-picnic by the fire


Winter-picnic by the fire

Winter season, snow and cold air won’t stop Swedes from spending a lovely day outside – especially not if the sun is out. It’s the perfect season to enjoy a warm beverage by a crackling fire with friends.

A classic winter activity

The winter season is long in Sweden – especially if you live in the northern part of the country. Therefore it’s important to catch every bit of daylight when the sun is out, to get through these long, cold and dark months.

Having a picnic outside by a fire is a classic activity for many Swedes. It’s an easy way to enjoy winter, to keep warm and spend time outdoors. Plus it doesn’t take much: many camping sights and open places in public forests have fire-stations for people to use. They are built to be safe and attract people to be outside. So if you’re visiting Sweden in winter, you will find many Swedes out and about in the forest, even though there’s snow and freezing temperatures – it’s an easy way to stay mentally healthy, getting fresh air and spending time with others!

People enjoying picnic by fire

What to bring for a winter-picnic

If you’re curious about heading out for a winter picnic by a fire (you don’t have to make a fire – but it’s extra cozy), there are a few easy things to keep in mind:

  1. Always carry an extra sweater, just in case.
  2. Pack sunglasses – no joke! – if the sun is out and bright.
  3. You will never regret that blanket or seat cushion.
  4. Wet-wipes, in case you need to clean your hands or utensils.

But the most important thing is of course: the fika! Never, ever leave the house with something to eat and drink – preferably something savory and sweet. The most classic food to bring is sausages to heat in the open fire, bread buns and ketchup. Another one is grilled sandwiches: and a tip is to prepare the sandwiches before you head out, so you can grill them once you’ve arrived.

Family playing in the snow with their dog.
Illustration, Moz parachuting Illustration, Moz parachuting

Must-have fika for a winter-picnic

The sweet things are just as important as the savory ones. There will be no winter-picnic without something sweet and preferably warm to drink. Here’s a list of options that many Swedes bring along in their backpacks, that are perfect for eating in front of the crackling fire:

  • One thermos of hot coffee
  • One thermos of hot chocolate (for kids or non-coffee-drinkers)
  • A small bottle of cold milk (most of the time for the coffee)
  • Cinnamon buns (and many!)
  • Sweet crackers – like oat crackers with chocolate
  • Napkins

If you’re heading out with kids, Swedish pancakes are an easy and popular choice to bring. Make the pancakes the day before (or in the morning), roll them up with some jam and put them in a box to bring. They’re easy to eat with just your hands, and make both kids and adults extra happy!

Woman having picnic out doors in winter