Stories from the north
Christmas in Sweden
Every country has its own way to celebrate Christmas, and Sweden is no exception. Here are some examples of Swedish Christmas traditions.
Swedish Christmas food
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.
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.
Today’s Christmas 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 and sliced 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.
Kalle Anka – Donald Duck on Christmas
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!
Tomten brings gifts on Christmas
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.
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?
Making your own Christmas traditions
One beautiful thing about Christmas is about making your own traditions. 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.