SWEDISH CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS t is dark, cold, and snowy in Sweden in December. The days are short and the nights long. Families begin the Christmas season by attending church on the first Sunday of Advent, which is the fourth Sunday before Christmas. The children count the days from the first day of December until Christmas with an Advent calendar. Each morning, they open a flap in the calendar's Christmas scene to see the charming picture behind it.
Many families go to the Christmas market in the old medieval section of Stockholm to buy handmade toys, ornaments, and candy. Gift-givers like to seal the package with sealing wax and write a special verse that will accompany the gift. SWEDISH CHRISTMAS MARKET
“SANTA LUCIA” But the Christmas festivities really begin on December 13 with St. Lucia's Day, which celebrates the patron saint of light. The eldest daughter gets up before dawn and dresses as the "Queen of Light" in a long white dress. She wears a crown of leaves and lighted candles. Singing "Santa Lucia," the Lucia Queen goes to every bedroom to serve coffee and treats to each member of the family. The younger children in the family help, too.
GETTING THE FAMILY TREE The whole family helps to select the Christmas tree just a day or two before Christmas. Then they use papier-mache apples, heart- shaped paper baskets filled with candies, gilded pinecones, small straw goats and pigs, little Swedish flags, glass ornaments, and small figures of gnomes wearing red hats to decorate the tree.
FAMILY CHRISTMAS TREE Swedish Christmas celebrations have long included a decorated tree, today one of the most obvious symbols of a traditional Christmas. Photo: Nordiska museet / Ann Lindberg With the ornaments stored away in boxes and the lights gone from the corner of the room, the Christmas tree’s journey is not quite over. Shortly after tjugondag Knut, local councils arrange for a city-wide curbside collection of the trees. In Linköping, the tree is taken to Tekniska Verken, one of several waste management companies across Sweden, where it is chipped, mixed with other household waste and fed into a giant furnace. The energy generated is used to heat 90 percent of Linköping’s water and central heating systems and to drive steam turbines which produce electricity.
The delightful smells of gingerbread cookies in the shape of hearts, stars, or goats fill the house. Many families set out a sheaf of grain on a pole for hungry birds. GINGERBREA D
SWEDEN LANDMARKS The Stockholm Palace The Dala horse, or Dalecarlian horse or Dalahäst, is a traditional wooden statuette and toy. I
After Christmas Eve dinner, a friend or family member dresses up as tomte or Christmas gnome. The tomte, unlike Santa Claus is supposed to live under the floorboards of the house or barn and ride a straw goat. The make- believe tomte, wearing a white beard and dressed in red robes, distributes gifts from his sack. Many are given with funny rhyme that hints at the contents. SWEDISH CHRISTMAS ELF In Sweden the tomtar are an important part of Christmas. The tomtar are a kind of tiny, benevolent elf or gnome. There are many holiday songs about them. Here’s one called Tomtarnas Julnatt – The Gnomes’ Christmas Night – in both Swedish and English followed by a YouTube recording of the song. Tomtarnas Julnatt
CHRISTMAS ELF The Gnomes’ Christmas Night Midnight reigns, It’s quiet in the houses, Quiet in the houses. Everyone sleeps, The candles are put out, Candles put out. Tipp, tapp, tipp, tapp, tippetippetipp tapp! Tipp, tipp, tapp. Look, there comes The gnomes out from the corners, From the corners, List’ning, watching, Sneaking on their toes, On their toes. Tipp, tapp, tipp, tapp, tippetippetipp tapp! Tipp, tipp, tapp. “Tipp, tapp, tipp, tapp, tippetippetipp tapp! Tipp, tipp, tapp” is the sound of the tomtar tiptoeing around on their small feet.