Christmas in Sweden: Sweden's Christmas Traditions

How Do You Celebrate Christmas in Sweden?

Kungstradgarden Christmas Market in Stockholm, Sweden
••• Kungstradgarden Christmas Market in Stockholm, Sweden. ©Kungstradgarden Park AB

Christmas in Sweden is unique as Sweden's Christmas traditions are very different from other parts of the world. When planning your holiday travel to Sweden, it's good to get acquainted with Swedish customs.

First of all, "Merry Christmas (...and a Happy New Year)" in Swedish is "God Jul (... Och Ett Gott Nytt Ar!)"

Will you be celebrating Christmas in Sweden? In Sweden, Christmas begins with the annual Saint Lucia Day on December 13.

Lucia herself was Christian and died for her faith. The December 13 holiday honors her.

Usually, the eldest girl in the family portrays St Lucia, puts on a white robe in the morning and is allowed to wear a crown full of candles. She serves her parents Lucia buns and coffee or mulled wine.

Christmas Eve: Swedish locals form processions to the church with lit candles on Christmas Eve (December 24), in some places.

A little before that, Christmas trees were set up, often about two days before Christmas. The trees and homes are decorated in seasonal spirit with gingerbread biscuits, Christmas decoration and flowers such as the Julstjärna (Poinsettia), red tulips, and red or white Amaryllis. Christmas Eve is known as Julafton in Swedish. Traditional Christmas Eve dinner usually includes a smorgasbord or a Swedish Christmas buffet with ham, pork, or fish, as well as a variety of sweets.

A popular Christmas tradition in Sweden is to serve Risgryngrot, special rice porridge with one almond in it.

The person finding it gets to make a wish or is believed to get married the coming year (this varies between families).

After the festive Christmas Eve dinner, someone dresses up as Tomte (Christmas gnome) who according to Swedish myth lives on a farm or in the forest. Tomte looks a little like Santa Claus and hands out the presents while doing funny rhymes (do you know what typical Scandinavian gifts are?).

Following Christmas in Sweden, there are Epiphany on January 6, and later Hilarymas on January 13, which ends the Christmas season in Sweden.

Unfortunately, modern Christmas is quickly catching up in Sweden and Tomte is beginning to lose his original identity to the commercial "Santa" figures.

Go back up to the main article Christmas in Scandinavia for more Christmas traditions!