December in Scandinavia: Weather, What to Pack, and What to See

MALE SKIER ON MAIN STREET, LILLEHAMMER, NORWAY
Terje Rakke Getty Images

December is a great month for a winter vacation in one of the Scandinavian countries, whether that's Norway in December, Denmark, or perhaps Sweden. When winter activities are in full swing, travelers will experience many seasonal celebrations and holiday festivities, including Christmas, in Scandinavian-style. Cozy evenings paired with a festive mood will certainly make up for fewer hours of daylight for travelers.

In the winter season, there are several opportunities to enjoy a typical celebration of Christmas in Scandinavia and to observe the mysterious Northern Lights. Travelers should keep in mind that visiting Scandinavia in December is a particularly popular month for winter travel. Thus, travelers should make sure to plan and book their winter wonderland early.

With the holiday season comes a variety of unique events, celebrations, and festivals in December. Additionally, there are local activities for travelers to engage in, such as:

  • Skiing
  • Snowboarding
  • Dog sledding
  • Ice skating
  • Snowmobiling

Partying plays a major role in Scandinavian winter sports as well. In part, that is born of necessity due to shorter days. Visitors should make sure to check when the Scandinavian national holidays are in the country of their choice, as there will be additional festivities and holiday celebrations.

Scandinavian Weather in December

Depending on how far north in Scandinavia travelers go, a typical December day averages around 28-36 degrees Fahrenheit.

Stay up to date with accurate temperatures by reviewing the weather for when you are traveling in Scandinavia.

The same variation goes for the hours of daylight. Whereas the southern part gets six to seven hours, it may be only two to four hours in the far north of Scandinavia. In fact, in certain areas of the Arctic Circle, there is no sun at all for a period of time.

Travelers will be amazed to see how well the locals have adapted to this. Visitors are further encouraged to learn more about the three natural phenomena of Scandinavia, such as the northern lights, to prepare properly.

What to Pack

Travelers headed to the Arctic Circle are encouraged to bring sturdy boots for walking on the snow and ice, a down filled waterproof outfit, and a classic set of hat, gloves, and scarf. Long underwear is also recommended and is a perfect item to wear under clothing every day.

For trips to the cities, visitors can bring a down jacket, and a wool overcoat, just in case of cold weather. Regardless of destination, an insulated coat along with the aforementioned set of gloves, hats, and scarves are the bare minimum for travelers in December. Bundling up is mandatory.

December Events in Scandinavia

  • Independence Day in Finland (December 6): Finland celebrates its independence from Russia each year on December 6. The happy day is commemorated with blue and white candles, pastries, and clothing throughout the country.
  • Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony (December 10): Oslo has the distinction of awarding the Nobel Peace Prize each year on December 10. The ceremony has taken place since 1901.
  • Christmas Markets in Scandinavia: Christmas markets kickoff throughout the region in early December and run through after the holidays. These markets are great for stocking up on gifts or simply enjoying a unique holiday tradition.
  • Saint Lucia Day: This Christian feast day takes place on December 13. It celebrates Saint Lucia, a 3rd-century martyr. In the old Julian calendar, this day also marked the Winter Solstice.
  • Christmas Eve (December 24): Christmas Eve is a quiet day for family celebration in Scandinavia. 
  • Christmas Day (December 25): Christmas is celebrated throughout Scandinavia. Most shops, restaurants, and attractions will be closed on this day as people spend quiet time with their friends and family.

December Travel Tips

  • Scandinavia is generally very safe and poses few risks to travelers, health-related or otherwise, to travelers. In winter, exercise caution, as slippery pavement and traffic accidents from elk crossing the roads common.
  • The Midnight Sun is always best north of the Arctic Circle, while the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) is best seen on the Arctic Circle in very clear and dark winter nights. They have been seen in southern Scandinavia sometimes, but it is very important that you are in a dark and clear night, away from the city.

Planning your trip? If you want to know more about the best time to visit Scandinavia, here's a guide to each month.