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Christmas in Sweden

Christmas in Sweden

I’ve mentioned before that I was raised in five different countries. Once I left home, my parents continued their globe-trotting life, with my six younger siblings in tow. Out of everywhere they lived, experiencing Christmas in Sweden left my family with the most new-to-us Christmas traditions! I never had the opportunity to witness these traditions first-hand, but I loved hearing about them, so I reached out to my younger siblings who lived there – and went to Swedish schools, participating fully in all of these events – to write this post. All of the pictures are courtesy of K, who was 9 when my family moved there and 13 when they left. She went to school in Swedish, and was even chosen to play Lucia for her school’s Lucia concert one year! She is now in the middle of writing college application essays, and I really appreciate that she took time off from that to help me with this post – Thanks, K! Thanks to S and C for your help, also!

winter in Sweden

Swedish winters are long, cold, and dark, so it’s no surprise that light plays a huge role in their Christmas celebrations! My family LOVED all of the lights that were everywhere, and brought several back  that they display in their windows now.

candles to bring light in winter

When my family lived in Sweden (in the countryside outside of Stockholm), everyone would put lights – like the set of seven candles above and the star below – in their windows in the wintertime and leave the blinds open. This made neighborhoods feel warm and inviting instead of cold and dark.

Swedish star ornament

My family learned about the tradition of advent while in Sweden. An advent centerpiece contains four candles, and one is lit on each of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. You re-light the candles from the previous weeks as well, so that on the fourth Sunday all four candles are lit.

advent candles

Like much of Europe, Christmas is celebrated on the 24th. One quirky tradition was that everyone watched Donald Duck cartoons every Christmas Eve at 2pm – all of my siblings’ friends would do this every year! A more well-known tradition is the Swedish Julbord feast that takes place on Christmas Eve, with fish, meatballs, potatoes, crisp bread, cheese, rice pudding, and more.

st lucia christmas concert

Celebrating Lucia Day on December 13th is a huge part of the Swedish Christmas season. Companies hire kids to perform Lucia concerts for them, and everyone eats Saffron rolls. One girl is chosen to play Lucia. She wears four real candles on her head, and a red sash. The other girls wear white dresses with wreaths on their heads. The boys are dressed in long white nightshirts, with cone-shaped star hats on their heads.

The focus of the Swedish winter season is on light and music – a wonderful way to cope with the darkness and cold! A lot of their Christmas music is about Lucia and light. The Christmas season also lasts until January 13th, when they all take their trees down and sing special songs. My family loved celebrating Christmas in Sweden – especially the Lucia concerts!

Christmas around the world

This post, along with my earlier Christmas in the USA post, is part of the Christmas in Different Lands blog hop that is being run by Multicultural Kid Blogs . Drop by this wonderful group’s site to learn about Christmas traditions from all over the world!

MaryAnne lives in Silicon Valley with her Stanford professor husband Mike and their four children. She writes about parenting through education, creativity, and play. Mama Smiles - Joyful Parenting is a space to share crafts, hands on learning activities, and family outings that enrich lives and bring families together.

21 thoughts on “Christmas in Sweden”

  1. Hi! How lucky! I wish I could have lived in 5 different countries! I love the idea of the welcoming lights on windows. I have seen the Lucia celebration in Barcelona and loved it, even if I didn’t understand much of what the priest said because I was just starting to learn Swedish. I loved the celebration, my friend’s children were super glad with their costumes and the wine and sweets were a good surprise! Merry Christmas from Barcelona,
    Marta

  2. I’ve always thought the Lucia tradition was so beautiful – I never connected this and the other beautiful lights to the need to combat the cold and dark of winter! Such a lovely glimpse into Christmas in this part of the world. Big thanks to your siblings for sharing it with us! I love the Donald Duck cartoons :)

  3. LOVED this.. I have lived in Stockholm, back in the late 70’s as an American soaking up the culture and this captures it beautifully! Thanks for taking the time to post!

  4. Too bad you didn’t get to visit. I would love to see Scandinavia! I love the lights although I don’t light too many candles these days. Catholics churches here light advent wreaths too.

  5. I’ve been learning so much about Christmas in Sweden lately from Saveur magazine, a few other posts and from a Swedish dog park friend. It makes me want to try out some of the recipes! Jump into a Book has the Saffron Buns recipe that my Swedish friends from our elementary school told me about today.

    http://www.jumpintoabook.com/2013/12/lucia-morning-in-sweden/

    It’s really fun to learn about how other cultures celebrate holidays and the food they eat!

  6. How beautiful! I had never heard of the Lucia concerts. What an honour that K was Lucia once! Good luck to her on her college applications!! :)

  7. My housemates in France were from Sweden, and I loved going through the Christmas season with them. So many wonderful traditions and food, it’s a good thing the celebration lasts an entire month! Now I’m off to poke some cloves into some oranges, another favorite Scandinavian tradition.
    Thanks for the fun trip down memory lane!
    Julie

  8. So cool to hear about Christmas traditions in Sweden. My great grandfather immigrated from Sweden to the US and I’ve always wanted to go there. I’ve been to Norway in the Winter (I understand what you mean about those long, dark winters) but never Sweden.

  9. I lived in Sweden for three years and remember all these details vividly. This post made me a bit homesick for my apartment in Stockholm. :) And no, I never got the Donald Duck thing either. :)

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