With so many regular customs experienced at Christmas, are you missing out on more unique ones you haven’t heard of? There are several Swedish Christmas traditions that are not as common as our traditional gingerbread houses and mistletoe.

It is worth it, however, to become more familiar with these traditions as they could add to your enjoyment of the holidays.

As great as things like Rudolph and Frosty are, it may be a good idea to broaden your horizons, learn of some new traditions, and incorporate them into your own Christmas. This article will look at 7 Swedish Christmas traditions you might not know about.

Are Swedish Christmas Traditions That Much Different?

They actually do vary quite a bit. And the first one starts with Santa himself. In Sweden, they have many varieties of Santa, each looking a little different. There is also one variation of Santa that you will see quite often. However, he looks quite different from the traditional red and white outfit.

He more resembles a gnome and is dressed in grey clothing. These Swedish Santas are known as Tomten and come from Scandinavian folklore similar to a house gnome.

The Tomten would secretly live under the house and protect the children and animals from any evil or misfortune. They are small but are also mischievously playing tricks on people in the house.

1. There Are More Special Days Leading Up To Christmas

It’s hard to say when the Christmas season starts. This can vary depending on which country you live in. Of all the Swedish traditions at Christmas, a big one is a longer celebration leading up to it. It starts at the beginning of December and can last all the way until mid-January.

There is an advent where they celebrate every Sunday. There is also Lucia which is celebrated on December 13th. People sing and dress up and it’s almost like a mini Halloween.

You also go to Swedish Christmas tables on that day called “Julbord”. It’s like a smorgasbord with lots of cured meats, salmon, and other meats and cheese.

2. Christmas Is Mainly Celebrated On The 24th

Christmas Eve is the big celebration day in Sweden. When it comes to Santa, he’s still in the mix but instead of leaving out cookies and milk, they leave out porridge. They also leave it outside on the doorstep and on the night of the 23rd.

On the morning of the 24th, there are still traditional stockings and presents. One Christmas tradition in Sweden is for the father to head out Christmas Eve night saying he forgot to get the papers, but returns dressed as Santa with more gifts for everyone.

3. Donald Duck Is A Big Part Of Swedish Christmas

This may seem weird, but Donald Duck is a Swedish Christmas tradition where he’s known as Kalle Anka. Every December 24th, at 3 pm, half of Sweden sits down to watch a Walt Disney special from 1958. The Special is called “From All Of Us To You”, but the Swedes have nicknamed it “Donald Duck and Friends Wish You a Merry Christmas”. It’s a compilation of various Disney clips from over the decades.



This tradition came about in 1959 when Swedes first started to own televisions. There was only one TV channel at the time, and Christmas was the only time you could watch American cartoons in Sweden. Over time, this just became a part of the Christmas tradition in Sweden and continues to this day.

4. Make Saffron Buns

These buns are more of a savory treat and won’t taste like anything you would expect. They have a bit of an Indian curry flavor to them because of the saffron and are a staple at Lucia celebrations. This differs from our sweet and sticky buns as pastries are usually very prominent at Christmas. Why not add in a new flavor to your holiday treats?

5. No Coca-Cola

In North America and other parts of the world, Coca-Cola and Christmas are synonymous with each other. The modern version of Santa Claus comes from Coca-Cola advertisements, and the drink is very prominent during the holidays.

But not so much in Sweden. One of the Swedish Christmas traditions involves pushing Coke to the side in exchange for Julmust. This is a drink that comes from 1910 that was an alternative to beer. It tastes like a root beer, but with some spice to it.

6. Lighting The Advent Candles

This is part of the lead up to Christmas and the celebration of the advent. It takes place over the four Sundays of the month with a candle being lit each Sunday. The Swedes call this adventsljusstake and it’s also the name given to the triangular electric candle holder that you will see in pretty much every Swedish window in December.

This tradition is starting to spread to more places around the world. Sweden, like other northerly countries, gets very little daylight during the winter months. Using candles as often as possible as an available light source helps to combat a lot of the darkness. This process is strategic but also symbolic with a light helping to eliminate the darkness.



Final Thoughts

The best thing about the holidays is all the little traditions you probably hold dear. They are special because you only get to enjoy them once a year – but you always look forward to them. Even though they differ from ours, Swedish Christmas traditions are quite similar and still charming.

Why not try out a few of them each year as they may become a part of your own holiday tradition for years to come. All great traditions have to start somewhere, so this could be the year to add some new ones to yours.

References:

  1. https://www.thelocal.se/
  2. https://sweden.se/
Jamie Logie, B.Sc.

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