Celebrate Christmas like a Swede

We Swedes like to think that we have the most original Christmas habits on this side of the Milky Way. But maybe we do? Who else would think of eating raw herring, drinking snaps and dress up in a long white beard? Have a look at the following Swedish Christmas habits and learn how to celebrate like a true Swede.
The things we eat

The things we eat

Back in the old days, Sweden was a poor country. The average dinner plate wasn’t very exiting and a lot of people had to go to bed hungry. But during Christmas everything changed and we ate like crazy. Today, Sweden is different country, but we surely like to eat when Christmas comes around.
Eat loads of gingerbread cookies
1. Eat loads of gingerbread cookies
A Swedish Christmas without gingerbread is unthinkable. Maybe our love for it can be explained by the fact that gingerbread is supposed to make you kind. To spice things up, we cut our gingerbread into fun patterns, the most popular being a goat, a star and a heart.
Bake your own Lucia buns
2. Bake your own Lucia buns
The Lucia bun is different from most buns since it contains saffron. The saffron gives the Lucia bun a very special taste and make them very yellow. This is a delicacy that most Swedes consider almost as important as the Christmas tree.
Christmas porridge
3. Fill your belly with Christmas porridge
During Christmas, eating is a very important activity in Swedish homes. And after a nice dinner, we like some Christmas porridge. The porridge is made from rice boiled in milk. Put some cinnamon on top and serve with ice-cold milk. If you want to, you can also put an almond in the porridge. Then the one who finds the almond can make a wish.
Sweets make you sweet
4. Sweets make you sweet
Swedes eat plenty of sweets all year round. But during Christmas, it gets out of control. The most popular sweets are knäck and ischoklad. The first is a chewy toffee made from sugar, syrup and cream and the latter a soft chocolate sweet that melts in your mouth.
The doggy bag desert
5. The doggy bag desert
Rice à la Malta, or "ris à la Malta" as we call it, is traditionally made from left over Christmas porridge. Simply sweeten the porridge with powdered sugar and vanilla sugar, add some cream and stir. The result is the most delicious desert you could ever imagine.
The Christmas buffet
6. The Christmas buffet
The Swedish Christmas buffet contains more or less everything we like to eat: boiled ham, herring, smoked eel, eggs, meatballs, sausages, three or four kinds of cabbage, salmon, and Jansons frestelse, a potato casserole. Then we like to finish it off with a good portion of Christmas porridge. There’s exactly 0% possibility that you will walk away from a Swedish Christmas table feeling hungry.
The things we drink

The things we drink

If all that Swedish Christmas food makes you thirsty, we might have a few suggestions on what to drink. But be prepared, the things we drink are just as original as the things we eat. Here we go!
Stay warm with a glass of Glögg
1. Stay warm with a glass of Glögg
Glögg is a classic Swedish Christmas drink that tastes much like the English mulled wine or the German glühwein. It’s made from red wine mixed with sweet spices. We like to drink it hot together with gingerbread or Lucia buns. Glögg is available with or without alcohol. Both kinds taste extra good if you put in some raisins and chopped almonds.
A dark drink from the dark ages
2. A dark drink from the dark ages
Svagdricka is a dark, beer-like drink with a sweet taste. The drink itself has been produced since the 15th century and used to be popular all over Europe. Nowadays, Svagdricka is more or less only sold around Christmas. If you dare, try mixing it with milk like some Swedes do.
Julmust is a must for a Swede
3. Julmust is a must for a Swede
Julmust might be the most popular Swedish Christmas drink of them all. It’s a non-alcoholic soft drink made from water, sugar, hops, malt and spices. It’s a delicacy that goes well with any Swedish Christmas food. The same kind of drink is also available around Easter, when it’s called påskmust
Cheers for the Christmas beers
4. Cheers for the Christmas beers
Like most people, we Swedes like a glass of beer every now and then. And during Christmas, that glass may contain a dark beer that goes well with the pretty heavy food. The Swedish Christmas beer is like a mix of porter, stout and ale. It’s dark, slightly sweet and delicious.
Last but not least, the snaps
5. Last but not least, the snaps
The snaps is vital part of the Swedish Christmas tradition. But it’s a drink that has to be handled with care. Drink too much and you will wake up the next day with a headache. Snaps is nothing else than pure vodka mixed with spies and herbs. Real connoisseurs like it lukewarm, but most people serve it ice cold to camouflage the pretty intense taste.
Decorate like a Swede

Decorate like a Swede

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without some proper decorations at home. Swedes are pretty modest, though. We don’t usually fill our homes with too many decorations; most just want to make it a little bit extra cosy for Christmas. Here are a handful of good ideas to borrow.
How to make the Christmas tree shine
1. How to make the Christmas tree shine
Even though the Christmas tree is pretty nice without any decoration, how can you resist the temptation? Our advice would be that you stick to a few colours, like blue, red and silver or white, red and black. And don’t be afraid to mix different shapes and materials. As long as you like it, it’s good!
No room without a candle
2. No room without a candle
Sweden is dark when Christmas comes around. So we need to lighten up at home. And the cosiest way is to use candles. Lots of candles. Actually, you can’t have too many candles. Just promise us one thing, never leave a room without putting out the candles. Okay?
Indoor lighting
3. Make your indoor light come alive
From the beginning of December our country is dark, so we use lighting to cheer us up. Most Swedes decorate their homes with Christmas lighting. The most common are Christmas tree lights and lights shaped like stars or candlesticks.
Outdoor lighting
4. Don’t forget the outside
Of course we want our homes to look inviting from the outside, too. That’s why we’re so fond of outdoor lighting. Apart from electric lighting, we love to place lamps with candles in front of our houses. This looks even better when there’s snow on the ground.
Put a Christmas wreath on your door
5. Put a Christmas wreath on your door
If you’ve got the time and the skill, make your own wreath! If you don’t, buy one and put it on your door. It looks really welcoming and shows all your neighbours that you’re fully prepared to celebrate Christmas like a true Swede.
Things we do and dates to remember

Things we do and dates to remember

When you know what to eat, what to drink and how to decorate – what more could you possibly need to celebrate Christmas like a Swede? Well, how about some nice activities and a few important dates to keep in mind.
Countdown to Christmas
1. Countdown to Christmas
Swedes long for Christmas. But to make the long wait a little bit easier we have four Advent Sundays as a countdown. Each Sunday we light one candle on a special candlestick with four branches. And when the fourth candle is lit – Santa is just around the corner.
13th of December is our lucky day
2. 13th of December is our lucky day
On the morning of December 13th, Sankta Lucia comes to visit us. She comes dressed in white with candles in her hair. Together with her companions, "stjärngossar", "pepparkaksgubbar" and "tärnor" she sings Christmas songs and spreads light and warmth on our dark and cold country.
The darkest day of the year
3. The darkest day of the year
A few days before Christmas Eve, is the darkest day of the year – the winter solstice. In northern Sweden you can hardly even see the sun. This is good news though, because after that day we’re slowly moving towards more daylight.
Rime like a rapper
4. Rime like a rapper
Swedes like to put rhymes on their Christmas gift cards. Usually they are short messages that give the receiver a hint of what’s inside the package. When we make up the rhymes together, it’s called a rimstuga.
5. "I have to buy a newspaper"
In Sweden, Santa Claus comes to visit on December 24th. But since Santa is a busy man, we sometimes have to do some of his job. (Please don’t tell anyone, but we actually dress up like him and play him.) But mom or dad can’t just leave home without a reason. That’s why we say that we’re going out to buy a newspaper.
Santa is here
6. Santa is here
Finally Santa, or someone who looks like him, knocks on the door. It’s Santa’s job to deliver all the presents. Every child gets a nice hug and all the adults sit back and enjoy one of the finest moments of the year.
The laziest day of the year
7. The laziest day of the year
Unlike many other people, Swedes hardly do anything on December 25th. This is probably one of the laziest days in the Swedish calendar, where most of us just snooze in the sofa or fall asleep in front of the TV. Some take the opportunity to invite friends of family over but the keyword is rest.
Happy New Year
8. Happy New Year
New Year’s Eve means party in Sweden. Even though we’re in the middle of our freezing winter, a lot of the action takes part outside. Just before midnight, we move outside and start our fireworks. Then we toast in Champagne, kiss and make promises for the new year. Three weeks later, the promises are typically broken.
Bye, bye Christmas
9. Bye, bye Christmas
On St Knuts day, the 13th of January, it’s time to dance Christmas away and plunder the Christmas tree. On that day, children and grown-ups dance around the Christmas tree before we toss out the tree and eat up all the candy that was hanging in it.

Gift wrapping
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Gift wrapping
Check out our step-by-step guide on how to wrap beautiful Christmas gifts.

Inspiration for Christmas decoration

Inspiration for Christmas decoration
Quick and affordable ideas that help you to create a warm and personal Christmas.