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 dressing up in a long white beard? Have a look at the following Swedish Christmas habits and learn how to celebrate like a true Swede.
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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 a different country, but we surely like to eat when Christmas comes around.
things we eat
1. Eat loads of gingerbread cookies
A Swedish Christmas without gingerbread cookies is totally unthinkable. Maybe our love for these cookies can be explained by the fact that gingerbread is supposed to make you kind. To spice up the appetite, we bake our gingerbread in funny patterns, the most popular being a goat, a star and a heart.
things we eat
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.
things we eat
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 ice-cold milk. If you want to, you can also put one almond in the porridge. Then one that finds the almond can make a wish.
things we eat
4. Sweets make you sweet
Swedes eat plenty of sweets all year around. But during Christmas, it gets out of control. All of a sudden homemade sweets are present 24/7. The most popular sweets are "knäck" and "ischoklad". The first being a chewy toffee made from sugar, syrup and cream and the latter a soft chocolate candy that melts in your mouth.
things we eat
5. The doggy bag dessert
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 dessert you could ever imagine.
things we eat
6. The Christmas buffet
The Swedish Christmas buffet contains more of less everything we like to eat. Boiled ham, herring, smoked eel, eggs, meatballs, sausages, three of four kinds of cabbage, salmon, "Jansons frestelse". Then we like to finish it of with a good portion of Christmas porridge. There’s exactly 0% possibility that you will walk away from a Swedish Christmas table feeling hungry.
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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!
things we drink
1. Stay warm with a glass of Glögg
Glögg is a classic Swedish Christmas drink that tastes pretty much like the English mulled wine or the German glüwein. It’s made from red wine mixed with sweet spices. We like to drink it hot together with gingerbread cookies or Lucia buns. Glögg is available with and without alcohol. Both kinds taste extra good if you put in some raisins and chopped almond.
things we drink
2. A dark drink from the dark ages
Svagdricka is a dark beer-alike 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.
things we drink
3. Julmust is a must for a Swede
Julmust might well 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. A delicacy that fits excellent with any Swedish Christmas food. Actually, the same kind of drink is also available around Eastern, then called Easternmust.
things we drink
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 well 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. Dark, slightly sweet and delicious.
things we drink
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 spices and herbs. Real connoisseurs like it lukewarm, but most people serve it ice cold to camouflage the pretty intense taste.
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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 bling-bling, most just want to make it a little bit extra cozy for Christmas. Here are a handful of good ideas to borrow.
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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 colors, 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!
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2. No room without a candle
Sweden is dark when Christmas comes around. So we need to lighten up at home. And the coziest 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?
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3. Make your indoor light come alive
From the beginning of December most Swedes decorate their homes with Christmas lighting in all possible shapes. This time of the year, our country is dark we use lighting to cheer us up. Most common are the Christmas stars, the candlestick and the Christmas tree lighting.
outdoor lighting
4. Don’t forget the outside
Then 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.
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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 neighbors that you’re fully prepared to celebrate Christmas like a true Swede.
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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.
like a swede
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 a candle in a four armed candlestick. And when the fourth candle is lit – Santa is just around the corner.
like a swede
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.
like a swede
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.
like a swede
4. Rhyme like a rapper
Do you like to rhyme? If you do – good! Swedes like to put rhymes on their Christmas gifts. Short messages that will give the receiver a hint of what’s inside the package. We like to do the rhyming together too, then it’s called a "rimstuga".
like a swede
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.
like a swede
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 gifts and he does it so well. Every child gets a nice hug and all adults sit back and enjoy one of the finest moments of the year.
like a swede
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.
like a swede
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.
like a swede
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.

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