Celebrate the holidays like a Swede
As summer slips away in Sweden, nights stretch out. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, some parts of the country see just a few hours of sunlight each day. For generations, this seasonal shift has marked a time for Swedes to gather together, make their homes cozy, and spend time preparing (and enjoying) good things to eat.
With our VINTERSAGA food series—featuring favored treats like ginger thins, saffron rolls, and mulled wine—you can stay inside and enjoy the holidays like a traditional Swede, too.
Bringing light to the darkest time of year
The sun set hours ago, mid afternoon, leaving the Swedish countryside in darkness. Petra Bragée stands outside the nearly 200-year-old farmhouse she calls home, just a half hour's drive from Älmhult, where IKEA was founded. She's bundled against the cold, she clutches a warm mug of glögg—a sweet mulled wine that she likes with heaps of nuts and raisins mixed in. Her husband, four children, mother, and friend join her. They've just turned off every light in the house except the decorative stars hung in windows and strings of bulbs lining the eaves. Christmas is just four weeks away, and this is a favorite tradition for Petra and her loved ones. They stand at a distance to admire the twinkling home while sipping glögg and munching ginger thins, the kind of treats you'll find in our food series VINTERSAGA, which means "winter fairytale" in Swedish. "We are quite traditional," smiles Petra. "We need ginger thins and glögg and all those kind of things this time of year."
Favorite holiday treats
"This period is a super important time for family and friends," says Martin Nordin, a Swede who works with food for IKEA. His colleagues put together VINTERSAGA, which offers a variety of traditional favorites. But whether you choose to buy these treats ready-made, or make them yourself, Martin says the point is how you enjoy them. "You meet up and do these things together," he says. "That's the important part." Petra is a pro at bringing people together over the holidays. Many Swedes build gingerbread houses this time of year, but Petra and her family take the tradition to a new level. For more than three decades they've hosted a gingerbread building competition. What began as a humble gathering of neighbors has grown into a deliciously serious battle for victory. "We’re have more and more people every year," Petra says, pointing out that the kids are more interested in eating the creations than winning. One of the event's perks? "It smells really good with this gingerbread in the house," smiles Petra. The gingerbread creations aren't devoured once a winner is declared. Instead, they serve as added decoration for Christmas Eve, when all family and friends are welcome to bring a dish and join in a grand Swedish feast.
Making time for togetherness
Each year, Petra and her family put effort into finding time for all these treasured traditions. They mark the calendar to bake 100 (or more) saffron rolls. They take trips into the forest to gather moss and pinecones for decorating their home. They happily labor over batches of gingerbread dough. "It’s a quite busy time," she laughs. "Both busy and rewarding. You get to spend a lot of time with the ones you love. And you get together to do all these things." Some might say Petra's home looks like a Swedish fairytale during the holiday season, twinkling and bustling with people and good food. With VINTERSAGA, you can get a taste of a traditional Swedish Christmas, and even start some of your own traditions.