It is always fun and interesting to learn about traditions from other places. Often times it can be an addition to the celebration where you live. As a general rule, the more people understand about others cultures and customs, the more tolerance and acceptance is spread.
Celebrating Christmas is Sweden is much more than a one day event. It begins on December 13th with Saint Lucia Day. Lusia was a Christian who died in martyrdom. The eldest daughter in the family dressed in a white robe appears in the morning (or sometimes in a parade). She wears a crown made of sweets which she shares with those she loves.
A few days before Christmas many decorate Christmas trees. The traditional decorations include red tulips, Juistjarna (Poinsettias) and red and white amaryllis. So it is a flowery red and white combination. They also place gingerbread biscuits on the tree.
In the most traditional of families the gifts are delivered out in person by a Christmas Gnome, Tomte. He brings gifts and funny rhymes for the children. Sadly, this tradition is slipping away and being replaced with Santa Claus.
In many areas of Sweden the procession to the Christmas Eve church service is very beautiful and unique. Each family walks to church carrying candles to light the way. It helps to set a proper tone for celebrating the birth of the Christ child.
The Christmas Eve meal is a smorgasbord. It will include a wide variety of family favorites. Often times it includes ham, other pork dishes and fish. There are always plenty of sweets as well.
After Christmas on January 6th is Epiphany. This the celebration of the Wise Men or the Three Kings. Although, they are often pictured in the Nativity scene, they did not arrive when the Christ child was born. They had a long way to travel and had to wait until the star appeared in the sky. This is not just a holiday in Sweden, but in many Scandinavian countries.
The Christmas season officially ends on January 13. It is Hilarymas! This is literally the day the tree is tossed out the window and all the decorations come down. There all carnivals and festivals to mark the day. There is great food and treats for everyone.
So if you are planning a Swedish Christmas, don’t forget it goes from the 13th of December and and ends a month later. You may have to take some time off work and really celebrate the season.