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The Swede’s have no shortage of Christmas traditions, and living here we have been more than happy to embrace them, and mix them in with our British ones, for a multicultural Christmas celebration. I’m going to share with you my top 13 Swedish Christmas Traditions. Sit back and enjoy, and you never know, you may want to adopt a few for your family this year 🙂
My 13 Favourite Swedish Christmas Traditions:
- Outdoor lights: These go up very early, and are put away a month or so into the New Year, well after the Christmas decorations have come down. In fact last year we were getting a little nervous and kept checking out of our windows to see if others still had them on display. The twelfth night of Christmas came and went and we worried about bad luck coming on our household!! We needn’t have worried, we seem to have been OK! It is a tradition used more to brighten up the long dark winter and they are on display for a a good few months.
- Candle Lights: Again, these tend to go up at the same time as the outdoor lights, and again we have learnt that they stay up many weeks after Christmas. You need to have a set in every possible window, and when we arrived from England with only one set, we very quickly bought up a supply, and now we are the proud owners of 5 sets 🙂 Heaven knows where I’ll put them all if we ever return to the UK!!! It really is beautiful though to see. Offices and schools do this too in every window and it all looks so cosy up at school at the moment. Driving through town it is lit up with everyone’s candle lights in the offices and flats.
- Star Lights: Staying with lights (are you spotting a common theme here?!), having oversized star lights hanging or as lamps in your windows is an absolute must too. We had one when we arrived, and again that is just not enough. We are now the proud owners of 4 hanging stars and one star lamp. If I do return to the UK I think our home might be mistaken for the Nativity Stable by the locals unused to the sheer size and volume of star lights!!
- Christmas Eve: The main festivities take place on Christmas Eve here. We have a really lovely balance I think in our family. We attend the Christmas Eve service at the island’s church late morning, followed by a mid afternoon huge Christmas meal. Then after which our children open their “Norwegian” gifts (my side of the family has Norwegian background, and like Sweden they celebrate on Christmas Eve, so I have grown up opening my Norwegian gifts on Christmas Eve too). Then on Christmas morning they will open their gifts from Father Christmas, and then in the afternoon their “English” Christmas gifts. It allows us to pace the excitement a little too.
- Christmas Day Smörgås: Just in case you are not stuffed full enough after the Christmas Eve celebrations, there’s a loaded table of cold fish, meats, and cheeses to attack on Christmas Day…..so gear yourself up for it (actually last year we all skipped breakfast and just had everything out all day and came and went as we pleased, around playing with Play-Doh and constructing a gazillion Lego gifts).
- Tomtar: These lovely little men are all around you at Christmas here. I have grown up used to the Norwegian version (nisse), but living in a country where I can now freely get hold of tomte things (serviettes, cloths, towels etc and of course little tomte themselves) still hasn’t quite hit home, and every time I come back from shopping we have another one added to our collection!! Our little lady has started rolling her eyes at me every time she spots a new one perched somewhere….I know I probably need help but they are lovely 🙂 I think we have more than enough for our Swedish Christmas.
- Pepparkakor: These delicious thin biscuits are indeed a must for every day in December. Children’s swimming classes end….every one gets out the pool and dripping wet are served pepparkakor and coffee to celebrate. Visitors over…..serve pepparkakor with mulled wine. Watch the children for their little Christmas concert….your picnic basket better contain pepparkakor. Scouts’ Christmas party…..pepparkakor. It’s the winter equivalent of korv med bröd (refer to my post about 15 things I have learnt living here)
- Glögg: This is another essential throughout the month of December to get you in the festive mood, and we go through gallons! It is perfect after a freezing afternoon hike in the Swedish outdoors, or on returning from an afternoon sledging. We have had no problem at all adopting this tradition.
- Julmust: This is a very sweet drink…think Coke, then think sweeter still! In fact, I can feel my teeth wanting to fall out when I drink it! It is only available for the Swedish Christmas time (oh and Easter when it is the same drink but sold as Påskmust) and it is the non alcoholic Christmas drink for the little people (or those driving). I do serve my trio this, but I have to say I cringe inwardly every time I do, thinking of the poor dentist!
- Risgrynsgröt (Rice Pudding): No figgy pudding in this house now, it’s rice pudding with either jam or cinnamon and sugar on (or everything on!). Extremely filling and sold in what looks like plastic white sausages!!
- Kalle Anka (Donald Duck): On the 24th every Swedish household comes to a stand still to watch Donald Duck….since 1959!! In fact it is so ingrained in their culture, whole Swedish Christmas festivities are planned around this TV broadcast.
- 20 Days Of Christmas: It’s not 12 days of Christmas here, but there are 20 days to a Swedish Christmas…oh yes you need to be sweeping up those pine needles for quite a bit longer here in Sweden than in the UK. Right up until the 13th January…then remember don’t put any lights away, they still stay out!!! (see points 1,2, and 3).
- Christmas Tree Throwing: And finally when you do take the Christmas tree down, you are supposed to fling open a window and throw it out as a tradition……however, these days it is more common to see it being driven to the recycling centre to avoid being accused of littering!!
I hope you have enjoyed my little insight into some Swedish Christmas traditions, and if you decide to adopt some in your home make sure you let me know which ones in the comments below. Have a great Christmas and don’t forget to follow us on all our adventures on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest too 🙂
God Jul och Gott Nytt År
Pepparkakor are everywhere throughout winter, at every celebration, end of swimming lessons, scouts’ Christmas party, or stockpiled in your cupboards. Usually accompanied by a very welcome mug of glögg (mulled wine), these thin festively spicy biscuits are very moorish. Try our recipe and let me know how you get on in the comments below.
These lovely little innocuous Swedish biscuits have a very unique taste with a small amount of fire, and something you can’t quite put your finger on. It’ll be the presence of the cardamom, a spice that is put in a lot of baking in Scandinavia and gives things a very individual taste. So, unless you want to head to your nearest Ikea (if you live in the UK), pop on your pinafore and get baking these delicious pepparkakor – I challenge you not to scoff the lot!!
1 tablespoon cardamom
50g light syrup (for UK use normal syrup)
20g dark syrup (for UK use treacle)
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon baking soda
- Mix butter, sugar, and syrups in a pan, and heat gently until the butter melts.
- Turn the mixture off and add in all the spices (cardamon, ginger, and cinnamon).
- Add in the baking powder.
- Add water
- Add flour.
- Put it all into a bowl once it is mixed well. Leave it to rest at least overnight but up to a week if possible (we did a few days and all was well). Cover it when it has cooled.
- When you are ready, roll it quite thin 1-2mm and cut the shapes in with cutters that you fancy (we did Elk and hearts).
- Cook at 200 degrees Celcius for 8-10 mins (you need to watch them!!)
We are rapidly hurtling towards Christmas, so I have decided to put together a children’s outdoor gift guide to help give you some inspiration of great ideas for both presents under the tree, and some stocking fillers too 🙂 These are more practical gifts in this outdoor gift guide that the child (or grown up) can then use.
A Children’s Outdoor Gift Guide:
- Compass: These come in all shapes, sizes, and prices. You can choose one to match your child’s age and ability to use it. We have gone for a simple version to introduce ours to the concept to start with. You can take a look at my post on learning how to use a compass for tips to get started with your little people.
- Binoculars: These we purchased back in the UK from a well known toy shop (they were only £2.99, about 30sek), but have been absolutely fantastic and survived being flung around. You don’t need to spend a fortune for them to function well.
- Daysack/Hiking Backpack: We looked high and low for our back packs for our trio. For the twins it was a lot harder to find something a little larger (but not too large as they are still only 6), with a supportive front clasp, enough pockets for good accessibility of things, robust enough to withstand the Swedish wilderness, and with some extra padding/comfort for the hiking. We eventually bought for our twins these backpacks from Elkline. They are fantastic. For our little lady we had a different issue….if we bought it for her size (a tall 9 year old), she would fill any left over space with “stuff” that would then make it too heavy to carry, so we needed to be a little cautious on size with her too. It is a 22L backpack but with a good sturdy waist belt (that was a struggle to find one with that). It has a breathable back and comes with a rain cover attached. It is designed for 11-15 year olds so should last her a while yet!
- Tin Mug: For the ever so important, morale boosting hot drinks. We have gone with these gorgeous Moomin mugs…all 5 of us 🙂 We adore the Moomins.
- Tinder Pouch: We use a Kelly Kettle and love lighting campfires for our meals during our hikes. These pouches allow us to collect any dry useful tinder and store it safely (and rather smartly) on our pre-campfire part of the hike. Between 3 children and myself we should then have a fair amount….might as well put the children to use 😉
- Whistle: It is debatable whether my three actually need one of these (they are sooooooo noisy), but just to be on the safe side, they have it in their back packs in case of getting lost.
- Spork: My three think this is one of the funniest words ever. I think it is one the handiest items to carry….the 2 in one function cutting back in what goes in those backpacks (very important when you are only 6 or 9 years old!).
- Camera: My trio have all got VTech cameras. While they are clunky and heavy (carrying a spork won’t balance this one out) they are very robust and my three love taking photos and recording their own memories on them. Once they are older, you can upgrade to something a little more practical, and you don’t always have to take them out if the back pack is too heavy.
- Good base layers: We need this here in the winter to keep warm, but usually hiking you can work up a sweat too. A good base layer will wick this sweat away from your skin keeping you comfortable. One less thing for them to moan about has to be a bonus right?! Need help choosing a set? Check out my review of Isbjörn of Sweden Husky base layer
- Outdoor Clothing: Children need to be equipped for the outdoors as well as us adults are, and more again…their clothes need to be robust enough not only to withstand the elements, but also the added activities of tree climbing, crawling through mud, racing through brambles, and puddle jumping. If you need some inspiration you can look at my reviews for Tiny Trolls of Norway Rain Gear and Winter Gear
- Boots: Again, they need to be equipped as well as us adults, but also bear in mind their little feet need extra protection as they are still growing. The boots need extra practicality about them too for those huge puddles us grown ups avoid, but draw children to like magnets!
- Torch: Always handy for when you are out in the dark, whether to find your route through some tough undergrowth, help you pack up after a campfire to ensure you’ve left nothing behind, or to help you find that lost item that got dropped in the dark (and probably shouldn’t have left the house anyway, but is the most favourite tiniest toy EVER!). Oh and you can use the torch to signal for help 🙂
- Bug Pots: There are always interesting things hiding along the trails. My three carry a very small pot so we can take closer looks, and also it can give them something to do while you are cooking a meal.
- Sunglasses: We ALWAYS have these with us. Whether we need them to watch the sun rise or set, or the sun unexpectedly makes an appearance…as I said earlier, anything less for them to moan about has to be a bonus!!!
Let me know in the comments below if you can think of any other essentials for the outdoor gift guide, or perfect little gifts that you know will get utilised well, instead of forgotten about with the Christmas haul 🙂 I’d love to hear your thoughts (and maybe I’ll pinch them for our Santa!)
On December 13th, all over Sweden, the day of St.Lucia is celebrated. There are costumes, candles, lights, buns, drinks, and singing 🙂
So who is St.Lucia?
Along with the celebration of midsummer, the celebration of St.Lucia is a very popular cultural tradition here in Sweden. The idea behind this mythical character is that she has the role of bearing light in the long, cold, dark, winters. St Lucia was originally a young Christian lady betrothed to a pagan gentleman. She cut off their engagement, and he was not too happy, so he made the Roman authorities aware she was a Christian. Consequently she was sentenced to death and became a martyr, and the saint of light.
How to celebrate St.Lucia:
- Dress up: The children are dressed in white gowns, with red sashes, and a wreath of candles is placed upon their heads. There is often great competition for the role of St.Lucia, and whilst a lot of costumes will now involve electric candles, the main St.Lucia of the celebration is still known to have real candles on her head in most places. She is accompanied by her handmaidens (tärnor) who wear white gowns and have tinsel in their hair. She is also accompanied by star boys (stjärngossar), who wear white robes, cone shaped hats, and carry golden stars on sticks. The processions now often include tomtar (santa like elves) and gingerbread people. My double trouble are going to be tomtar this year.
- Food: No celebration would be truly Swedish without having a special bun or cake made for the occassion! On this day you eat lussekatter. They are made with saffron, so have a peculiar flavour to them, but are very tasty. Also on offer are the pepparkakor (small thin ginger biscuits), all swallowed down with yet more glögg! Or if you are a child, the incredibly sweet drink of Julmust, or maybe just a coffee if you are driving.
- Sing Songs: Most of these songs have a similar theme about the dark and about candles, but singing is a big part of the celebration.
We will be enjoying a little St.Lucia celebration in my twins’ class one evening around this time as they sing us some songs. They are going to be a couple of tomtar 🙂 Comment and let me know your thoughts on this Swedish tradition and if you’ve enjoyed reading about it below. Don’t forget to share the post to let others know!
I have had a similar article published by the Newbieguide.se and it can be found by clicking on the following link http://www.thenewbieguide.se/st-lucia-discover-swedish-winter-tradition/
“There’s a sunrise and a sunset every single day, and they’re absolutely free. Don’t miss so many of them” – Jo Walton
The winter makes it a lot easier to watch a sunrise. With it rising at the moment here in Sweden just before 0815, it is at quite a civil hour! It allowed us more than enough time to wrap up warm against the freezing temperatures, grab our supplies for a breakfast picnic, and take a short hike to a little secluded cove – lovely to watch a sunrise with just us, but also on a Saturday morning we wouldn’t be waking anyone else up!
We have already seen many sunsets this winter (and they never fail to impress with their rainbow light shows), but not a sunrise together yet, or a sunrise picnic. So, with the light just creeping into the day we did a 30 minute walk through the woods to find our secluded little cove. The children set about playing with the ice, frost, and frozen sand, while I took charge of getting the Kelly Kettle going, and Dadda took charge of making a fire (so nice to split the chores for once and have him out with us too). I had made apple and cinnamon porridge to eat from our food flasks, but we could have hot drinks and keep a little warmer with a fire lit. We could also then toast marshmallows for a breakfast dessert.
We ended up staying for around 2 hours, just being together and connecting as a full family and enjoying the moment. The children were happy playing, Dadda and I were happy chatting sitting on our rapidly freezing backsides, and the day had a really tranquil calm start to it – one of the best things in a hectic and loud large family life. I have to say it was totally worth packing up the night before, wrapping up warm, and a mini hike through the dark woods to do it, and I thoroughly recommend this to anyone. This is the second year running we have to done this, and I hope to do it for many more years. We did it last year and it was lovely, but about 10 degrees colder!!
I have written a lot in the past about the benefits of getting getting outdoors, nature therapy, and nature play and you can click the links and have a read. However, there are benefits to specifically watching a sunrise.
9 Benefits to Watching the Sunrise:
- It is a calm and peaceful way to start the day together. It makes for generally happier moods all round and a better day.
- It is connection time together.
- It is physically good for our bodies providing melanin and vitamin D (especially good in the winter with the shorter days).
- We stop for a minute and intentionally notice the beauty surrounding us and appreciate it.
- We become more aware of our environment and surroundings. It instils a sense of wanting to nurture it, and for our little people helps them foster a love of it.
- It teaches us and our children to live in the moment and enjoy the simple things in life.
- Certainly for my three it instilled a sense of adventure and awe.
- For everyone it provides memories that will be cherished.
This is a really easy mini adventure that I think all children should experience every so often as part of their immersion in nature. So do you think you would do it? With or without a picnic, set out to watch a sunrise one morning this winter? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
We received a very exciting parcel in the post from Tiny Trolls of Norway. They had very kindly kitted out my double trouble for the Swedish winter with a whole winter outdoor wardrobe, and popped a few surprises in there for my little lady (their sizing only goes up to 8 years, and she’s a very tall 9 year old). Tiny Trolls of Norway is a high quality children’s outdoor clothing company for ages 1-8 years. The main aim of the business is to motivate and encourage families and their children out into the great outdoors. So, you can see similarities between my blog ethos and their’s already! Their motto is “There is no such thing as bad weather, just poor clothing”, and by making such high quality winter outdoor clothing for children, they are ensuring that children can play outdoors whatever the winter weather throws at them! So what had they sent us?
Tiny Trolls Winter Outdoor Clothing:
- Trollungen Winter Jacket: They had kindly sent us this in 2 different colours as I like my boys to be able to tell at a glance whose coat is whose, if possible. This jacket is waterproof to 10000mm!! That is a serious substantial amount, meaning they can play outdoors in the snow or winter rain for hours with no discomfort. It is 3000G breathable, and is also windproof. It is lined with the softest cosiest fleece ever. It has reflective detailing on the outside (very important in the long dark winters so the traffic can see the children), and the hood is detachable.
- Trollungen Winter Pants: These are made to the same high spec as the jackets. They are 10000mm waterproof, 3000G breathable, and also windproof. They are warm and padded, but so the child can still play and move, they have an adjustable waist and over the shoulder straps, there is a snug elasticated fit for the boot area, with a popper to undo to make it easier to get on and off, and there are stirrup straps to pop under boots, to prevent trousers riding up and letting the elements in. These also have some reflective detailing too.
- Tommel-Liten Winter Mittens: These gloves are again 10000mm waterproof, 3000G breathable, and windproof too. They are lined with the same softest, cosiest lining as the coats, and have large cuffs so they fit well either over the top of jackets, or underneath (which would prevent that unpleasant cold snow up the coat arm sensation).
- Lykketroll Winter Hat: These are so soft and warm 🙂 The outside of the hat is knitted, but on the inside it is lined with the softest fleece…plus they are very cute!
- Lurvehette Neckwarmer: As well as a hat for our little lady, they popped a neck warmer in as well for her. These are so useful in the winter as you can pull them up high over your face as protection against the elements and more often than not the freezing biting wind. They are very comfortable and soft. The boys and I live in our neck warmers in autumn, winter, and spring, and I have a feeling she will do too now!
So, these beautiful clothes needed to be put through their paces, so off we headed into Swedish nature for our Friday afternoon weekly adventure. I feel we certainly put the clothing through their paces as we spent three solid hours in driving rain with the children climbing trees, scrambling rocks, and crawling through very wet mud. So how did we get on?
Pros of Tiny Trolls Winter Outdoor Clothing:
- They certainly have not overstated the protection this clothing gives the child from the weather. It was nothing short of fantastic. The rain was just repelled by these garments and not soaked into the fabric at all. The twins were so cosy too, they only had base layers underneath. It was driving cold rain (only a degree or 2 too warm for snow) and blustery icy winds.
- The gloves are so easy for them to put on….a huge plus in mine and their eyes (twin 2 gets frustrated very fast with clothing that isn’t easy to manage). Plus they too repelled the wet so well. Often their gloves are soaked through by the end of a trip out as they are almost constantly touching wet objects…sticks, rocks, trees, sea water….but we might finally have found a pair that can go the distance (we haven’t before).
- We love the colours (not such a practical point!)
- They have such lovely detailing with the very cute Tiny Trolls embossing, as well as the reflective strips, and leather markings.
- They are very very warm, soft, and cosy.
- The clothes are very cute and look good too.
- They are very robust and made to last. My trio were climbing trees, scrambling on rocks and there was not a mark on the clothing.
- They dried fast from the rain and all the dirt seemed to just brush off, so they weren’t filthy after they dried.
- The hats were very comfy too. I get frequent complaining about hats being “scratchy” so this is good, especially as they wear them for 6 months of the year.
- Our little lady found the neck warmer so cosy and she spent most of the afternoon tucked into it hiding from the weather.
Cons Of Tiny Trolls Winter Outdoor Clothing:
I have scrambled around to find some cons, but it wouldn’t be a balanced review if I didn’t 🙂
- It’s 2 pieces…..this is fine for 1 of them, but twin 2 will take any excuse to venture out without the bottom half on, so I am going to have to make sure that the staff are on their toes at school! The all in one from Tiny Trolls don’t come large enough for my mini men.
- The trousers only come in the one colour….this won’t be an issue for everyone, but it’s nice for my twins to know whose is what at a glance. Boys clothing is often so limited anyway that they do have lots that are the same, it’s just handy when it is different.
Tiny Trolls clothing is fantastic and there really is “no bad weather” when you are wearing it 🙂
*We were sent the clothing from Tiny Trolls of Norway for free, to put through their paces and test, in exchange for writing the review. All opinions are honest and my own*