A Swedish Christmas – Learn How To Do Christmas Like a Swede

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!!
  4. 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.
  5. 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).
  6. 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.
  7. 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)
  8. 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.
  9. 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!
  10. 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!!
  11. 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.
  12. 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).
  13. 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 FacebookInstagramTwitter, and Pinterest too 🙂

God Jul och Gott Nytt År

A Swedish Christmas -Learn How To Do Christmas Like A Swede, God Jul, Sweden, Swedish Christmas, Sweden Winter, Christmas, www.mammasschool.co.uk


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  1. Aww it’s so magical and twinkly – I love the Tomtar, they’re so cute 🙂
    Helen recently posted…DIY PROJECT: Personalised Wooden Name Blocks TutorialMy Profile

  2. Some lovely traditions there, I think it’s nice to have lights up for ages as you can enjoy them for longer x
    Rhian Westbury recently posted…London Bucket List Update 2.0My Profile

  3. Oh how magical! I love all the lights and wish we kept ours up longer over here.
    Amy – All about a Mummy recently posted…The Christmas Outfit Challenge from All4oneMy Profile

  4. Aww I’ve never heard or come across Pepparkakor before, but they look amazing. Be perfect paired with hot chocolate on xmas eve.

  5. These little Tomtars are popping up here in the UK! I saw one and I was instantly drawn to it, but didn’t. I think I need to get one now opi know where they come from! I love ft e the sound of a Swedish Christmas.
    Stephanie recently posted…Keeping Memories and My Project 365 Yearly PhotobookMy Profile

  6. Tomtar, or at least the Portuguese version, are my new favourite thing. They’re in all the shops here in Portugal and I love them! I can see a yearly passion with them starting. As for Donald Duck, surely it’s just Sweden version of the queen’s speech?
    Cath – BattleMum recently posted…Disneyland Paris Holiday Diaries – Day 4My Profile

  7. Vicky

    Loving the Pepparkakor. They look like gnomes but Christmassy. Who needs elves eh?! hehe

  8. I am kicking myself for not buying a Tomtar when we were away. They are adorable and I love the star lights
    Kara recently posted…Day 3 – Our Final Day at Santa’s LaplandMy Profile

  9. That was a great read! I love that they have an extended Christmas too. I also love that you combine your Christmas traditions. Oh and that sweet drink is already making my teeth grit just thinking about it lol.

  10. Love the star light ! It’s lovely to see what other traditions other countries have . Sweeden definitely have some amazing ones ! Have a very merry Christmas x

  11. I love this. The Tomtar are so cute. I also like the stars, festive and tasteful at the same time. Won’t be copying the cold fish, but cheeses, hell yes.

  12. Love the Donald Duck tradition! Brilliant! My grandad used to have a projector and show Disney cartoons on our winter visits. Really interesting to hear about how Sweden celebrates Christmas
    Musings of a tired mummy…zzz… recently posted…Project MC2: Adrienne’s soap experiment, review and giveaway!My Profile

  13. I like the sound of the having gifts for both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. They must be proper excited.

  14. Wow! Such bright lights! What’s Christmas without the lights right? Very nice!
    Lauretta At Home and Horizon recently posted…99 AMAZING Things That Happened To Me In 2017!My Profile

  15. I’m from Germany, where we also celebrate on Christmas Eve, so we do the same as you and have half of our celebrations and presents on the 24th, and then stockings and British presents on the 25th.
    Jenni recently posted…Have Yourself a Colsie ChristmasMy Profile

    • It is so nice to do isn’t it. Christmas doesn’t seem over so fast and it makes Christmas Eve more of an event too 🙂

  16. What a lovely Christmas tradition. Our family don’t follow any tradition. It would be fun to though.
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  17. I love all of these traditions. Swedish Christmas sounds so much more magical, bright and beautiful than a British Christmas!! I might take on some of these traditions for myself. x

  18. Oh wow, I love seeing different cultures and traditions. Its lovely to see Christmas isn’t done in one particular way. I hope that you and your family had an amazing Christmas together!
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  19. I really enjoyed reading about these traditions. I love that the lights stay up past 12th night as it’s a time of year when you need a few things to brighten things up
    Zena’s Suitcase recently posted…Essential Items For Making Travel With Kids EasierMy Profile

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