Weird Christmas traditions in Sweden

What are the Swedes up to during the holidays?

Saint+Lucy%27s+day+2013

Luca Pradella

Saint Lucy's day 2013

With Christianity being the biggest religion in the world, there are a lot of people all over the globe getting excited for the holidays right now. I, myself, am not celebrating Christmas in my home country of Sweden this year. For the third time in my life I will be celebrating in the USA. Because it is my third time celebrating here, I think I have a pretty good idea of what is considered traditional Christmas traditions here in the US, and especially what is not. Therefore I have put together a small list of things we do in my home country during the holidays that Americans would find weird.


 

I start off this list with one of our most beloved Christmas traditions, sitting down with the family at 3 pm every Christmas Eve to watch a Donald Duck cartoon. Specifically the 1958 Walt Disney Presents Christmas special, “From All of Us to All of You.” This has been a tradition since 1959 and is extremely/widely popular in the entire country. At three a clock in the evening on Christmas Eve, I can assure you that the streets of Sweden are empty, for one hour the entire population takes a break to watch the same Donald Duck episode we do every year.

 

 

“Donald Duck” in Swedish

 

Read more about this strange tradition here:

https://slate.com/culture/2009/12/sweden-s-bizarre-tradition-of-watching-donald-duck-kalle-anka-cartoons-on-christmas-eve.html


 

Number two on this list is the Swedish tradition to celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day. This is a tradition that is commonly seen throughout parts of Europe. This means that Christmas Eve is the day where all the gifts are opened and the traditional Christmas foods are eaten.

 

 

 


The third thing Swedes do on Christmas which you seldom see in the United States is the tradition to eat rice pudding during Christmas time. Rice pudding, for some Swedes, is what defines Christmas food and is eaten all over the country during the holidays. Usually served with cinnamon sugar and milk it is one of my personal favorites when it comes to the Christmas foods. It can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or/and dinner.

 

 


 

One tradition that I have heard exists in the United States as well is the celebration of advent. Advent literally means, “finally it is here” and even though some Americans celebrate it, it is celebrated to a greater extent in Sweden. For those of you that don’t celebrate advent this is what we in Sweden do traditionally when we celebrate: Every Sunday in December leading up to Christmas is the first, second, third and fourth of advent and every advent you lite a candle in a advent wreath. One out of four, depending on which advent it is. Traditionally advent is also a time where people go to church in Sweden, but because of our secular mindset not many actually go to church during advent anymore. Nowadays advent for most Swedes means that Christmas pastries and cookies are eaten and a candle is lit.


 

Another tradition that almost every Swedish household does during the holidays is  to put up Christmas lights  in the windows. This is most often in the form of stars and candlestick holders.  During December you see these lights everywhere in Sweden. Even public buildings like hospitals put stars or candlestick holders up. The star  originally was put up to remind people of the Bethlehem Star, but is nowadays put up together with the electric candlestick holder because of tradition.


 

The tradition that is most definitely considered the weirdest to outsiders must be Lucia, a tradition only celebrated by Swedes.

Lucia is the Swedish name for Saint Lucia’s Day and is celebrated on the 13th of December each year. Weirdly enough Sweden is the only country in the world that celebrates this tradition. This is even stranger when taken into account the backstory of this tradition and how it is not known exactly why solely Sweden celebrates this tradition. 

Saint Lucia  was a Christian martyr who lived in present-day Italy during the fourth century. She is famous for being one of the few Christian women martyr saints and is quite a popular saint; she even makes an appearance in Dante’s Inferno.  Her dedicated day ois the 13th of December.

The actual tradition is celebrated by having “Lucia tåg,” which translates to “a Saint Lucia day train” come and sing in church. The “Lucia tåg” are choirs that are dressed up in white gowns with one of the members in the choir being dressed up as Saint Lucia herself. All of the members in the choir carry lights or stars, but Saint Lucia instead has a crown made of candles. 

Here is a link to a video of a Lucia celebration in Gothenburg Sweden 2015:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vl6o4mG25Ec