Christmas Quick Facts - SE

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2023 Date25 December 2023
2024 Date25 December 2024


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Christmas, universally recognized as the commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ, carries paramount significance in Christian cultures. In Sweden, the observance converges a rich blend of religious, social, and cultural significances. The focus of the celebration is not just the religious ceremony; it encompasses social gatherings, feasts, and exchange of gifts. A central figure in the festivity is "Jultomten" or the Christmas Gnome, Sweden's version of Santa Claus, who brings presents to children.

The tradition of Christmas in Sweden has evolved over centuries with the blending of pre-Christian winter solstice celebrations into Christmas observances. The most iconic symbol of this amalgamation is the "Yule Goat", a straw figure derived from the Norse pagan lore, which today stands as a popular Christmas decoration. Another important tradition is the feast of Saint Lucia on December 13, where the eldest daughter impersonates as "Lucia, the Light-Bringer" symbolizing the victory of light over darkness.

In contemporary Sweden, Christmas observances commence with the start of Advent, four Sundays prior to Christmas Day. Decoration of homes with Advent stars and candleholders is a common practice. Christmas Eve, known as "Julafton", is the main day of celebration when families gather for a traditional Christmas dinner. The menu usually includes dishes such as ham, herring and "lussekatter," saffron-flavored buns. The 13th of December, St Lucia's day, is yet another key date in the Swedish Christmas calendar, marking the beginning of the Christmas festivities.

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Christmas facts

  • During the 4th Century A.D., Bishop Nicolas of Smyrna was known to be very generous to the poor, especially to children. He was later given the title of Saint Nicholas and is patron saint of children.
  • Constantine the Great named the holiday and set the date for Jesus' birth as being December 25th. This happened in 325 A.D.
  • The Christmas tree is a custom that is believed to have begun in Germany in the 18th century. Candles and decorations that are lit represented the light of Christ in the world.
  • Decorating with straw items, especially ornaments like the 'julbock' or Christmas goat, is a popular tradition in Sweden. It is believed to have originated from the Swedish tradition of Yule, which was a pagan celebration of the winter solstice.
  • Sweden has been working to make its Christmas festivities more environmentally friendly. This includes promoting energy-efficient LED lights for Christmas tree decorations and the use of sustainable materials in various aspects of the celebrations.

Top things to do in Sweden for Christmas

  • Attend a Christmas Eve service at a local church. Many churches offer midnight mass. Alternately, watch the Pope's annual Christmas eve service broadcast live from the Vatican.
  • Many churches hold pageants for children that involve playing the parts of the nativity scene. Go to one of these events or put up a nativity scene in your home.
  • Enjoy classic Swedish Christmas TV specials, such as Kalle Anka och hans vänner önskar God Jul (Donald Duck and His Friends Wish You a Merry Christmas), which is a beloved tradition for many Swedish families.
  • Enjoy a traditional Christmas smorgasbord, called "Julbord," which typically includes dishes like Christmas ham, pickled herring, meatballs, beetroot salad, and sausages. Don't forget to have some glögg, a Swedish version of mulled wine, to accompany the meal.

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