The biggest and longest holiday of the year is the magical Christmas of Sweden. The excitement begins the first Sunday of Advent with the lighting of the first Advent candle. Each Sunday prior to Christmas, another candle is lit with growing anticipation.
Feasting and celebrating begin on December 13 with Lucia Day, which legend says is the longest night of the year and a time when man and beast need extra nourishment. In the home, Lucia (Queen of Light) is portrayed by the eldest daughter. She is dressed in a white gown with a crown of candles in her hair. She wakes her parents by singing the familiar Italian song ‘Santa Lucia’ and brings them coffee, buns, cookies, and occasionally glogg (a mulled wine).
The Christmas tree has been a part of Christmas in Sweden since the 1700s. It was not until the present century that the custom became general, however. Nearly every Swedish household now brings in a tree one or two days before Christmas and decorates it with sparkling objects, gaily wrapped candies, glass bulbs, and straw ornaments, with electric lights or candles.
Christmas Eve is the height of the festivities. Traditionally it is a day when no work should be done other than seeing to one’s livestock. This is the day of the Christmas feast, which comprises a sm?rg?sbord including a few traditional dishes such as ham, jellied pigs feet, lutfisk and rice porridge.
After dinner all gather around the Christmas tree to open presents. These gifts are brought by the Jultomten, a gnome who lives in the barn. The Jultomten looks after the family and their livestock. The Jultomten plays a role comparable to that of the various Santa Claus figures in other countries. He is believed to come with presents. In many households nowadays, someone disguised as a gnome comes on Christmas Eve with a large sack of gifts.
Christmas day is spent quietly within the family circle, with Christmas parties and get-togethers the following day and on throughout the holidays until Knut’s Day. Christmas finally ends on January 13. When King Canute was king of Sweden a thousand years ago he decreed that the Christmas feasting should be twenty days. While some countries observe the Twelve Days of Christmas, another week is added to the celebration in Sweden.
Swedish Christmas Song
Nu t?ndas tusen juleljus
Nu t?ndas tusen juleljus p? jordens m?rka rund.
Och tusen, tusen str?lar ock p? himlens djupbl? grund.
F?r ?ver stad och land i kv?ll g?r julens glada bud.
Att f?dd ?r herren Jesus Krist, v?r fr?lsare och gud.
Du stj?rna ?ver Betlehem, l?t ditt milda ljus
f? lysa in med hopp och frid i varje hem och hus.
I varje hj?rta kallt och m?rkt, s?nd du en str?le blid,
en str?le av Guds k?rleksljus i signad juletid.