God jul! Christmas in Sweden
In northern Sweden white Christmas is guaranteed. In Munich this year, the day before Christmas Eve, it has almost spring-like temperatures. If you want to see snow, you already have to go to the mountains. Almost wistfully, I think back to a Swedish Christmas I had the pleasure of spending with my good friend Olaf and his Swedish friends three years ago.
Olaf lives in Skelleftehamn on the Baltic coast not far from Skellefteå. Skellefteå again is located between Umeå and Luleå. The Christmas Eve (in Swedish Julafton) we spend in Båtfors, that lies about 70 km inland directly at the river Skelleftealven. But there is not much to see of the river. It is frozen and covered with snow. Only the higher bank and the missing trees show where the Skelleftealven runs through.
The frozen Skellfealvn in the morning
On the morning of 24.12. we go out shortly after nine for a Christmas walk. Who thinks that we need headlamps for this, is wrong. The winter days in northern Sweden are short, but it is always bright. And I tell you, the nordic winter light is just wonderful. The thermometer shows -25° C. Who now believes that we freeze in the twinkling of an eye, is also mistaken. I have never frozen in Sweden, at least not like I did in Germany. This is certainly because it is worth wearing good winter shoes and a warm winter parka here, but also because the cold feels different, much drier and therefore much warmer than in a Germany around 0 ° C. Sounds strange, but it is so.
Since we have neither snowshoes nor skis with us, we stay on the tracked road and walk past fir forests. The air feels so incredibly fresh, why exactly do some people dislike winter?? Due to the cold, hoarfrost lays on our caps, hair and eyelashes.
Hoarfrost covers hair and eyelashes (Photo: Olaf Schneider)
Back in the warm, cozy, red painted Swedish house, we strengthen ourselves with warm Risgrynsgrot, the traditional Christmas grits. The sweet milk porridge, which can be compared with rice pudding, is traditionally cooked on Christmas Eve. Actually the porridge is meant for the house elves as a thank you for their help. Who forgets to put a little plate in front of the door, will be punished with a whole year of misfortune. Don’t worry, we are good guests and leave enough porridge for the gnomes.
Kottbullar and Prinskorv (Photo: Olaf Schneider)
Afterwards we help with the preparation of the traditional Swedish Christmas dinner, the Julbold. While there is in Germany to Christmas Eve usually a simple meal, with my family are potato salad and sausages high in the course, the Swedes drive numerous delicacies on. The Julbod is a buffet of cold and warm dishes. The Julskinka, the Christmas ham and Prinskorv, small sausages which are cut crosswise at the beginning and at the end and fried in the pan. There the sausage ends spread, so that the prince sausages get small crowns. Also traditional is Janssons frestelse (Janson’s temptation), a potato gratin with anchovies. And of course there are pickled sil (herring), salmon, cheese, eggs stuffed with crabs, potatoes, kottbullar, salads, crispbread, cold roast moose and many other delicacies that I can’t remember anymore, but that I surely ate.
Julskinka (Photo: Olaf Schneider)
Inlagd Sil, home made pickled herring (Photo: Olaf Schneider)
Traditionally, the cold fish dishes are eaten first, then the meat dishes and finally the warm dishes. Or you just take what you feel like. To mention that everything is super delicious is almost a formality. I like the comparatively uncomplicated buffet, which everyone can help to prepare and to which everyone can contribute something. By the way, I had brought a Linzertorte with me, which is a traditional Christmas cake in my family. We drink Julmost, a lemonade drink that is available at Christmas time and is so popular in Sweden that the sales figures of Coca-Cola drop during this time.
Julbold, and these are just the cold dishes (Photo: Olaf Schneider)
After dinner, everyone gathers around the Christmas tree. In Sweden, too, Christmas is celebrated in the family circle, four generations sit together this evening. And we are in the middle of it. I am very grateful for the hospitality. Suddenly there is a knock at the door. Jultomte, Santa Claus, is here and distributing the presents. I am looking forward like a little child. The presents are labeled: "God Jul Olaf onskar Sonya" – in German "Frohe Weihnachten Olaf wunscht Sonya". So Olaf knows that the present is from me. Unfortunately Olaf and I labeled our presents wrong, so we exchanged our presents again before we unwrapped them.
After that we play Julklapp, the swedish version of Secret Santa. Everyone who rolls a one or a six gets to take a present. As soon as all are distributed, these are unpacked and presented. After that we roll the dice. This time you can steal a present from the other person with a one or a six. A great fun, as some gifts are stolen back and forth vigorously.
In Sweden, Christmas Eve is the most important day of the year. I think back to my Swedish Christmas very fondly every year. This year I will spend Christmas with my parents in Munich, without snow and without Jultomte. It will be nice anyway, it is a gift to spend Christmas healthy and with loved ones.
In this sense I wish you "God jul", a merry christmas.
Many thanks to our hosts for the wonderful invitation and to Olaf, who shared some of his photos with me for the blog. You can read his version of Christmas in Båtfors in his blog Nordwarts, which is worth reading.
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4 Replies to "God jul! Christmas in Sweden
- Olaf30 December, 2013 at 23:29
That was a really special Christmas that I like to think back on. Also for me it was the first time "jul" in Sweden. Nice to read about it again.
Come well into the new year!
- Sonya Schlenk Author of the post 31 December, 2013 at 11:07
Thank you Olaf. Wish you also a happy new year 2014, full of experiences and healthy.