A night view of Stockholms old city with christmas tree.

Christmas in Sweden

In Sweden, Christmas is the main family event. For Swedes that intend to travel within their country (to be away from home to reach other loved ones) need to try book their travel tickets about two months in advance.

The festive Christmas season begins with the celebration of Saint Lucia on 13 December. It is customary in Swedish families for the youngest daughter to wear a white robe with a red slash before dawn. A crown with ever-green leaves and tall candles is worn on the girl’s head. The girl then traditionally serves her parents Lucia buns and coffee with her siblings following her. This day is inspired by Lucia (a virgin Christian girl killed for her beliefs) and is linked to the tradition of welcoming back to the sun. Traditionally the 13 December in Sweden was a pagan festival of lights and in the old Julian calendar;the winter solstice was celebrated on this day.

On Christmas Eve, it is customary for the mother to light candles in the family residence.
Gingerbread biscuits are common in homes at this time of the year.


A Christmas tree is usually bought into the home about two days before Christmas Day and has been decorated with candles, straw ornaments, gnomes and apples. In present times, electric lights are generally rather used with tinsel and baubles in assorted colours. The habit of decorating Christmas trees with small Swedish flags still exists.

Julafton in Sweden refers to Christmas Eve. During Julafton there is smorgasbord (a buffet styled meal with numerous cold dishes served) which is a recognised celebratory meal.

Risgryngrot (rice pudding) is popular, especially at Christmas time. Milk, some salt and cinnamon is added to the rice and water to prepare this pudding. There is a tradition related to this rice porridge, when an almond is placed in it. Whoever happens to get the almond, after each person has been served a portion, is permitted to make a wish or is thought to marry the following year.

Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve in Sweden.

It is after the Christmas Eve dinner, that a member of the family in each household dresses up as a Christmas gnome. In Sweden these gnomes are recalled as living on farms, forests or under the floor boards of homes or barns and they ride straw goats. The dressed up person then distributes the Christmas gifts from a sack, sometimes with a rhyme to hint at the content of the present. However the commercial Santa Clause is becoming increasingly popular and more homes are using a dressed up Santa to distribute presents.

‘Merry Christmas’ in Swedish is 'God Jul'. On Christmas Day, it usually begins with a church service. Foods served at Christmas include ham, herring salad, pickled herring, salmon prepared in a variety of ways, rye bread, potatoes, pork sausage, liver pate and an egg and anchovy mixture. It is customary, since the 1960s, at 3pm for the whole family to watch Disney film productions on tv.

The Christmas holidays used to conclude on 13 January (called St Knut’s Day or Hilarymas), in current times the holidays extend into the first week of January. Hilarymas is celebrated with foods, dancing and the eating of edible food decorations on the Christmas tree. During this day carnivals are often presented for the inhabitants and after this celebration the Christmas tree is generally tossed away.