Christmas in Sweden begins with the Saint Lucia
ceremony. Before dawn on the morning of 13 December, the
youngest daughter from each family puts on a white robe
with a red sash. She wears a crown of evergreens with
tall-lighted candles attached to it. She wakes her
parents, and serves them with coffee and Lucia buns. The
other children accompany her. The boys dressed as star
boys in long white shirts and pointed hats.
The custom goes back to Lucia, a Christian virgin
martyred for her beliefs at Syracuse in the fourth
century. The Saint Lucia ceremony is fairly recent, but
it represents the traditional thanksgiving for the
return of the sun. Often she is followed by star boys,
who wear pointed hats, and carry star wands.
Candle-lit processions to Church feature Scandinavian
Christmases, where, in the home, it is mother who always
lights the candles on Christmas Eve.
Christmas trees are usually found in Swedish homes two
days before Christmas. Decoration may include candles,
apples, Swedish flags, small gnomes wearing red tasseled
caps, straw ornaments. The houses may filled with red
tulips and smell like pepparkakor, which is a
heart-star, or goat-shaped gingerbread biscuit.
Swedish Julafton, or Christmas Eve dinner may be a
smorgasbord, or buffet with julskinka, or Christmas ham,
pickled pigs feet, lutfisk, or dried codfish, and many
different kinds of sweets. Risgryngrot a special rice
porridge, has hidden in it an almond which as tradition
has it the person who finds the almond in his or her
bowl will marry in the coming year.
Christmas trees are usually brought into Swedish homes
one or two days before Christmas. Decorations include:
candles, apples, Swedish flags, small gnomes and
tasseled caps, and straw ornaments. The house may be
filled with red tulips and the smell of pepparkakor - a
heart-star, or goat-shaped gingerbread biscuits.
After Christmas Eve dinner, a friend or family member
dresses up as tomte or Christmas gnome. The tomte,
unlike Santa Claus is supposed to live under the
floorboards of the house or barn and ride a straw goat.
The make-believe tomte, wearing a white beard and
dressed in red robes, distributes gifts from his sack.
Many are given with funny rhyme that hints at the
Swedes eat lye-treated codfish and welcome the Christmas
elves and the julbok which is the Christmas goat, who is
responsible for the distributing of the presents.