The other day when I was walking through the shopping streets I heard some store playing Christmas music and it made me think of Christmas back home.
The Swedish or nordic Christmas is somewhat different from American and British versions. In the nordic countries we tend to celebrate the eves of holidays so the important date for us is December 24th. That is when we eat Christmas dinner and exchange presents and meet with family.
The Christmas dinner:
Swedes love to make smorgasbord so also with the Christmas dinner. We set a table full of mostly cold cuts of meat and vegetables, cheese and of course pickled fish. There are a few hot dishes there as well such as fried sausages and meatballs. We also eat ham, not turkey for Christmas. The point of the smorgasbord style of eating is choice so most families have their own way of setting it up but some staples are:
Whole grilled ham.
An assortment of cheese.
To this we of course drink beer. Christmas beer is usually a dark stout or amber beer. It is also common to drink a shot or two of snaps at the dinner.
In scandinavia santa comes to the house on Christmas eve and he does not sneak! All children gets to meet santa and he hands out Christmas presents to the whole family. Of course it is a member of the family that has to sneak away and put on a costume and come back. Usually they say they will go out and buy a newspaper, which is funny because most places that actually sells newspapers are closed at that time on Christmas eve.
Santa is deeply connected to old folk beliefs about garden gnomes, he is basically a big version of them. Therefore we usually give santa something to eat and drink when he comes and around Christmas we put out a dish of porridge for him. Something we used to do for the gnomes to avoid bad luck and other things. Santa used to wear grey and green clothes to blend in the forest, but nowadays he mostly wears red and white.
Since 1959 and old Disney movie called from all of us to all of you has been shown on TV in all of the nordic countries on Christmas eve. Ratings are still high and around 40% of the population in Sweden still watch it every year.
Yule or jul as it is also spelled is the Scandinavian name for Christmas and it is the only Christian region that has a non Christian name for the holiday. It is not entirely certain what the name comes from but is was used to describe a feast in many sources and it is probable that the word jolly comes from it. It also might come from the god Odin who had many names, one of them jolfadir- yule father or father Christmas. The winters are dark in the north and many believed that supernatural and evil things moved around during this time. One of them was the Wild hunt a group of spirits moving across the sky and in some traditions it is led by Odin.
Some new words:
Smorgasbord - imported from Swedish means sandwich table, but we use it for any kind of buffet or when we have a lot of choices.
Snaps - strong spiced alcohol drinken as a shot in germany and nordic countries.
Sneak- move silently without being seen or head , like a ninja!
Gnome - like a small magical dwarf that would help out around the farm and protect animals and nature.
Supernatural - not natural, ghosts, demons, monsters gods and magic.
Assortment- mixture , selection.
- Staple - standard food.