Seasonal Holliday Attire: Christmas in Sweden


Figure 1.--This 1978 photograph shows a St. Lucia pagent in Sweden on December 13. This is the best loved of the Swedish Christmas traditions. I'm not sure if the elves are boys or girls. Click on the image to see the rest of the group. Maurizio

A thousand years ago in Sweden, King Canute declared that Christmas would last a month, from December 13, the feast of St. Lucia until January 13, or Tjugondag Knut (St. Canute's Day). Some say she once visited the country, and others believe missionaries brought stories of her life which entranced the Swedish people. Her story is that in the days of early Christian persecution, Lucia carried food to Christians hiding in dark underground tunnels. To light the way she wore a wreath of candles on her head. Eventually Lucia was arrested and martyred. On her feast day the eldest daughter in each family dresses in a white dress with a red sash, and wears an evergreen wreath with seven lighted candles on her head. She (very carefully) carries coffee and buns to each family member in his or her room and the younger children often wear a conelike hat with a star on top and accompany her. Many schools, offices, and communities sponsor Lucia processions in which carol are sung and everyone thanks the Queen of Light for bringing hope during the darkest time of the year. Before the midday meal on Christmas Eve, the family gathers in the kitchen for a custom called doppa I grytan, "dipping in the kettle." All gather round a pot filled drippings of pork, sausage and corned beef and dip dark bread into it, which they eat when it is completely soaked with the drippings. The traditional Christmas Eve dinner would start off with a smorgasbord with a sip of akvavit; then lutfisk, a sun-dried cod served in cream sauce, and ham; finally rice pudding with an almond in it. After dinner all gather around the Christmas tree to open the presents. These gifts were brought by the Jultomen, a gnome who lives in the barn, if there is one. He has to have his portion of rice pudding if he is to behave in the coming year. On Christmas Day there is a service a 5:00 a.m. After that the day is devoted to rest and to religious observance. We note a Swedish family Christmas portrait in 1950.

History

A thousand years ago in Sweden, King Canute declared that Christmas would last a month, from December 13, the feast of St. Lucia until January 13, or Tjugondag Knut (St. Canute's Day). Some say she once visited the country, and others believe missionaries brought stories of her life which entranced the Swedish people.

St Lucia/Sankta Lucia (December 13)

St. Lucia's story is that in the days of early Christian persecution in Rome, Lucia carried food to Christians hiding in dark underground tunnels. To light the way she wore a wreath of candles on her head. Eventually Lucia was arrested and martyred. On her feast day the eldest daughter in each family dresses in a white dress with a red sash, and wears an evergreen wreath with seven lighted candles on her head. She (very carefully) carries coffee and buns to each family member in his or her room. The younger children, especially the boys, often wear a conelike hat with a star on top and accompany her. We note a photograph of a Stjamgossar (Star Boy), who traditionally appears in the Sankta Lucia festival. The Swedes celebrate the unfailing light of the martyred saint. Nowadays in our more saftey concious times, the lights are usually battery powered. Many schools, offices, and communities sponsor Lucia processions in which carol are sung and everyone thanks the Queen of Light for bringing hope during the darkest time of the year. The star boys are part of the escort.

Christmas Eve

Before the midday meal on Christmas Eve, the family gathers in the kitchen for a custom called doppa I grytan, "dipping in the kettle." All gather round a pot filled drippings of pork, sausage and corned beef and dip dark bread into it, which they eat when it is completely soaked with the drippings. The traditional Christmas Eve dinner would start off with a smorgasbord with a sip of akvavit; then lutfisk, a sun-dried cod served in cream sauce, and ham; finally rice pudding with an almond in it. After dinner all gather around the Christmas tree to open the presents. These gifts were brought by the Jultomen, a gnome who lives in the barn, if there is one. He has to have his portion of rice pudding if he is to behave in the coming year.

Christmas Day

On Christmas Day there is a service a 5:00 a.m. After that the day is devoted to rest and to religious observance.

Family Celebrar\tions

We note a Swedish family Christmas portrait in 1950.







HBC





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Created: 7:03 AM 6/26/2004
Last updated: 8:48 AM 2/25/2013