Glad Jul! Christmas the Swedish Way?

By Alison November 15, 2006 7 Comments 4 Min Read

~What if, this year you decided to
Christmas a bit different to how you did it last year or the year
before that, or even ten years before that? What if this year you
decided to create the Christmas of your dreams and said stuff that for
a game of soldiers to all the usual traditions, rituals and obligations
that Christmas usually means in your house. Imagine it if you can.
Imagine Christmas the way you want it to be. Could you make it happen?
Would you even dare?

Of course you wouldn’t. Not least because Christmas causes enough family argument without us deciding to put a total spanner in the works by opting out of it altogether. We expect certain things from this family holiday, and we, as families are often strangely rigid
(superstitious?) about making even the teeniest changes to our rituals.
Hell, even I am not immune: the year my Dad decided he wasn’t going to be official wrapping paper collector while the rest of us unwrapped our presents, I nearly came to blows with him. He always does it, and there is a teeny part of me who will forever be a little girl and thus wants her Daddy to go on doing the things I expect him to forever more… 

But just because we want (or have to) go on observing our own particular family traditions doesn’t mean that we cannot begin to create a few little traditions of our own. Inspiration, where Christmas is concerned, can be hard to find because sadly it is a case of same old,
same old, but if we look to the way other countries celebrate Christmas
we can find a whole host of teeny rituals that could sit scrumptiously
alongside our own traditions and become a part of Christmas for years
to come…

* Celebrate La Pere Noel like the French do: mark the feast day of St Nicolas by giving your children a teeny little treat or two in their stockings on
December 6th. Or do it the German way and get them to leave their shoes
on the doorstep on the evening of the 5th of December and fill them
with sweets and a teeny gift before morning falls…
Give children their smaller gifts on the morning of christmas eve and
save their special gifts for Christmas day as they do in France…
Make Christmas all about the children, and New Year all about the
adults by saving your presents to your partner for midnight on the
start of the New Year, the way they do in France…
*In Provence, early in Advent, the children of the house are sent out to
collect twigs, berries, bracken and moss on which to lay the
traditional manger so familiar to French homes. Make this tradition
your own by sending the kids out and using what they find to create
your own little altar to the season…
*Have a seasonal cleaning day in the week between Christmas and New Year the way the Chinese do: the whole family helps to clean the house and
sweep away ill fortune and make way for incoming good luck…
*In Denmark the better part of a day is spent with the whole family
together sitting down to make a new set of Christmas Decorations for
the tree, in the week before Christmas…
*Create a  Knusperhous (nibble house)- a traditional gingerbread house made the German way and give it pride of place in your kitchen…
*In Holland, Christmas Eve is celebrated by the giving of “surprises” at
the dinner table- tiny little presents, sometimes silly, sometimes fun,
wrapped in plain paper and accompanied by a verse from their secret
* In Poland, places are set for all family members, at the Christmas table: even those who could not attend, and a tiny piece of straw is laid under the
tablecloth as a reminder of the manger…
*In Sweden, Christmas begins on December 14th, with Saint Lucia’s Day:
have your children light candles and serve coffee and cakes in
celebration. Then the following day, preparations for Christmas should
begin with a thorough cleaning of the house and the commencement of
traditional baking…
*In Greece the most common Christmas decoration is a shallow wooden bowl with  a piece of wire suspended across the rim: from this a piece of
basil is wrapped around a cross and daily the Mother of the house will
keep the basil fresh by dipping it in the bowl and using it to sprinkle
water in every room of the house to keep bad spirits away…
*Brazilians traditionally use fresh flowers to decorate their houses
and this I think is a scrumptious way of offsetting the heaviness of
christmas decorations: and shopping  and displaying the flowers could
become a calm and peaceful ritual on the day before Christmas Eve…
So pick and choose your rituals, and find a way of making them your own:
nothing is more reassuring than the certainty of tradition and children
most of all treasure those moments.
Even grown-up children, aged thirty-four and a half.


  1. Heather says:

    Lovely post as usual. Can you please email me? I found a website you will find absolutely scrumptious and may want to post about. (It is Canadian…and very yummy.)

  2. Scooby says:

    Wonderful post as always – I am quoting you on my Christmas blog if thats alright? Will give credit where credit is due of course and direct everyone to your blog.
    I love reading – don't ever stop being you!
    Oh, PS there is a link to my Christmas blog on the side bar of the blog I have directed you to.

  3. nina says:

    O.K. Are you ready for heaps and heaps of compliments??? I LOVE your blog, I am so inspired by all your thoughts, I was thinking this year ( I live in N.J. with 3 kids ) I wanted to not only do my traditional vintage Christmas but focus on the rituals and have been looking for ones from other countries,,, so thank you! P.s. I know you "despise" your green damask wallpaper in your hall, but you know… I rather like it… anyway, I could go on and on here, but just wanted to thank you, your blog is better than the Christmas issues I love so much… I get my coffee and see what you are up to each day… much love!

  4. mama p says:

    My best gal pal and I are making anatomically correct gingerbread men and sending them to everyone one in need of a little ho ho ho. And yes, some extra dough will be placed in appropriate places. Does that count as a tradition?

  5. Deborah Cleaveland says:

    I am an interior designer, ASID member. Looking for a source for wallpaper by Angele Parlange. Can you help?

  6. Moos says:

    Hello, love your site!
    One little comment on the traditions above: In Holland we celebrate "Sinterklaas" or Saint Nicholas. On the 5th of December (his birthday) children place their shoe by the fireplace (in our case the frontdoor, because we don't have a fireplace) with something in it for the horse of the saint (a carrot, sugarcubes etc.) and in the morning there a presents in their shoes!! The part of the "suprises" is true, but on the 5th of december too, it's for the "big children" (ages 8/9-99) who know about who's actually buying the presents! It's a perfect opportunity to put all your comments in a fynny verse, so nobody gets mad at you for saying so!
    I loved to read about the traditions in other coutries! Some very lovely things to put in our own Christmas celebrations!!

  7. malin says:

    May I be a little picky? St Lucia´s on December 13th, not the 14th. And we actually start celebrating here on Advent 1st, when we decorate with stars and candles in the windows, and glögg and ginger bread cookies in our bellies.

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