• Sweden edition
 
The Lowdown: Swedish Advent

The Lowdown: Swedish Advent

Published: 01 Dec 2011 11:00 GMT+01:00
Updated: 01 Dec 2013 11:05 GMT+01:00

In the past couple of days, several of my neighbours have erected wooden triangles with little electric lights in their windows. What's that all about?

The triangles are called adventsljustakar, or Advent candlesticks, and signal that the countdown to Christmas has begun.

Advent (the word, which has Latin origins, is the same in Swedish and English), literally means 'coming'. People are supposed to start putting them up on Advent Sunday, four Sundays before Christmas, which this year fell on December 1st.

By the end of the first week of December, it will seem as though every home, shop and office in Sweden is displaying electric candlesticks.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE SEASONAL PICTURES

But what's the origin of the candles?

The advent lights are a modern interpretation of traditional advent candles. As in many other Christian countries, many Swedes keep candlesticks with four candles in their homes during Advent. A new candle is lit on each of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas.

The first electric Advent lights were produced in Sweden in 1934. They generally have seven lights and are often put up a few days before Advent Sunday. They are usually taken down on twelfth night - twelve days after Christmas Day.

In the darkness of a Swedish December, many people are glad to take the chance to spread a bit of light. Indeed, partly thanks to Ikea, Swedish-style advent lights have spread around the world.

Another popular tradition is to hang a paper star in the window. Originally a German tradition, this has caught on in Sweden too. The star symbolizes the Star of Bethlehem.

Lights in windows are all very well. What about the food?

Ah yes - Advent in Sweden is a good excuse to tuck into some seasonal delicacies. The country's favourite festive beverage is glögg, a sweet, warm mulled wine flavoured with spices including cinnamon, cardamom and served with raisins and almonds. Other forms of glögg are made with spirits such as brandy or akvavit.

Glögg parties are popular in December. As well as glögg, you can expect to be served saffron buns (lussekatter) and gingerbread (pepparkakor).

Most of the food can be bought in supermarkets, but the lussekatter and pepparkakor are best bought in a good konditori - or even better, made at home. For the stronger versions of glögg you will have to brave the Systembolaget liquor monopoly stores.

Another popular way of putting on weight during Advent is the chocolate Advent calendar. Open one window per day in your calendar between Advent Sunday and Christmas Eve, and start your calorie-fest four weeks early.

What else can I do to make the most of Advent?

Christmas markets are a popular way of enjoying the season. Stockholm has markets at Skansen, Drottningholm and in Gamla Stan's Stortorget.

Gothenburg hosts the country's largest Christmas market at Liseberg. Malmö has a market at Södertull, and many smaller towns and cities across the country host festivities of their own. More glögg, stalls selling local food and handiworks and festive music are the order of the day.

Another important element of the period is Lucia, or St. Lucy's Day, on December 13th. On this day, schools, offices and even newspapers nominate their own 'Lucia', who walks in procession in the early hours of the morning wearing a crown of candles, accompanied by a song about how St. Lucy overcomes the darkness.

James Savage (james.savage@thelocal.se)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

22:40 December 1, 2010 by Rolle
You forgot Julmust!!

Also, a personal favorite of mine would be the GB Glace Pepparkakor Sandwich.
16:37 December 2, 2010 by Syftfel
Wouldn't it be nice if all of our esteemed and valued entrants from foreign countries also adopted the Swedish Advent tradition, including glögg and julmust? This must also be part of Ullenhag's "integration reform", as well as instilled in the "multi-cultural kids" from an early age.
13:18 December 3, 2010 by Åskar
If you have never tried the abomination that is Julmust, don't think of it!
13:27 December 3, 2010 by roaringchicken92
The Catholic tradition uses colored candles: purple for weeks 1, 2, and 4, pink for week 3 (Gaudete Sunday, or "the wait is almost over"); then all white candles on Christmas morning. Adds some color to the light :-)

Glögg with lussekatter and pepparkakor and maybe some smoked fish sounds pretty good right about now....
14:09 December 3, 2010 by JulieLou40
@ askar: totally agree.
01:44 December 4, 2010 by Swedelover
"Another popular way of putting on weight during Advent is the chocolate Advent calendar. Open one window per day in your calendar between Advent Sunday and Christmas Eve, and start your calorie-fest four weeks early."

I don't know about the kind of Advent calendars that you get, but the pathetic excuse for chocolate they put in all of the Advent calendars I have seen/received/eaten only net 16 calories and less than a gram a fat each... Probably not going to fatten you up that much! However, if you eat each day all at once, it is almost 500 calories and 22 grams of fat... now were talking! ( :
14:53 December 4, 2010 by Marc the Texan
My problem with Advent calendars is that the chocolate always tastes so cheap and nasty. I just imagine it's made in China with all the extras like heavy metals. There must be some high quality Advent calendar chocolates around somewhere.
23:27 December 4, 2010 by Amber Dawn
I saw a Smarties Advent calendar. I want one filled with Marabou. I wonder if that exists?! I tried and hated glögg and Julmust. Blech.
19:11 December 5, 2010 by mojofat
I tried Julmust and thought it tasted like Diet Pepsi. I was very nearly run out of the party by people with torches and pitchforks after making that statement. :)
19:23 December 5, 2010 by mikewhite
Yes, glögg is a kind of mulled wine. In UK we have - mulled wine !
18:35 December 7, 2010 by Evren
I drank julmust but it tastes like vinegar. It isn't bad and good for diet but i was like come on dude are you serious?
19:36 December 7, 2010 by Amber Dawn
My wife still can't believe I don't like glögg. Friends invited us over for some and I made a face. I think she thinks I have lost my mind. Must be the lack of daylight.
22:20 November 25, 2011 by dizzymoe33
I found some Julmust in a store that specializes in imported products from Europe and it tasted like a cross between Dr Pepper, Coca-Cola and beer after taste. Wasn't impressed next I will try the glogg, hoping for a better outcome.
Today's headlines
Preschool teacher arrested for child rape
Photo: Hasse Holmberg/TT

Preschool teacher arrested for child rape

A man has been arrested on the suspicion of raping a child at the preschool where he is employed. READ  

Police arrest 17 people after fatal shooting
Police at the scene. Photo: Niklas Luks/TT

Police arrest 17 people after fatal shooting

Seventeen people were arrested during the early hours of Tuesday after a man was shot dead in central Sweden. Several of the suspects were already known to the police for gang crimes. READ  

Cops find 15kg cocaine stash in woman's car

Cops find 15kg cocaine stash in woman's car

A 35-year-old woman faces charges for aggravated narcotic crimes after police found 15 kilogrammes of unusually high-concentrated cocaine in her car. READ  

Opinion
The top six ways the US and Sweden differ

The top six ways the US and Sweden differ

Back home in the US and with a solid Swedish stint under his belt, contributor Steven Schier has listed what he thinks are the six biggest differences between Sweden and the states. READ  

Swedish expert slams Norway terror alert
Terrorism expert Ranstorp and a policeman in Norway. Photos: TT

Swedish expert slams Norway terror alert

A Swedish terrorism expert has come forward criticizing the way Norway has handled its recent terror threat, saying the day the threat began was a "total problem in intelligence". READ  

Swedish nurse reported for patient 'death wave'

Swedish nurse reported for patient 'death wave'

A nurse in southern Sweden has been reported for abuse at a senior care centre after she allegedly waved to a colleague with the hand of a recently-dead resident. READ  

Pandas Plopp and Polly born in Swedish zoo
Plopp and Polly, the offspring of Pandora the panda. Photo: Kolmården

Pandas Plopp and Polly born in Swedish zoo

A pair of red panda cubs have been born in central Sweden, a wildlife park announced on Monday. READ  

Green Party ranked 'most gay friendly' in Sweden

Green Party ranked 'most gay friendly' in Sweden

The Green Party's views are 88.6 percent "LGBT-friendly", a Swedish LGBT rights group claimed on Monday, making the Greens the most gay-friendly of all Sweden's parliamentary parties. READ  

Man held on suspicion of murdering wife
Police on the scene. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Man held on suspicion of murdering wife

Updated: Police arrested a man in Copenhagen on the suspicion of killing his wife, whose body was found at the couple's home in southern Sweden during the weekend. READ  

Arlanda, Stockholm
Lightning bolt grounds flight to New York

Lightning bolt grounds flight to New York

Swedes bound for New York learned on Monday morning that their plane had been cancelled after it was hit by lightning during Sunday's thunderstorm. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
People-watching, June 26th - 28th. Get inside Stockholm's hottest nightclubs
Gallery
Top ten Swedish taboos
Society
Seven-year-old Swede cycles to Berlin
Politics
'Gaza conflict needs help, not empty rhetoric'
Society
Swedes voted 'most beautiful' in the Nordics
Blog updates

27 July

Approaching Stockholm (Around Sweden in a kayak) »

"I woke up in the comfort of my own little cabin on Eva and Rolf’s boat, it was 7:30am and I was feeling a bit groggy after a couple of beers with all the lovely locals the night before. The previous day had really taken its toll on my body and I was very stiff and..." READ »

 

24 July

Sharing our Pride: Celebrating Love & the LGBT Community! (Stockholm in my American Heart) »

"It’s mid- July in Stockholm, and with much of the city on vacation, things can seem a little quiet – the streets, the bus, and the grocery store. One thing that has not paused for a summer break, though, is preparation for Stockholm’s Pride Festival, which will take place from July 28 to August 2...." READ »

 
 
 
Business & Money
Sweden demands EU clarity on Bitcoin tax
National
Swedish organic sales enjoy 'amazing' growth
Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
Society
What's On in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching July 23
National
Swedish cops elect not to shoot 'angry elks'
Business & Money
New alcohol retail rules threaten micro-breweries
Gallery
People-watching Båstad
Business & Money
Sweden falls to third in global innovation index
Society
Swedish ornithologists keep webcam watch
Photo: Andreas Nordström/Image Bank Sweden
Gallery
Top ten Swedish beach hot spots
Tech
Swedish Wiki vet sets new content record
Photo: Fastighetsbyrån
Lifestyle
In Pictures: The Local's Property of the Week
Photo: Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching July 15-16
Photo: Ola Ericson/Image Bank Sweden
Society
What's On in Sweden
Photo: Lisa Mikulski
National
Hope springs eternal for expat pet shop owner
Gallery
Princess Estelle steals limelight at mum's birthday
National
Swedes risk infants' lives by covering up prams
National
Swede runs for office just using Bitcoin funds
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Your finances in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Housing in Stockholm
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

729
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se