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'Mini Stockholm' invades English Christmas city

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15:00 CET+01:00
The famed Christmas market in the British city of Lincoln will get a taste of Sweden on Thursday as a Swedish entrepreneur and a team of helpers set up red cottages and “turn Lincoln into a mini Stockholm”.

A bit of seasonal tedium spurred on Swedish-born Lars Forsberg to come up with the idea.

“In England, Christmas markets now look the same everywhere. It's become very generic and everything is made in China,” he told The Local.

“So I thought, why not set up a Swedish Christmas market?”

As a long-term resident of Lincoln, where the traditional Christmas market attracts as many as 150,000 visitors every year, Forsberg was keen to involve the local community.

An architecture student from Lincoln University was drafted in to design the red stalls with white gables.

In the nearby grotto, drama students will play Father Christmas and his wife.

"Father Christmas will have to say 'God Jul' in Swedish, then explain to the children that he visits Sweden one day earlier than England," Forsberg said.

"Because he has to spread out the work load over a few days."

The family-focused idea has attracted several business partners.

The Swedish Shop in London jumped on the idea and is shipping everything from crisp bread and blueberry soup to cinnamon buns and Swedish mulled wine (glögg) the 200 odd kilometres up to Lincoln.

There, food will be sold alongside traditional Swedish handicrafts by staff all decked out in yellow jackets and blue aprons.

“We'll be selling the classic snowball lantern in glass from Kosta Boda,” Forsberg was keen to emphasize.

“Also, all the toys are made of wood, because we wanted to get away from the plastic knick-knacks sold at the usual markets.”

Apart from betting on market-goers' taste for novelty, what makes Forsberg and his team think the Swedish Christmas market will take off?

"To be honest it's the rise in interest in Sweden, and Scandinavia in general,” said Forsberg's business partner Mathew Clarke.

“Look at how Ikea has grown since it's entered the UK. And the BBC has started showing adaptations of Swedish series. Wallander was quite a success.”

For Clarke, the allure of Swedish seasonal traditions is not exclusive to Christmas – he is quite fond of Saint Lucia.

“I like the celebration of light when I know you in Sweden have very long nights where it gets a bit dark and dreary,” he said.

"So the Saint Lucia festival and all the lights in everyone's windows to warm up the place is quite appealing.”

As the cottages are erected and Father and Mrs. Christmas slip into their red costumes, Forsberg and Clarke already have their eyes set on the future.

A large British insurance company has thrown its weight behind launching the concept all over England next year.

“Hopefully this will grow quickly. You'll find an authentic Swedish Christmas market in many English towns by next year,” Forsberg told The Local.

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But there are no plans to rest from one December to the next. They plan to introduce the Brits to Swedish midsummer too.

Its success, they believe, hinges on Britain no longer having any proper celebrations during summer.

“We have Mayday but nothing's really done for it. It's just another day, or at most maybe a handful of people celebrating at a village fête,” Clarke told the Local.

“Nothing in the same vein as Sweden."

Ann Törnkvist

Follow Ann on Twitter here

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