Home fires increase during Swedish winter

With advent, Lucia and Christmas, Swedish firefighters are kept busy during the month of December, with 12 percent of all recorded fires caused by candles left unattended.

Home fires increase during Swedish winter

“Most fires caused by candles happen during the winter months. More than 40 percent of all home fires during the year, caused by candles, happen during December,” said Anders Lundberg at the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, (Myndigheten för samhällsskydd oct beredskap, MSB.)

Last year 78 house fires in Sweden were caused by candles, compared to 18 during the month of November, according to the agency.

On an annual basis candles only cause three percent of the total number of house fires, but December stands out as a clear exception, when the number rises quickly to 12 percent.

“Of course we shouldn’t stop lighting candles in the winter darkness, but we need to be more cautious about how we handle them to decrease the risk of fire in our homes,” Lundberg said.

Ten days into December, Swedish fire departments are kept busy.

Early on Sunday morning, a 26-year-old man was killed in an apartment fire in Nässjö east of Jönköping.

About twenty firefighters worked to put the fire out and get the young man out of the flat, but he was later declared dead by medical staff at the local hospital.

A house in the exclusive area of Saltsjöbaden just outside Stockholm was burned to the ground during the weekend.

Fortunately, the residents were all able to escape the flames, but the fire was described as “fully developed.”

“We have personnel from three fire stations on the scene, and a total of six trucks,” firefighter Kaj Broberg told the Expressen daily.

Also on Sunday morning, fire savaged the large shopping centre Nordstan in Gothenburg, where a good 50 firefighters worked for hours to control the flames.

However, in this case the firefighters believe that the fire was started in some faulty cables.

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GUIDE: The Local’s gift guide of classic Swedish Christmas items

Swedish Christmas decorations are minimalist but 'mysig', with the lights appearing in every window around this time of year a welcoming sight to brighten up the darker months in the run-up to Christmas. Here's our guide to some Christmassy Swedish gifts.

GUIDE: The Local's gift guide of classic Swedish Christmas items

Christmas lights

Some characteristic Christmas lights you have no doubt spotted in the windows of houses and apartments where you live ar the julstärna or Christmas star and the adventsljusstake or Advent candlestick.

These Christmas decorations are available in countless different variations, both cheaper options at stores like Clas Ohlson and IKEA, and more expensive versions at design stores like Svenssons i Lammhult or Designtorget.

Other popular decorations include the änglaspel, angel chimes which rotate when candles are lit underneath, and the Julbock, a Christmas goat made of straw modelled after the famous Gävlebock, the 13-metre-high goat often set on fire by arsonists in the northern Swedish city of Gävle.

Also worth mentioning is the Jultomte, Christmas gnomes that are often mistaken as Santa. These can be found in almost all souvenir shops in many different sizes and are an unmistakably Swedish decoration found in every household.

Christmas snaps. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

Christmas drinks

Many would say that a Swedish Christmas celebration is not complete without snaps – traditionally served at all major holidays, it is essentially Swedish vodka with spices and herbs like aniseed, fennel and caraway seeds.

The ritual of drinking about 60ml of snaps with pickled herring and potatoes is accompanied by singing drinking songs called snapsvisor, which get increasingly more rowdy as the night goes on and as more alcohol is consumed.

Coupled with the other Christmas favourite, glögg (spiced wine), snaps is an essential part of the Swedish Christmas dining experience. You can make your own snaps at home by steeping some spices in vodka or unflavoured brännvin, or buy a bottle to gift to a snaps-loving friend or family member at the nearest Systembolaget. Here is The Local’s Swedish-style snaps recipe and more about its history and why it is so popular at Swedish holidays.

Knäck and pepparkakor. Photo: Jurek Holzer/SvD/TT

Christmas treats

A Swedish julfika (Christmas Fika) is incomplete without a few staples. The most classic are lussekatter (saffron buns), bright yellow buns most often formed into an S shape eaten around Christmas, pepparkakor, which are thin spiced gingerbread biscuits and julknäck, small caramel flavoured sweets.

You can serve these with warm glögg (alcoholic versions available at Systembolaget with low-alcohol or alcohol-free variants available at most supermarkets), or with some sort of Christmas tea or coffee – look for lussete (tea spiced with saffron, orange and sometimes, chilli), julte or julkaffe (tea or coffee with Christmas spices). Pick any of these depending on your preference, these treats are perfect for warming you up on a cosy winter afternoon.

Other classic Swedish favourite Christmas snacks and drinks include juleskum – soft candy with an admittedly unappetising name in the shape of Santa, and julmust Christmas soda. Julmust is so popular in Sweden that it outsells Coca Cola during the Christmas season every year.

Although Swedes might not be massively impressed if you gift them juleskum or pepparkakor as a Christmas present, they can be great gifts for friends and family back home if you’re celebrating Christmas outside of Sweden this year. Most if not all of these items are available at supermarkets, and you might even be able to pick them up in the airport or train station if you’re looking for a last-minute gift.