Normally, First Advent, the first Sunday in December, serves as the unofficial start to the Christmas holiday season in Sweden. Christmas decorations and sparkling lights magically appear in homes across the country, adding a much-needed dash of light to brighten up the depths of winter's darkness.
Another hallmark of the holiday season is the sudden proliferation of Christmas markets (julmarkander) in town squares and public gathering places across the country.
SEE ALSO: Christmas markets in Malmö
While Christmas markets generally appear on or around December 1st, some like to give holiday shoppers an early start and thus already have their wares ready for purchase.
SEE ALSO: Christmas markets in Stockholm
"(Christmas markets) are where lots of important parts of the Swedish culture come alive," Peter Holmberg from tourist promotion agency Visit Sweden tells The Local.
"At the Swedish Christmas market you will find a heartwarming coziness you won’t find anywhere else. They get you in that Christmas spirit we all search for every year."
Visitors can expect a wide assortment of goods ranging from wooden handicrafts to reindeer sausage.
Perhaps just as, if not more inviting, however, are the stands serving Swedish mulled wine (glögg) and gingerbread cookies (pepparkakor).
The pungent glögg, mixed with the scent of roasted almonds and other sweet treats, help make a visit to a Christmas market in Sweden worthwhile even if you're not looking for that perfect holiday gift.
"Christmas is so much about family – sharing food, gifts and other traditions at home. And the Christmas market is an important complement to that celebration at home, where Swedes can celebrate the holiday among friends and fellow residents in a public space," says Holmberg.
"A visit to a market is the prefect kick-start for the upcoming holiday."
SEE ALSO: Christmas markets in Gothenburg
In an effort to help readers navigate at least part of the Swedish julmarknad jungle, The Local has put together a list of some of the most popular Christmas markets in Sweden's three largest cities, as well as one bonus julmarknad up north.
While the list is far from comprehensive, as many small communities in suburbs and villages across the country also organize Christmas markets of various persuasions, it should provide urban dwellers (and visitors) some options for how to brighten up the dark and chilly weekends ahead.