Swedish Advent ‘less popular than Christmas Eve’

Swedish Advent 'less popular than Christmas Eve'
File photo: Simon Paulin/imagebank.sweden.se
Churches all over Sweden will be filled this evening as the country gets into the Christmas spirit on the first day of advent.
Advent is celebrated on each of the four Sundays immediately preceding Christmas Eve, and churches in Sweden are often full on these days as worshippers sing traditional Swedish carols such as 'Hosianna, Davids Son' and 'Beredan väg för Herran'. 
However, the traditionally less-popular Christmas Eve service is growing in popularity and is now a bigger deal than advent, says Carl Sjögren, dean of Skara diocese.
“Christmas Day has generally taken over all over the country,” says Sjögren.
Although the first day of advent, traditionally widely celebrated in Sweden, is still popular, it is now being overtaken by the Christmas Eve service as the preferred Christmas church service of many Swedes.
“It is a modern trend,” Dean of Karlstad Harald Cohén told news service TT.
A number of suggestions have been made as to the reasons for the change.
“We have also noticed this trend. The first day of advent has become a bit less important. Perhaps Christmas Eve seems a more inviting day for going to church. Families are gathered together, people have had busy weeks and want to finish off the day by going to church in the evening,” Chaplain Stefan Dässman of Strängnäs Cathedral said to TT.
The prevalence of Christmas concerts featuring famous artists, particularly in the larger cities, is also thought to have played a role.
“For many people, the church visit on the first day of advent is now being replaced. People go to concerts to find the so-called Christmas vibe,” says Cohén.
Though many may see this is a sign of secularisation and commercialisation of Christmas and even a threat to the Church, Carl Sjögren is thus far unconcerned about the trend.
“Of course there are a lot of people that choose to attend concerts to get into the Christmas mood, but we are just happy that people are singing O helga natt (O Holy Night),” says Sjögren, pointing to the significance of the song's message, regardless of the context in which it is sung.
Christmas is wonderful many ways, is the message from the church.