The Sami, the indigenous people based in northern Sweden, are known for their fine craftsmanship, and items such as pewter bracelets, artwork or blankets featuring traditional patterns, or jewellery made from engraved reindeer horns are sure to make a unique gift.
If you’re in northern Sweden, there are many shops selling authentic pieces, including Ájtte, the Swedish Mountain and Sami Museum in Jokkmokk; Risfjells Sameslöjd in Vilhelmina; and Carl Wennberg in Kiruna. Further south, you can also find genuine Sami crafts (in central Stockholm, visit Svensk Hemslöjd), but be aware of scams and try to check that your purchases are authentic
Originally a children’s toy, the Dala Horse (short for Dalecarlian Horse) has its origins in the central Swedish region of Dalarna. Nowadays, the small wooden figures have become some a symbol for Sweden: you’ll see them in many homes and in many forms, from fridge magnets to soft toys.
The horses are traditionally carved by hand from pinewood and covered with a primer that coats them in a hard shell and removes natural imperfections. After that, the horses are painted, often in red, and then decorated with a traditional kurbits pattern, which also has its origins in Dalarna. Because of the hand-carving, no two original horses look alike, making for a unique gift available in gift, craft and homeware shops across the country.
Dala horses come in different sizes, each one is unique. Photo: Amanda Westerbom/imagebank.sweden.se
Sweden might have strict regulations when it comes to the sale of alcohol, but the state-run monopoly Systembolaget stocks a large range of spirits and other drinks, making it easy to browse for the perfect gift.
Why not buy some warming glögg (Swedish mulled wine) or Akvavit, Swedish schnapps made with various spices, such as dill and fennel? Or, if that feels like too obvious a gift, or not suitable for the people on your list, you could also get some Swedish wine, which is a growing industry in the country over the last few years and which benefited from the unusually hot summer.
You’ll have to be quick though: Systembolaget is open until 7pm on December 22nd and 23rd, after which they will close until December 27th.
The Local’s Word Guide to Swedish Life
In Villa, Volvo, Vovve, written by The Local’s journalists, we explore over 100 Swedish words, including how to use them, when to avoid them, and the history of how they came to be. You’ll learn about Sweden beyond the headlines, beyond the tourist guides, the good, the bad, and the bizarre.
This book will help you if you’re travelling to Sweden, or even living there, to understand what’s going on around you. But it’s also a handbook for anyone who wants to embrace the Nordic way of life. Who knows, maybe you’ll even discover the elusive Scandinavian secrets to happiness along the way.
Looking for a Christmas gift? 🎁
Treat someone to our brand new book, Villa Volvo, Vovve. The Local's word guide to Swedish life.
— The Local Sweden (@TheLocalSweden) December 19, 2021
Sweden’s Christmas gift of the year for 2021 is tickets to an event, which although it may appear at first glance as a gift that did not age well in these pandemic times, actually has the benefit of being a great last-minute gift as you don’t need to wait for it to be delivered.
Although events are a risky gift at the moment with pandemic restrictions and recommendations changing every week or so, tickets can also give the recipient something to look forward to in the coming year, if you buy them for later in 2022 or even further ahead.
Swedish people love sweets, with pick’n’mix aisles often taking pride of place in the supermarket, and plenty of shops dedicated to candy. You can get a selection of typically Swedish goodies, such as Marabou and Daim chocolate, liquorice everything, or Christmassy knäck.
For something a little more upmarket than a paper bag full of supermarket treats, try visiting luxury sweet shops Chokladfabriken or Pärlans Konfektyr, or pop into Lakritsroten which sells liquorice in every form and flavour imaginable at multiple locations in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö.
A liquorice store in Stockholm. Photo: Tina Stafrén/imagebank.sweden.se
A Swedish novel
… just make sure you pick up the English (or other) language version if the recipient isn’t a native Swede.
The choices are almost endless. For children, you could look for a beautifully illustrated Astrid Lindgren or Gunilla Bergström book, and for adults there are of course hundreds of Swedish crime novels available in multiple languages.
Consider finding a book set in your local area so that your friend can learn more about your Swedish neighbourhood: Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy if you’re in Stockholm for example. And the Jerry-Maya Detective Agency (LasseMajas detektivbyrå) series by Martin Widmark is a great introduction to the genre for young readers (or Swedish-learners!).
But it’s not all about murder and mystery. Fredrik Backman writes internationally acclaimed popular fiction including A Man Called Ove, or try Lena Andersson’s award-winning Wilful Disregard or Everything I Don’t Remember by Jonas Hassen Khemiri.
We’re not suggesting you present your loved ones with a tin of surströmming, Swedish fermented herring, at Christmas (unless they’re adventurous eaters). Some airlines have even forbidden cans containing the smelly fish, due to explosion risks caused by the gas inside the cans.
But you can always go a bit tamer and present them with some regular pickled herring, or some gravad lax. Both of these things exist outside of Sweden, but any Swede will insist their take on the fishy dishes is the best worldwide.
Another uniquely Swedish thing is caviar in a tube, which might make a fun stocking stuffer.
Caviar in a tube. Photo: Anders Wiklund/SCANPIX/TT
Sweden has a lot of trees, therefore Sweden has a lot of wood, which is used in many cases for making useful household items, such as kitchen utensils.
Well-crafted spoons, mugs and bowls, cutting boards or butter knives make a thoughtful gift (they’re a particularly good choice for in-laws or distant family whose tastes you don’t know well), and you can pick these up at any gift or home decor shop. These are usually handmade from softer woods, such as birch or pine.
Butter and crisp bread. Photo: Leif R Jansson/SCANPIX/TT
Give The Local as a gift
Finally, if you have a friend or family member you think might appreciate reading more about Sweden in the new year, why not give them a one-year Membership of The Local? Membership gives you unlimited access to all our editions, and helps support our independent journalism in the year ahead.
Article originally written by Nele Schröder in 2018, updated by Becky Waterton in December 2021.