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CHRISTMAS

Swedish word of the day: julgransplundring

The word 'julgransplundring' introduces you to one of Sweden's surprising winter traditions.

Swedish word of the day: julgransplundring
January 13th marks the end of the Swedish Christmas season. Image: nito103/Depositphotos

January 13th is officially the 20th and final day of Swedish Christmas. 

It's traditionally marked with the julgransplundring or 'Christmas Tree plundering', which marks the end of the festive season. Alternative names are julgransskakning (literally 'Christmas tree shaking) or Knutsfest (St Knut's Day). Read more about the history of the date in the article below:

The celebrations, which have remained mostly the same since the late 1800s, typically start with a last dance around the tree, perhaps with a song, before removing the decorations.

That means that if you've had the willpower to make them last this long, it's finally time to eat the chocolate decorations and candy canes from the tree, and to smash and eat any gingerbread houses.

There are usually a few games and songs, especially 1901 favourite Raska fötter springa tripp, tripp, tripp (quick footsteps running, tap tap tap) which is about the end of the holiday season.

Then, the tree is taken away.

In centuries gone by, Swedes would toss them straight out of the window onto the street, but it's important to note that this messy and not so environmentally-friendly technique isn't the done thing any more. Instead, you should take them to the designated area in your local authority. If in doubt, check with your landlord or the head of your tenant-owners association (BRF).

Didn't have your own tree this year, or have a fake one that just needs to be put into storage? There still might be a chance to join in with the song and dance at a public julgransplundring, for example at Stockholm's Nordic Museum which hosts them each year, or at the Christmas trees located in some town squares.

Do you have a favourite Swedish word you would like to nominate for our word of the day series? Get in touch by email or if you are a Member of The Local, log in to comment below.

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SWEDISH WORD OF THE DAY

Swedish word of the day: skärgård

You don't have to spend long in Sweden to hear the word skärgård, especially if you live in cities like Stockholm or Gothenburg where the population relocate to the nearby skärgård every summer. Where does the word come from?

Swedish word of the day: skärgård

Skärgård is, like many Swedish words, a compound word made up of the word skär, describing a small rocky outcrop and gård, which has a number of meanings such as “courtyard”, “farm” or “garden”.

Although skärgård is often translated to English as “archipelago” – a group of islands – the word officially refers to an archipelago made up primarily of small islands, close to the coast of a larger island or landmass, such as the rocky archipelagos near Stockholm and Gothenburg.

Other kinds of archipelago – such as those which are not close to other landmasses, or those made up of larger islands – can be referred to as an arkipelag or ögrupp. However, many Swedes will just use skärgård for any kind of archipelago.

Although the word skärgård doesn’t exist in English, a variant of skär has made its way into the language. The English term for this type of small rocky outcrop is “skerry”.

Skerry has an interesting etymology in English – it comes from the Old Norse term sker, which refers to a rock in the sea. This is related to the Swedish word skära, meaning “cut” – a skerry is a rock cut off from land.

Sker came into English via Scots, where it is spelled skerry or skerrie. Other languages also have this word, such as Norwegian skjær/skjer, Estonian skäär, Finnish kari and Russian шхеры (shkhery). It can also be found in Scottish Gaelic sgeir, Irish sceir and Welsh sgeri.

This also reflects the geographic area where skerries are found – there are skerries or skärgårdar along the northernmost part of the Swedish west coast near Bohuslän and Gothenburg, as well as on the east coast near Stockholm. The Norwegian coast also has a large number of skerries, and Skärgårdshavet or “the Archipelago Sea” lies off the southwestern coast of Finland.

In Russia, the Minina Skerries (Shkhery Minina) are one example of a skärgård, and in Scotland, Skerryvore and Dubh Artach in the Hebrides are also made up of skerries. Northern Ireland is home to The Skerries, off the Antrim coast, and Skerries is also the name of a coastal area of Dublin in the Republic of Ireland.

You may be wondering if the surname of the famous Swedish Skarsgård family of actors – Stellan, Gustaf, Bill, Valter and Alexander Skarsgård, among others – comes from the word skärgård. Although the spelling is similar, this name actually comes from the town of Skärlöv on the island of Öland, and means “Skar’s farm” (Skares gård, in Swedish).

Example sentences

Jag ser redan fram emot sommarsemestern – vi har hyrt en stuga ute i Stockholms skärgård.

I’m already looking forwards to summer – we’ve rented a cottage out in the Stockholm archipelago.

Sverige har många skärgårdar, fast Skärgårdshavet vid Finlands västkust är störst i världen med över 50 000 öar och skär.

Sweden has a lot of archipelagos, but the Archipelago Sea off Finland’s west coast is the biggest in the world has over 50,000 islands and skerries.

Villa, Volvo, Vovve: The Local’s Word Guide to Swedish Life, written by The Local’s journalists, is now available to order. Head to lysforlag.com/vvv to read more about it. It is also possible to buy your copy from Amazon USAmazon UKBokus or Adlibris.

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