Swedish word of the day: smällkaramell

the word smällkaramell on a black background beside a swedish flag
Make sure you've stocked up on smällkarameller for the Christmas season. Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
Today's word of the day is a real banger.

It’s December 1st today, which signals the start of the festive season, and the start of our Christmas-themed word of the day series in the run-up to Christmas Eve.

We’ve chosen to highlight the word smällkaramell, partly due to its role in the festive season, but also because it’s just a really fun word to say – pronounce it like “smell caramel”.

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But what is a smällkaramell? It’s a compound word, made up of smäll – a loud noise such as a bang or explosion, and karamell – the Swedish word for hard-boiled sweets. Still confused? Those of you originally from English-speaking countries will probably recognise a smällkaramell as a Christmas cracker, an integral part of anglophone Christmas celebrations.

The kind of Christmas cracker popular in English-speaking countries. Photo: Flickr/newkidfish (Cathy A)

In English-speaking countries, Christmas crackers (see above) usually consist of a cardboard tube filled with a paper crown, a (bad) joke, and a small toy, and are often seen in table-settings at Christmas dinners. Guests pull each end of the paper tube until a bang is heard, with the holder of the largest part of the cracker keeping the contents.

Swedish Christmas crackers, on the other hand, are more likely found hanging on a Christmas tree. Swedish smällkarameller don’t usually make a banging sound, but are often filled with sweets to be enjoyed when Christmas tree decorations are removed during the julgransplundring on tjugondag Knut – January 13th, the official end of Swedish Christmas celebrations.

A Swedish-style Christmas cracker decorating a Christmas tree. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Smällkarameller are also a popular choice for Christmas handicrafts, with some families making them together in the run-up to Christmas. If opened carefully, they can be packed away at the end of the Christmas season and reused each year.

Which do you prefer? Will your Christmas tree this year feature any smällkarameller?

Examples:

Vi gjorde smällkarameller med barnen i söndags, det var jättemysigt!

We made Christmas crackers with the kids last Sunday, it was really cosy!

Har du sett sådana smällkarameller de alltid har i brittiska julfilmer? Kanske man skulle skaffa några till julbordet i år…

Have you seen those Christmas crackers they always have in British Christmas films? Maybe I should get some for the Christmas dinner this year…

Need a good Christmas gift idea? 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 – or join The Local as a member and get your copy for free.

It is also possible to buy your copy from Amazon US, Amazon UK, Bokus or Adlibris.


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