Swedish word of the day: julgransplundring

the word julgransplundring on a black background beside a swedish flag
Will you be plundering your Christmas tree this year? Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
Here's the next word in The Local's Christmas-themed word of the day series, running from December 1st to Christmas Eve.

Today’s word of the day is julgransplundring, a compound noun made up from the words julgran (Christmas tree), and plundring (literally translated as plundering – defined by the Cambridge English Dictionary as “to steal goods violently from a place, especially during a war”).

The literal translation of julgransplundring may sound rather extreme, but the word has nothing to do with warfare. It describes the removal of Christmas decorations from the tree, which takes place on the 20th day after Christmas, known as tjugondag Knut (St Knut’s Day).

It is also known in some areas as julgransskakning or “Christmas tree shaking”, a slightly less violent way of removing decorations. Other Christmas decorations such as advent lights and Christmas stars are also traditionally removed on this day and stored away until next Christmas.

Since the 1900s, julgransplundring celebrations have been seen as an event for children, leading many families, schools, preschools and churches to organise parties on this day. Celebrations can also be referred to as kasta ut granen (throw out the tree), as the Christmas tree used to literally be thrown out of the window of the house – or off the balcony of an apartment – once it had been plundered.

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Another term for julgransplundring is dansa ut julen or “dance out Christmas”, partly due to the practice of dancing around the Christmas tree on St Knut’s Day before it is thrown out, and partly due to the fact that julgransplundring is seen as the end of the Christmas period, lasting over a month from the first day of advent to January 13th. A common rhyme to remember this by is tjugondag Knut dansas julen ut (on St Knut’s Day, Christmas is danced out) or tjugondag Knut tar julen slut (Christmas ends on St Knut’s Day).

Other activities at a julgransplundring celebration can include demolishing and eating the gingerbread house and eating edible Christmas tree decorations hung on the tree such as pepparkakor or candy canes, as well as eating the contents of Christmas crackers. Guests at a julgransplundring also sing traditional dancing songs like Små grodorna (“little frogs” – also sung at Midsummer) and play games such as fiskdamm (“fishing pond” – where children fish for sweets or toys behind a cloth).

Example sentences:

Ska ni fira julgransplundring i år?

Are you going to celebrate plundering the Christmas tree this year?

Julgransplundringen är en rolig aktivitet för hela familjen.

Christmas tree plundering is a fun activity for the whole family.

Need a good Christmas gift idea?

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