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Christmas For Members

Advent Calendar 2022: How to decorate your Christmas tree like a Swede

Becky Waterton
Becky Waterton - [email protected]
Advent Calendar 2022: How to decorate your Christmas tree like a Swede
A Swedish Christmas tree with flags and straw decorations. Photo: Helena Wahlman/imagebank.sweden.se

In the next installment of our 2022 Advent Calendar, we go through the traditional decorations for a Swedish Christmas tree.

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The tree

First off, the basics. Swedes, like in many countries where Christmas is celebrated, will often bring a real Christmas tree into their home in the run-up to the holiday, although plastic reusable trees have become more popular in recent years.

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If you live in a town or city and want a real tree, look for Christmas tree sellers on town squares and streets. If you're willing to travel or you live in a more rural location, try visiting a Christmas tree farm to fell your own tree. The advantage of felling your own tree means you can see exactly how the tree will look when it's standing, which you can't always do with pre-felled trees which are often bought wrapped in plastic netting.

Note that Sweden's right to roam, which provides you with free access to much of Sweden's nature, does not extend to felling your own tree - so you can't just travel to your nearest woods and fell the first tree you see without the landowner's permission. Well, you can, but you shouldn't. 

If you're looking for a plastic tree, have a look at homeware stores such as Ikea or Clas Ohlson. There are usually a range of different kinds of trees on offer depending on your budget, including trees of different sizes, and even some with built-in fairy lights.

A Swedish Christmas tree at Skansen with lit candles in 1997. Photo: Leif R Jansson/TT

Lights

That brings us on to the next topic - lights. You're most likely to see white LED fairy lights on a Swedish Christmas tree nowadays, although elderly Swedes or those with a more traditional taste in decoration may hang lit candles on their Christmas tree.

These long, white candles are usually attached to the tree with metal candle holders, known as julljushållare. Beware though if you do choose to go down this route - Christmas trees can dry out after a few weeks indoors and it's probably a good idea to limit the amount of other decorations on the tree so there's no risk of anything catching fire.

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Additionally, make sure that the candles are only lit while people are paying attention to the tree, and consider a different light source if you have young children or pets in the house.

If you like the idea of lit candles on your tree but dislike the fire risk, try searching with terms such as LED julgransljus for electric replica candles to get a similar effect.

Woven Christmas hearts are popular decorations in Sweden. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Paper decorations

Despite Swedes traditionally placing lit candles on their tree, decorations made from paper or straw are quite traditional. In terms of paper decorations, you're likely to see handmade woven Christmas hearts (julhjärta), crackers (smällkarameller) or even small Swedish flags decorating Swedes' trees this season.

Straw decorations such as small people or goats (julbock) similar to the famous straw Gävle goat are also common, and you might also see straw goats decorated with red ribbon on tables and windowsills during the Christmas period.

Baubles and tinsel

Of course, more modern decorations such as baubles (julgranskulor) and tinsel, often made of plastic, are also popular in Sweden, with many families decorating their trees with colour and glitter rather than choosing more traditional, pared back, paper or straw decorations.

Why not try mixing some Swedish elements into your Christmas decorations if you're celebrating this year? Or maybe introduce your Swedish friends to some traditions from back home? Let us know how you're planning on celebrating in the comments below.

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