Christmas For Members

Six ways to tell if you should spend Christmas in Sweden

Becky Waterton
Becky Waterton - [email protected]
Six ways to tell if you should spend Christmas in Sweden
In some parts of Sweden you're pretty much guaranteed a white Christmas. Photo: Hans Strand/Folio/

Do you want Christmas to last as long as possible? Are you an introvert who likes predictability or an spontaneous extrovert? Here are our six criteria to check whether Sweden is the best country for you to celebrate in.


You want Christmas to last as long as possible

Are you the kind of person who starts decorating for Christmas as soon as Halloween is over? Do you start prepping your Christmas playlist in November, and spend weeks planning the ideal Christmas menu?

Then Swedish Christmas is for you. Christmas in Sweden starts on the first Sunday of Advent, which this year falls on December 3rd, and lasts until January 13th, meaning that the Swedish Christmas season lasts for a whopping 42 days this year, or the equivalent of one tenth of a year.

Although your Christmas tree might start looking a bit sorry for itself by the time you reach January 13th, it is still very much socially acceptable to keep your Christmas decorations up and take the opportunity to overindulge on Christmas food for the entirety of this period.

You don't like surprises

On the topic of food, it's good if you're a creature of habit who likes things to be predictable. This doesn't necessarily mean boring, just that you have no issues with eating the same festive food as you do at every other major celebration.

That's because Christmas food - the julbord - is the same as Midsummer food and Easter food, with some minor tweaks. Sure, there are regional variations, not to mention the fact that every family does things slightly differently, but you can expect to see dishes such as pickled herring, salmon, potatoes and Janssons frestelse potato gratin, eggs, meatballs, sausages, cold cuts and cheese on most julbord up and down the country.

For the same reason, if you don't like or eat fish, Swedish Christmas is probably not for you (although good veggie alternatives are available, or you could just go heavy on the meats instead).

Swedish Christmas food isn't the only thing that's predictable. Again, the exact plan for the day will look different depending on who you're celebrating with, but one thing is for sure: expect to sit down at 3pm on Christmas Eve (because Swedes celebrate on the 24th December, not the 25th), to watch Kalle Anka (Donald Duck).

This isn't negotiable, either. You might not want to watch it, but don't even try to get hold of a Swede or drop in on your relatives while Kalle is playing.

You enjoy the preparation almost as much as the main event

A natural side-effect of a Christmas season lasting over a month is the time dedicated in the run-up to Christmas Eve prepping for the main event.

This includes dedicating the four Sundays in the run-up to Christmas to julpyssel or Christmas arts and crafts, be it baking pepparkakor gingerbread or bright yellow saffron buns, hosting a glöggmingel for friends and family, or making homemade Christmas decorations (which you will definitely be doing at some point if you have young children).

If you find preparation tedious and find yourself waiting impatiently for the big day to come around, a Christmas season in Sweden might end up being a painful test of your patience.


You're a bit of an introvert

In a similar vein, if you're the kind of person who enjoys staying at home in warm woolly socks baking up Christmas treats or doing crafts by candlelight rather than heading out on the town, you'll probably enjoy a Christmas in Sweden.

That's not to say that there won't be any partying or nights out – julbord Christmas parties and the copious amounts of snaps they often feature should scratch this itch nicely – just that for much of the sleepy days between Christmas and New Year, known as mellandagarna in Swedish, there won't be that much to do.

Having said that, if you do want to plan a night out over Christmas, make it December 25th, which is often referred to as årets största festdag or the biggest party day of the year.

You might expect this to be New Year's Eve, but Swedes are much more likely to host (or attend) a dinner party at home with friends on December 31st than spend it on the dance floor at a nightclub.


You can switch off from work

In a similar way to which everything grinds to a halt in Sweden during the school holidays in spring, summer, and autumn, don't expect to get anything done if you are one of the few people still working over the Christmas period.

Swedes have a famously healthy work-life balance, meaning that when they're off work, they're really off work. That means emails and phone calls will go unanswered, work laptops will remain firmly closed, and all urgent matters are expected to have been handled before the Christmas holidays roll around.

It's not unusual for Swedes (particularly those with children) to take as many as two weeks off over Christmas, starting the weekend before and lasting until at least the second week of January. So make sure you don't have any big project deadlines due that will need the input of other people over this period.


You don't mind the dark... or the cold

Finally, Christmas in Sweden isn't for the uninitiated, especially if you come from somewhere warmer. December 24th falls only a few days after the winter solstice, meaning that days are extremely short, and it's not uncommon for you to be travelling to and from work in the dark, even in the far south of the country, at this time of year.

Obviously, the further north you go, the less sunlight you'll get, so be prepared to embrace the darkness if you're not used to it and see it as an opportunity to hang up lots of pretty lights and light a lot of candles. And try to get outside at some point during the day, if only to get some sunlight on the tiny part of your face left exposed to the elements.

On a similar note, prepare for it to be cold. Really cold. Again, you can usually expect milder weather in the south of the country, but the further north you go, the colder it will get.

On the plus side, in some areas of the country, you're pretty much guaranteed a white Christmas. And who could be against that?


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william.chill 2022/12/20 09:12
While experiencing the Swedish Christmas my first few years here, I found it quite charming. But now after ten years I find the endless celebrations quite exhausting and tedious. In an Emporer's New Clothes moment, I realized that the food is the same as Easter and Mid-summer, but in disguise. I am longing for the one-and-done American style of Christmas , and miss the sound of a football game in the background (and I dont even follow (American) football!).

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