Christmas in Sweden
Sweden celebrates the feast of Santa Lucia on December 13th which is one of the shortest days of the year. The eldest daughter of each family dresses in a white gown and wears of wreath of light candles on her head to represent Santa Lucia.
Early in the morning, she prepares sweet cakes and coffee for each member of the family. She then wakens the rest of the family by singing the traditional song “Santa Lucia.”
On Christmas Eve, the children wait for Jultometen, also known as Father Christmas. Jul skinka (Christmas ham) is usually the center of the table served with sweet and sour red cabbage together with other typical smögåsbord dishes:
- lutfisk (dried ling soaked in lye and then boiled)
- prinskorv (small sausages)
- gravad lax (salmon marinated in dill)
- Janssons frestelse (type of potatoes gratin)
- other types of sausages, cold meats, fish dishes and much more!
Glögg (mulled wine) is the main drink of the festive season.
The Jul gröt is a special Christmas porridge and contains one almond - the person who gets the almond is said to get good luck!
Gifts often have a riddle attached to them to guess the contents. It is also traditional to dance around the Christmas tree singing songs. At midnight, the story of the first Christmas is read aloud and gifts are opened.
Christmas Day itself is very quiet. Its mainly for church services in the morning and quiet family time the remainder of the day.
December 26 is St. Stephen's Day (Staffen) in honor of the patron saint of animals. An old tradition on this day was to give the farm animals extra food to eat.
The holiday season concludes on January 13 or the 20th day Knut. On this day the Christmas tree is taken down and Christmas is over for another year in Sweden. Though a famous song in Sweden says that "Christmas lasts until Easter - no, not true, we have the fast in between."
Who Was Santa Lucia?
According to legend, Lucia was a medieval saint who carried food and drink to hungry folk in the province of Värmland during a period of famine. She was seen across Lake Vänern with her white gown and crown of lights. Today's costume has the same gown and crown. The Lucia legend is said to have originated in Syracuse on the island of Sicily. A young girl, about to be a bride, gave her entire dowry to the poor of her village and admitted that she had become a Christian. She was accused of witchcraft and burned at the stake on December 13, 304 A.D.
Much later in history, the early Church made a saint out of her - Santa (Saint) Lucia. Italian artists sometimes picture her as a blind girl holding a lamp. She is a patron saint for Italian fishermen and she is said to help guide them home through the rough seas during a storm.
There are many legends about her and in each one Lucia stands as a symbol of light and hope to all mankind. Santa Lucia's coming begins the feasting, merriment, singing and the spirit of friendliness and goodwill that lasts all through the holidays.
Another explanation is: Saint Lucia was a saint because of her kindness and her love. She was an Italian Christian who lived in Sicily in the 4th century. Some people believe she once visited Sweden. December 13th is also her feast day. The way she became a saint was that a man who loved her and Lucia didn't like him, Lucia's mother asked her to marry the man but she refused so the man heard about this and he said he would burn her. But Lucia prayed to God to have the power to survive the fire. Because of her kindness to others her wish was granted. The man tried to burn her but she had the power to withstand fire so the man got a sword and stuck it into Lucia's throat. Still Lucia survived for three more hours speaking beautiful words.
1 cup cornsyrup
1 ½ cups light brown sugar
1 cup of butter or margarine
1 ½ tbsp cloves
1 ½ tbsp ginger
4 - 5 cups flour
1 tbsp baking soda
Warm in a big pot on low heat: syrup, sugar and butter until the butter melts, not longer. Put it aside to cool. Then mix in the eggs, spices, baking soda and flour (keeping some flour aside for rolling out the dough). Let the dough rest overnight at room temperature and cover with plastic or wax paper. The next day: roll the dough (quite thin) and cut out the cookies using a cookie cutter. Bake in an oven at 350-375° F for 6 minutes. This recipe makes about 150 cookies.
Lussebullar or Lussekatter (also known as Lucia Buns)
1 tbsp saffron
2 cups milk
3 tbsp yeast
1 cup butter or margarine
1 egg (beaten)
½ tsp salt
1 ½ cups sugar
½ cup chopped almonds
1 cup raisins (optional)
6-7 cups flour
1 beaten egg
Crush saffron and mix with a tbsp of sugar in a mortar. Warm the milk (not too hot) and melt the butter in the milk. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the yeast and flour. Mix the yeast in a separate bowl with a little of the flour. Add to mixture and mix well. Add the rest of the flour a little at a time. Knead and let rise in a warm place. Once risen, punch down and knead again. Roll the dough to whatever shape(s) you prefer. Place on a cookie sheet, raise, brush with egg and sprinkle with coarse sugar, almonds, and raisins. Bake "small shapes" in a very hot oven at 375-400°F for 5 to 8 minutes and bake "larger shapes" at 350-375°F for 13 to 17 minutes.
1 cup regular long grain rice
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
4 cups half-and-half
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
1 whole almond
In a heavy saucepan combine rice, butter and water and salt. Bring to boil and cook covered for 10 minutes, or until water is just absorbed. Add half-and-half and cinnamon stick to above. Bring to boil, stirring continuously. Let simmer, covered, for about 45 minutes. The half-and-half should be almost absorbed. The results should be creamy and tender, not mushy. Add the extra butter, and some cream for extra richness. Before serving, hide the almond in the porridge. Serve the porridge hot, with warm cream, cinnamon, and sugar. Whoever gets the almond will be married within the year!
"HAM A LA CAJSA WARG"
7 to 9 lb. ham, slightly salted
2 tsps. whole cloves
2 tsps. Marjoram
2 tsps. Allspice
2 tsps. Rosemary
6 bay leaves
Ham which is to be roasted in an oven must not be too salty and should be placed in plenty of cold water for approximately 12 hours. Remove the rind. Place the ham on a large piece of baking foil. Crush allspice, cloves, rosemary, marjoram and bay leaves in a mortar. Rub the spice mixture on all sides of the ham. Wrap the foil around the ham to make a tight package. Insert a meat thermometer through the foil so that the tip reaches the thickest and meatiest part of the ham. Place the ham in baking pan and bake it in the oven at 350F. The ham is ready when the thermometer shows 170F. "Ham a la Cajsa Warg" can be served hot or cold with boiled potatoes, mustard, red cabbage or other vegetables.
1 to 2 lb. head white cabbage
4 1/2 T. Rice
approx one pound ground beef
Butter for frying
2/3 cup water
1/4 tsp. Pepper
1 cup milk
Cut off the bottom part of the stem of a head of white cabbage. Cut the cabbage into shreds or pieces. Brown them in butter in a frying pan. Boil rice in 2/3 cup water and 1/2 tsp. salt for approximately 20 minutes. Let the rice cool. Mix ground beef with 1 1/2 tsps. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Add the rice and 1 cup milk. Lay the cabbage and meat in alternate layers in a buttered oven-proof dish. The top and bottom layers should be cabbage. Bake in an oven at 350F. for ¾ to 1 hour. Serve with boiled potatoes.
Make a Lucia Wreath to Wear
Step One – Cut out some green holly leaves and round red “berries.”
Step Two - Cut out the center of the paper plate.
Step Three - Cut out and color candles from constuction paper candles. Fold the candles into tubes. Glue the candles to the BOTTOM of the paper plate. Space the candles equally around the plate. (You want the plate to form a hat.)
Step Four - Glue the leaves and berries to the BOTTOM of the paper plate. Cover the plate well.
Step Five - Enjoy your St. Lucia Wreath!! Be sure to wear it on December 13!!