In Sweden, Christmas begins with Saint Lucia ceremony on 13th of December. Lucia was a Christian virgin who sacrificed herself for her devout faith in Christianity in the 4th century at Syracuse. The ceremony is held in her honor and is quite recent and is often associated with the traditional thanksgiving for the return of the sun. On this day, the youngest daughter from each family puts on a white robe with a red sash before dawn and wears a crown of evergreens with tall-lighted candles attached to it. Then she wakes her parents accompanied by other children and followed by star boys in long white shirts, pointed hats and carrying star wands, and serves them with coffee and Lucia buns.
Similar to Scandinavia, Swedish people move in procession to the church
with lighted candles in hand. At home, mothers lights the candles on
Christmas Eve. Christmas trees are set up in Sweden two days before
Christmas and are decorated with candles, apples, straw ornaments
Swedish flags and small gnomes wearing red tasseled caps. Christmas home
decorations include red tulips, Pepparkakor or the heart-star and
goat-shaped gingerbread biscuit. Christmas Eve is known as Julafton in
Swedish. Traditional Christmas Eve dinner includes smorgasbord or a
buffet may also be arranged featuring Julskinka or Christmas ham,
pickled pigs feet, lutfisk or dried codfish and variety of sweets.
A popular Christmas tradition is to serve Risgryngrot, special rice
porridge with a hidden almond. Anyone who finds the almond in his or her
bowl is believed to marry in the coming year. After the festive
Christmas Eve dinner, a friend or family member dresses up as Tomte or
Christmas gnome who is believed to live under the floorboards of the
house or barn and used to ride a straw goat known as Julbok. Tomte wears
a white beard and red robes and carries a sack with gifts in it. He
gives out the gifts and presents, often accompanied by funny rhymes,
hinting at the contents of the package. Previously, it was Julbok who
gave out presents and then Tomte or Santa Claus came in. Today, Tomte
and Julbok are no longer associated together though a little brownie
known as Jultomten, helps Santa Claus to give gifts to good children in
Sweden. Modern American figure is quickly catching up in Sweden and
Tomte is losing his original identity.
Read about Christmas and its traditions in Sweden and Swedish Christmas customs.