Christmas in Sweden   God Jul och Gott Nytt År!

The Christmas season in Sweden always begins with lighting the first candle of Advent which is the beginning of the church year.  This year the first Sunday of Advent is the 3rd of December.  Practically every Swedish home has a special Advent candleholder.  The candles are lit on every Sunday and the candlelight is enjoyed up until Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  Many homes in Sweden also use an advent calender during the month of December in anticipation of Christmas Eve.  Kids especially find it fun to open up a window everyday to either an image or a piece of chocolate.  Illuminated stars,  of wood, metal, or paper, are also hung in many Swedish homes during the Christmas holiday.  Today the stepped electric candleabras shine in many windows in Sweden and have become popular in the USA as well.  They even have a version sold in Sweden to put in your car!

The word tomte in Swedish means gnome in English.  Every Scandinavian country has their own version.  In Norway they are called Nisse, and in Finland they are called tonttu.  Tomtes are very important creatures to have around your house or your farm, especially at Christmas time.  They help take care of all the farm animals and/or your house pets.  It is important to leave them a bowl of porridge during the Christmas season to thank them for their assistance throughout the year.  In the US we associate the Swedish tomte with Santas elves, but their true origins have nothing to do with our Santa. 

Sankta Lucia is celebrated on the 13th of December every year in Sweden after it became popularized in Stockholm in 1927.  It is the warm up celebration prior to Christmas.  The name Lucia comes from the Latin word Lux which means light.  Lucia is actually an Italian Saint originating from Cicily, Italy.  St. Lucia was a christian who lived in the year 300 AD during the Roman era.  She attended to the sick and dying, wearing a crown of candles so that her hands were free to carry food and drink to the needy.  Her red sash symbolizes blood.  Legend has it that she was beheaded with a sword in Syracuse, Cicly, after an attempt to burn her alive failed to harm her.  The legend of Sankta Lucia was adopted by the Swedish culture as a symbol of light and hope in the darkest days of December, and would become a beacon of hope and light for many during the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year.  In Sweden girls dress in white gowns and red sashes as Sankta Lucia, wearing brass or plastic lucia crowns with live or electric candles, and parade around in retirement homes or offices serving lussekatter, or lucia cats (saffron buns) and coffee to many delighted people.  Lucia's attendants include boys dressed as star boys in white robes and cone shaped hats with stars on them.  Lucia's female attendants also wear white robes and crowns made of tinsel and carry candles.

Christmas Eve in Sweden is celebrated with a special array of foods called a Smörgåsbord.  In the old days, the Christmas pig was slaughtered in the fall and almost every part of the pig was consumed with very little waste.  All the parts of the pig including he brain were made into something we call press sylta in Swedish or head-cheese in English.  The Christmas smörgåsbord includes lots of little dishes which include:  Swedish meatballs, several varieties of pickled herring or sill, knäcke bröd (crisp bread) and/or limpa bread, cheeses (bond-ost etc.), lingonberries, Göteborg korv (smoked sausage), various types of mustards, lutefisk, cured salmon or gravlax, boiled potatoes, Jansson's Frestelse with Swedish anjovis, pepparkakor (gingersnap cookies), cardamon coffee cake, rice pudding and much much more!

GOD JUL to all of our wonderful customers.  Thanks for helping us celebrate our 70th year in business in 2017 in beautiful downtown Geneva, Illinois

Maria and Hans Jönsson, Tessa and Jeanne 


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