Jeff in Sweden – Part 5 – Jul Edition
(All pictures by me)
Last year for Christmas I went back to Canada and celebrated with my family. Now that I have an amazing Swedish girlfriend I also wanted to take the chance to celebrate Christmas (Jul in Swedish), the Swedish way.
So let’s kick the last post of the decade with another Jeff in Sweden!
Everything is Green
Well, one thing that was different for me without a doubt is that, there is just no snow at all. Even though Stockholm is probably as high as the highest Innu village in Québec we almost never get any snow. It was even worst (or better?) that we traveled down south to Skåne to celebrate Jul. There are even less snow there.
From nothing to absolutely nothing! Haha
This picture was not that far down from Stockholm. It got greener and greener the more we traveled down south.
For me, this is spring already.
That part of Sweden just goes from a long fall to a long spring and it’s summer again. It was also amazing, we got SUN!
Little Christmas Eve
A really special thing is that Swedes celebrate Christmas on the 24th. The 23rd is also pretty important it seems.
This is where they put up the Christmas tree and decorate it, prepare a lot of food, decorate the house more and hang together.
Then the real celebration is on the 24th. Where we eat ALL the food, watch Kalle Anka (see bellow!), open presents, drink snaps and so on.
Nothing happen on the 25th. It’s just “the day after Christmas where you eat the rest of the food from the day before and relax”.
Fish, Fish Everywhere
Back home in my family, we used to eat ham and/or turkey with some meat pie and other classic Canadian things like pea soup. It moved to classic sandwich of all sorts to lots of snacks through the years. Nobody wants to cook anymore. Simple is best.
Here though, Christmas food is a really important part of Jul’s tradition. Which was pretty great.
But you have to love fish.
Which I don’t. Well at least, not that much. I’m getting use to it. I never ate fish really before moving to Sweden.
Gotta adapt you know!
My girlfriend kept telling me that “it was fine if I would want to eat something else for lunch”.
Without telling me what lunch was. Probably to not scare me away.
Lunch was pretty interesting. It was, some fish that I don’t know the name. Some sort of dry fish that you then put in a lot of water with salt. You then add a lot of sauce made with egg I think (?) on top of it.
Comes with potatoes, green peas and some mustard sauce.
It was not really my jam. It tasted good! But the texture of the fish was a bit much for me. I’ll have to get use to it for sure.
Fika. The best thing ever created after the wheel probably. If you don’t know what a Swedish Fika is, it’s a coffee break that you usually have around 15.00.
You drink coffee (I don’t but it’s fine) or something warm like tea and you eat sweet stuff. Usually a kanelbulle.
But since it was Jul, it was saffron related cookies/pastries and gingerbread cookies. YUMMY. Also, instead of drinking only coffee, people usually drink Glögg. It’s hot wine with spices. It tastes really good!
I was expecting fish for fika at this point.
This comes with the WEIRDEST tradition. While having the fika, the WHOLE country watch Kalle Anka (Donald Duck).
I repeat, the WHOLE country watches the same movie from the 70s. Again and again. Year after year. It’s amazing.
Dinner was really awesome. Full of flavors and different stuff.
With a lot of fish. Obviously.
This part of the dinner is called a Smorgåsbord. Literally translated as a “Sandwich Table”. Which is pretty interesting by the fact that there are no sandwich.
I’ve seen a couple of pictures from Swedish friends and it seems to be pretty much the same in all the families. The two really Swedish thing for me in there are the Sill (pickled herring and the Julskinka (christmas ham).
The Sill is the biggest food tradition in Sweden I think. Swedes eat these in different flavors during ALL their holidays. I really like them. Especially the ones in mustard.
The Julskinka is a big piece of ham that you slowly cook in the oven with a lot of strong mustard on top. It kind of create a layer of dried mustard on top of the ham when you eat it. It’s pretty great!
The you have eggs with caviar on top, different cold meat, cheese, classic Scandinavian flat bread, beetroot, and crackers.
Yummy yummy meal!
Even though now it’s pretty much a worldwide tradition, christmas gift was not really a thing hundreds of years ago. At least, not for Christians believer. It’s another cool thing that the Christian Church decided to take from the pagans in celebration with the winter solstice.
A julklapp is a gift that you give only during Christmas. It’s a really really old tradition. It comes from a tradition of people in Scandinavia going around, knocking on doors and, when people would open the door to their home, the person who knocked would throw a piece of wood with a message rolled around it (usually a rhyme) through the door.
Fast forward a couple hundred years, we then give presents to each other instead.
Swedes LOVE giving gifts. It was never really a thing for me to buy gifts in my family. I was receiving a gift from my parents, my grandparents and that was pretty much it. I never bought that many gifts at once and never received that many gifts.
I was in awe.
Decorations and Jul Traditions
I LOVE Swedish decorations. A lot.
I find them so damn cute and great. From all the candle lights everywhere to the little tomte. These are a remnant of sort of their old pagan tradition. (Santa Claus is also something that was taken from the pagans)
One thing that was really surprising for me was the straw goats under the christmas three. (See top image)
I’m French Canadian. We are raised Catholics.
Swedes are protestant with some, still, pagan traditions.
Every Christmas tree back home have a “crèche” under it. Depicting the holy birth of Jesus Christ. Here it was a bunch of goats made out of straw.
Which is like, WOW, goats! Can you imagine that? The animal of the devil!
I love it. Once again, a remnant of the pagan traditions.
I won’t give you an history course right here but Odin (All Father) used to pass from door to door and gives presents to children and he was traveling with a goat. These goats are there for a reason.
It’s also interesting that Santa Claus knock on door in Sweden. He doesn’t go through the chimney. You know, it makes perfect sense.
It was a really great experience. I really enjoyed every single bits of it. I’m always so thankful to be able to experienced other people traditions and see, even if it has sort of the same roots, how different it is.
To that, I wish you all a happy new year and raise you my mug of glögg!
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