A Scandinavian Christmas, part I – Christmas Eve

The way we celebrate Christmas in Sweden and the rest of Scandinavia is slightly different from the UK, and I thought I would tell you a little about it.

We celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve, and this is how we do it in my family:

12 noon: Luncheon with pickled herrings, smoked salmon or gravad lax, smoked eel, mustard dressing for the salmon, boiled eggs, rye bread, Edam cheese (that’s Christmas cheese in Sweden), beer and snaps.

3pm: Donald Duck’s Christmas on teve. Every year the whole of Sweden watched this old Disney program about Donald Duck and his friends. Jeremy Cricket presents it, and receives post cards from Cinderella, Santa, Mickey Mouse, Goofey and the latest Disney film. This is usually when my parents take a well deserved nap on the couch.

5pm: Our relatives arrive for the evening, we usually start with some warm glögg and ginger bread.

6pm: Dinner starts. First course is meatballs, small frankfurters, potato bake with anchovies, Christmas ham, caramelized cabbage, red cabbage, maybe some sprouts, breads and cheese. We drink snaps, beer, wine or julmust if you’re not drinking. I usually bring crackers from the UK, so we have a British touch as well.

Next couse is salted ling, poached, with a mustard bechamel sauce and boiled potatoes. Not my favourite, but it is a classic.

Dessert is a take on rice pudding, but it is more porridge like and we add lots of whipped cream. Served with a warm coulis (mother usually makes one with cherries and one with raspberries). In the serving bowl we hide an almond in the porridge and it is a game to see who gets it. This way everyone eat until they burst. Whoever gets the almonds reveal it once all the dessert is eaten. What happens to the person who gets the almond varies, but in our family we have adopted the Danish tradition of giving that person a present, a so called mandelgave (almond gift).

8pm: We retire to the sofa, so full from dinner and around this time Santa comes to visit (at least when there are children present). We usually just hand out the Christmas gifts from underneath the tree.

Afterwards we have coffee and lots of Christmas cakes, then lots of homemade sweets, chocolates, clementines, dates, figs, nuts etc gathered at a table so everyone can help themselves.


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