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xoxosweden.com / News / Trivia / God Jul - Hyvää Joulua - Gledelig Jól.

God Jul - Hyvaa Joulua - Gledelig Jol

Jultomten (Swedish) - Santa Claus (English) - Julemanden (Danish) - Joulupukki (Finnish) - Jólasveinn (Icelandic) - Julenissen (Norwegian). Christmas is and was for a long time one of the most important holidays of the year in all of Scandinavia.


God Jul - Hyvää Joulua - Gledelig Jól

Hyacinths are popular plants for Christmas. Around 12 million hyacinths are bought in Sweden during the Christmas season.

Put the pepper in pepparkakor (ginger snaps). In the old days the richer you were, the more pepper you put into your ginger snaps, or pepparkakor, since pepper was an expensive spice. The pepparkaka is an old tradition with origins in Caesar’s Rome. In Scandinavia during the Middle Ages, the pepparkakor were thought to have medicinal properties.

Scandinavians have graced their windows with adventsstjärnor (advent stars) since the1930s.

Adventsljusstaken Advent candlesticks (often decorated) became popular in the 1920s when they were first sold in stores. A candlestick has four candles which mark the Sundays of Advent. A new candle is lit each Sunday before Christmas.

The adventsstjärnor (Advent wreath) came via Denmark from Germany around 1910 and became known when florists began selling them during the German occupation in 1939-1940. It was part of a “light-custom” that was embraced by many Danes during the blackout. Many Scandinavian households have one or more electric candlesticks in their windows, especially during Advent. Just like the menorah, these candlesticks have seven branches. Oskar Andersson in Sweden made the first electric candlestick in 1934. You will also see electrically lit stars of paper, wood, straw or perforated metal hanging in the windows.

Adventskalendern Advent calendars have been a main Christmas staple for Scandinavian children since World War II. These 3-dimensional calendars have twenty-four windows, one of which is opened every day from December 1 to December 24. The tradition is originally German.

Gløgg or glögg or glögi (mulled wine) became a Scandinavian Christmas tradition about 100 years ago, although spiced, alcoholic beverages were popular already since the Middle Ages. In Denmark, gløgg is served with æbleskiver (Danish cakes similar in texture to American pancakes) and in Sweden with lussekatter (saffron buns).

Julbocken (Christmas goat) harkens back to the old Norse God, Thor, who would ride in a wagon drawn by goats. It’s one of the oldest Scandinavian Christmas symbols.

Julgranen The Christmas tree arrived in Scandinavia from Germany during the mid 1700s. The first trees were hung from the ceiling as most houses had too little space to otherwise display them, and one wanted to protect the tree with all its decorations.

For the past 10 years, the Norwegian government has given a 30-foot tall Christmas tree as a special gift to the people of Washington, DC. It stands at Union Station.

For over 500 years, Finns, Swedes and Norwegians have been consuming lutfisk or lutefisk, an air-dried whitefish soaked in lye. Legend has it that the Brits tried to poison the Vikings by giving them fish steeped in lye – the Vikings, however, not only tolerated the lye fish, they fell in love with the dish and brought it home, and have been enjoying it ever since.

Bastu/saunaIn Finland, the sauna has a special place in the Christmas tradition. Many years ago, peasant families would start heating their saunas two days before Christmas so that everyone could bathe before the sun set on Christmas Eve, because once the darkness set in, the sauna would be used by invisible folks. This Joulu Sauna is still an important tradition in Finland.

An old tradition prevails in Finland and Sweden that the 12 days of Christmas are declared by law to be time of civil peace.

In Sweden a third of the annual turnover of toys takes place during the Christmas shopping.

Julrimm Rhyming is another popular Christmas activity from the old days. There are the julklappsrim, short little doggerels for the Christmas gifts, and also grötrim: Nobody was allowed to dive into their bowls of porridge unless they had first improvised a short verse in honor of either the porridge or someone at the table.

Example of a grötrim from Sweden (rhyming traditionally done over the Christmas porridge Christmas Eve):
Gröten kokt i huset är,
ej på riddarhuset.
Om du adlig sköld ej bär,
var dock riddare av ljuset

Julkärve, a Christmas sheaf, is a Swedish tradition of saving the finest sheaf of grain for the birds at Christmas time. The sheaf is tied to trees or high poles.

Merry Christmas
Gladelig Jul (Danish)
Hyvää Joulua (Finnish)
Gledelig Jól (Icelandic)
God Jul (Norwegian)
God Jul (Swedish)

Santa Claus
Julemanden (Danish)
Joulupukki (Finnish)
Jólasveinn (Icelandic)
Julenissen (Norwegian)
Jultomten (Swedish)


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