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Jul i Sverige

Mince Pie

Christmas is always very different depending on where in the world you are. In the UK we always have our brightly decorated christmas trees, our bright colourful lights and our holly everywhere.  We’re also big on Turkey, mince pies, sausage rolls, Christmas Cake and Christmas Pudding, and it’s often said that the Christmas season begins when the Coca Cola advert airs on TV.

In Sweden it’s very different: here, Coca Cola doesn’t rule Christmas, but Julmust, and Gingerbread or Pepparkakor are the order of the day. A sort of mulled wine, known as Glögg, is also apparently quite popular, although I must admit I have yet to try it. It’s also almost impossible to get hold of suet to make mincemeat for the pies, and there are lots of other little things that seem very odd.

So: Where to start?

St. Lucia’s Day

This one’s pretty famous around the lobe actually. I remember reading about it when i wa a kid and thinking it odd! St Lucia’s Day is the 13th December and is where they remember a saint who got burnt alive and had her throat cut by a roman or something, but mostly it seems to consist of girls parading through town with candle crowns and white gowns, and little boys with wizards hats and candles in their hands, and that sort of thing. On St Lucia’s Day people eat saffron buns or Lussebullar, which makes me quite excited actually.

Saffron bun, photo taken in Sweden

Saffron bun, photo taken in Sweden (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why am I excited by Saffron buns? Well –  Saffron buns are something that in cornwall we eat at festivals in the summer. When we did the big parades and danced through the streets as kids, we always got given a saffron bun afterwards.  Saffron buns are also only really an important thing in two places in the whole world: Sweden and Cornwall. Pretty cool huh? However, for me, Lussebullar are a bit strange as Saffron is such a summery thing to me!

Christmas is Christmas Eve

Swedes celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve. Yep, that’s right: Christmas Eve. They open their presents then and do all the Christmassy things then, instead of on Christmas Day. This is really confusing to me as Christmas Eve generally isn’t actually officially a day off, but Christmas Day and the day after are (correct me if I’m wrong Swedes!). Christmas Day is treated rather like Boxing Day in the UK.

For the benefit of any Swedes who don’t get the concept of Boxing Day, or why it’s called Boxing Day, it’s because the leftovers were given away on boxing day to the poor, and rich people used to give their servants presents on that day. It has nothing to do with Boxing matches, rather the boxes gifts came in. Coincidentally, Swedes have Boxing day off too officially – but Boxing day is just the-day-after-the-day-after-christmas to them. How odd!


The julbord is the christmas meal. From what i gather it seems to contain a lot of fish, some ham and is kind of a buffet thing. EMil has promised to take me to one before i leave, so hopefully I can report back on this more later.


Pepper cakes (lit.) are gingerbread biscuits really. They’re very thin and incredibly moreish – as I write this curled up in bed at 2am, I’m overcome with the desire to go and get some now, actually! Quite genuinely, they’re very tasty, but I must admit that I personally have never really considered gingerbread to be particularly christmassy. Perhaps it’s because no-one in my family is particularly taken by gingerbread, but I’ve never considered it a christmas thing. Here however – it’s Lord at this time of year. You can’t MOVE without coming across Pepparkakor!



Julmust is currently one of my favourite things. Imagine Coca Cola only not as sickly sweet and slightly Christmassier. It smells like Rum and Coke, but is alcohol free, and tastes like maybe Dr pepper mixed with Coke, but less sweet somehow. A few people on the internet have likened the taste to root beer, but seeing as I’ve never tasted that I can’t say. I know it’s made with hops and spices, but that’s about it! In Sweden this is MUCH more popular than any other soft drink over Christmas, and Coke tried to buy the recipe and failed epically a few years ago. Coke doesn’t really equate to Christmas in Sweden – Julmust does instead.


I love the name of this drink so very much, because it’s said as ‘Glugg’ really – the sound it makes when you drink it! I haven’t tasted any, but it sounds like it’s pretty much mulled wine, drunk warm from small cups and flavoured with Christmassy spices.

Stars in the windows

Swedes don’t seem to be too into the brightly coloured lights for their christmas decorations from what i see.  In every window you either have the 7 candles or a large light-up star, all of which are done with white light rather than the garish colours we use in the UK. It’s pretty – i grant you, it *does* look festive somehow, but I think it looks more-so in the UK. I must admit though, I’m partial to the star lanterns. Last year I did New Year in Sweden, and watched the fireworks from what i suppose is a cliff in Partille, and I remember seeing the stars and thinking them beautiful. I shan’t be doing that this year  – I’ll be home over New Years, but I still think those stars are lovely!


Tomte are kind of like Christmas Elves, only they’re the ones who deliver the gifts. They’re really cute!

Anyhow, seeing as it is currently VERY late, I should cut this off here. It’s very interesting looking at how different cultures celebrate Christmas, and I’m sure I’ll have more stuff to add to this before i go home, seeing as I’m going to a St Lucia Concert on the 13th and I’m also going to hopefully have a julbord and visit Jul på Liseberg!


About Lady Octavia

I'm Charlie I spent a year living in Sweden and I'm now a full time librarian in a primary school in the UK. In my spare time I have an allotment, I sew and I bake.

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