In Sweden, Christmas officially begins with Saint Lucia ceremony on 13th of December. On this day, the youngest daughter from each family puts on a white robe with a red sash before dawn and wears a crown of evergreens with tall-lighted candles attached to it. There are special morning services in every church, and most of them are overcrowded. One has to be in good time at the church before the ceremony in order to see it.
Christian traditions are very respected in Sweden, but for most people, the preparations for Christmas begin at late November or early December. That's when the shops start competing about who has got the best Christmas decorations (especially such shopping mekkas as Ikea, Ahlens, Nordiska Kompaniet). The same day people start trying to find appropriate Christmas presents for everybody. Christmas markets are especially popular. There you can find unique handmade decorations, presents and simply a lot of good mood.
Christmas decorations in Sweden include advent-ljus, special candle to put on your window sill (those really remind Jewish Hanuka candles), apples, straw ornaments, Swedish flags and small gnomes wearing red tasseled caps.
Christmas is not a proper Christmas without pepparkakor or the famous gingerbread biscuit. Swedes love making gingerbread houses – they usually make complicated drawing of a future house and then bake the roofs, walls and other parts strictly according to the measurements in the plan.
Christmas Eve you usually spend with your friends and/or relatives and eat Christmas food. Three o'clock in the afternoon is sacred, though. Then every kid in the whole country sits down in front of the TV to watch "Donald Duck and his friends wish you all a Merry Christmas". Most adults don’t admit that they love it too, but they do! I love it very much, too :)
Swedish Julafton, or Christmas Eve, dinner may be a julbord, or buffet with julskinka, or Christmas ham, pickled pigs feet, lutfisk, or dried codfish, and risgryngrot a special rice porridge. Usually it is served with a special dried bread.
After Christmas Eve dinner, some of the presents are usually opened. Swedish Santa Claus, Jultomte (Christmas Gnome) unlike Santa Claus is supposed to live under the floorboards of the house or barn and ride a straw goat. The make-believe Tomte, wearing a white beard and dressed in red robes, distributes gifts from his sack. Many are given with funny rhyme that hints at the contents. However, modern American figure is quickly catching up in Sweden and Tomte is losing his original identity.
But he is nevertheless lovely and welcoming :)
article was originally written for the Etsy Russian Team Blog