Christmas is an important holiday in Sweden, and it is usually celebrated throughout December. In the traditional parts of the country the festive seasons last until January 13 or what is commonly called St. Knut’s Day. Just like any other Western country, Sweden usually observes the Christmas holiday on December 25. There is a beehive of activities on Christmas Eve and the fest of St. Lucy is often celebrated at the beginning of Advent on December 13.

Christmas in the country is a mixture of both local and foreign customs. Many Swedes will celebrate Christmas similar to the other Western cultures, although they have their traditions and customs that have lasted over the years. The history of Christmas in Sweden dates back to the first century, in the year 600, and this is where it is mentioned in the Gothic calendar. 

Jul has become more common around the country and dates back to the pagan traditions of winter solstice. The people in Sweden used to celebrate this when the day became longer, and the nights became shorter. The pagans in the region used to sacrifice cattle and this was to appease the gods. In return, the gods were meant to bring good luck and health and it is one of the most celebrated holidays in the region. 

However, as the years have gone by jul has been celebrated in different ways and you are going to get to know some of the culture and traditions of the Swedish people. The celebration of Christmas in Sweden goes from many centuries ago and over the years it has undergone heavy Christianization. Let’s learn more about it!

Christmas customs and traditions in Sweden

The Christmas period in Sweden is filled with a wide array of activities that bring the joy of Christmas and the celebration with friends, family, and lots of love. Here are some of the common Christmas customs and traditions to know about.

Advent calendar

This is the first and most important part of the Swedish Christmas traditions. The Christmas celebrations usually begin at the end of November or at the beginning of December. In many parts across the country, you will find a wide array of decorations that are usually set up in the public square as well as the Christmas markets around the country. 

The advent calendar is marked from December 1 and there is a television series that usually produces one episode per day until the Christmas day. This calendar usually has presents and the children will often get presents such as sweets, and candies among others. 

The Advent period is an important occasion because it allows people across the country to prepare for Christmas properly. Some of the common activities during this season include cooking, baking, and the purchase of gifts. The counting of days to Christmas comes from the ancient Christian tradition that is called the waiting of Jesus.

However, in the modern era, people often do not refer to Christianity when counting the days. The advent calendar is a fun activity for children and young adults as they can eat sweets and candy each day. You will find that different companies usually supply advent calendars and depending on place, you will find all kinds of advent calendars even for adults.

St. Lucia’s Day

This is an important part of Christmas celebrations in Sweden. This event usually takes place on December 13, and this day is one of the oldest Swedish traditions. The young girls will dress up in white robes and dresses with candles placed on their heads.

In real life, the celebrations do not involve real candles because of safety reasons. However, you will find that most places have lights that resemble a candle, and they are battery-powered. St. Lucia was a martyr who was convicted of witchcraft and her hair was set on fire. However, she was a protector of children, and this is why people still celebrate her during the Advent period.


This is one of the most important celebrations in Sweden and it usually takes place on the first day of the Advent. It is typically a Christmas window, and it marks the beginning of the Christmas festivities. It is essential to note that during this period there are candles lit that are symbolic. 

Learn more: Dangerous animals in Sweden

During this period, you will find that many markets, shops, and supermarkets display beautiful and festive scenes. The celebration is common even in rural towns as well as in most urban areas around Sweden. It is a perfect time to go Christmas shopping because many shops and supermarkets around the country usually offer discounts during the Julskyltninger.

Christmas Decorations in Sweden

The decorations in the country are chosen with care as different people decorate their houses differently. The choice of the Christmas tree is often important, and the male members of the family usually go to the forest to get one that will then be used during the Christmas period.

Fir and spruce are the most common trees that are used. The Swedes prefer to keep their Christmas decorations as natural as possible and instead of the flashing bright lights and artificial tinsel, they will use straw ornaments, and hyacinths on the table and put wreaths on their doors.

You are also going to find a wide array of candles littered around the house during this period. They mostly appear after St. Lucia’s Day.


Tomten or Santa Claus is known to be the jolly man who makes the children happy. Santa has been in the culture and traditions of the Swedish people for a long time; however, he is known to be an angry man who is responsible for guarding local farm products and they are known to bring good health and good crop harvest. 

In Swedish customs, it is important to keep him happy because he will ensure that you are happy as well during this period. Your ability to bring him delicious snacks before Christmas Eve is an important aspect as he will be happy and ensure that you have the best experience in the coming year. 

The Swedish people usually leave a delicious rice pudding that has almonds and cherries on their front porch, and this is for Tomten to eat. The tradition usually involves an adult dressing up as Tomten as he provides the family with presents.

Christmas tree in Sweden

The Christmas tree is one of the most common Christmas traditions in Sweden. The story of the Christmas tree is rich, and it dates back to the 16th century. The initial Swedish Christmas trees were decorated with candles and treats such as candies and fruits.

In most parts of Sweden, people usually hang apples on the branches of the Christmas tree. Since the Swedish people usually prefer to keep their decorations natural, you will find that they decorate their Christmas tree with straw and paper. The Christmas trees will vary from one region to another. 

Some of the common decorations include Swedish flags, apples, candles, baubles, straw ornaments, and gnomes. The house is often filled with tulips, and this will give the house a unique smell that is inviting and interesting.

Christmas gifts in Sweden

The people in the country exchange gifts on Christmas Eve. This is to allow the children to see their presents before Christmas Day. You do not have to wake your children up at dawn on Christmas for them to see the gifts because you can give them out on Christmas Eve.

Christmas Eve gifts are often placed under the Christmas tree which is on the fireplace. Wrapping of the gifts is often very simple and there can be poems or lyrics on the side to give the person a message of happy holidays.

More on the Swedish Christmas decorations

Christmas market in Malmo.

The Swedish people usually take their Christmas traditions seriously and you will find that the major cities of Stockholm and Malmo among others usually are decorated for Christmas. The lights usually sparkle during this season and you will find a herd of moose decorated with lights as well.

The people will decorate their houses with candles and lights which adds warmth and comfort during the festive season. The most common theme is to hang paper star lanterns, which are symbolic of the star of Bethlehem.

The Swedish people will often put wreaths on the doors as well as the windows. In many places, you will find that they use straw ornaments and hyacinths on their doors.


During Christmas Eve, the Swedish people usually gather around the Julbord which is a Christmas table, and they will consume a wide array of dishes.

Some of the traditional dishes that you are going to find people eating include herring mixed with sour cream, baked, pickled and other different kinds of smoked ham and salmon. There are vegetarian dishes as well such as fluffy potatoes with brined sprats, you will also find salads such as cabbage, potato, and meatballs.

The people in Sweden also love to eat baked beans, and cakes during Christmas. Some of the common desserts eaten during this period include rice pudding which has a creamy taste coupled with cinnamon.

The drinks served during this period are glogg or mulled wine.

Christmas baking in Sweden

During the Christmas period you are going to enjoy a wide array of dishes, however, there is Christmas baking which involves the baking of saffron and gingerbread. This is an important occasion because it allows the locals to enjoy some of the most unique pastries.

The locals will prepare a yeast dough-shaped flavored bread and they can add saffron or saffron eclairs. The gingerbread can be decorated using different cookies as well.

In Stockholm, there are gingerbread baking competitions, which is an interesting sight.

Christmas food and drinks in Sweden

This is the most important part of the Christmas traditions in Sweden.

The most common Christmas dishes in Sweden include meatballs, ham, red cabbage, Janssons frestelse, and prinskorv. There is also a traditional meal – smorgasbord, that is prepared using classical ingredients and recipes. 

This meal is usually eaten buffet style and it can be divided into seven or five courses. The initial three courses are usually fish courses, and you can get a wide array of pickled herrings in sour cream and chives. The second variety usually involves cold fish, you and you can get a wide array of fish that you are going to find in different areas of the country. The third dish is the best because it involves hot fish dishes and in Sweden, lutfisk is mostly served.

Some of the other common dishes that are prevalent in Sweden include herring salad, smoked eel, baked salmon, and shellfish canapes and they are accompanied by dips and sauces.

Let’s learn more about the Christmas in the neighboring countries of Sweden:

Aurimas Bio

Hi there! I’m Aurimas, a man behind Go Look Explore. I’m passionate about hiking, exploring off-the-beaten-path destinations, and everything outdoors related. Let’s connect.