Understanding a Swedish Christmas – the weird & wonderful

It is beginning to feel a lot like Christmas and I love it. Walking around Stockholm this time of year you will have a hard time spotting a house or business that hasn’t been smothered in Christmas cheer.

This post isn’t about ‘normal’ Christmas, true to form the Swedes have some weird and even down right confusing traditions.

me so christmas, me so happy

Here is what you need to know…

The Yule Goat

By now many of you have probably seen this goat in the Christmas markets but what does it mean? The yule goat is a Scandinavian tradition were the goat apparently delivered gifts to children.


However Sweden’s modern tradition is slightly different. Each year the town of Gávle erects a 13 foot straw yule goat in their town square and they have been doing this every year since 1966. Which is surprising as every year hoodlums and pranksters set it alight. If you are planning on joining in on the shenanigans you should know that if you are caught burning down the goat you are likely to serve some jail time and receive a heavy fine. If burning down giant goat statue isn’t quite your thing you can always place your bets on what day you think the goat will go down in flames.

yule goat


The 13th December is known as St Lucia Day in Sweden. On this day the eldest girl in the family takes on the role as Lucia donning a white robe, wearing a crown full of candles and serving her family Lucia buns, coffee (of course!) and mulled wine.

Christmas gnomes

Have you ever thought… wow I love Christmas gnomes! Well then chances are you are Swedish. Swedes have a long history with gnomes who were thought to live under houses or in the forest. Gnomes were very helpful creatures working on farms, doing chores and even protecting the family from danger. Many of the Christmas decorations you see are actually Christmas gnomes or tomte. After Christmas eve celebrations a family member will dress up as tomte (who looks suspiciously like Santa) and hands out presents while singing or making up funny rhymes.


Donald Duck 

Stranger still, every year on the 24th December at 3pm half of the population of Sweden will sit down to watch Donald Duck. The Christmas special ‘From All of Us to All of You’ is a Swedish staple. If you question a Swede about this they will stare at you confused, it isn’t worth asking.

Donald Duck GIF 2

Christmas isn’t officially over until the 13th January

The 13th January or Hilarymas/ St Knut’s Day is an annual event marking the end of the Swedish Christmas season with celebrations happening around the country. Back in the day celebrations were over when the old Christmas tree was thrown out of the window. To be safe I would recommend that you don’t stand under any open windows.

If you know of any other Swedish Christmas traditions let me know by sending an email to caitlin.longman@stud.ki.se or leaving a comment below. 

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