In a previous post, I wrote about the festivities leading up to Christmas in Sweden and promised that I would write about Christmas Eve itself in the next blog. Here it comes!
Food glorious food
In my Swedish family, on the 24th of December, we wake up to a breakfast of rice pudding (eaten with milk and cinnamon) and flatbread (tunnbröd) with a slice of freshly baked ham. There is always a whole almond hidden in the rice pudding and the person who finds it is entitled to make a wish.
After breakfast, we start preparing for the Christmas feast. We marinate herring in different flavored sauces and make homemade meatballs, Jansson’s frestelse (a potato and anchovy gratin), beetroot salad and (because my mother-in-law hails from Finland) two Finnish casseroles, one based on carrots and one made with swede. Time flies when the whole family is in the kitchen, cooking, catching up and listening to Christmas music!
Everyone has to be dressed at three o’clock when the family gathers in front of the television with glögg (hot mulled wine), Julmust (a traditional Swedish Christmas soda) and lots and lots of Christmas sweets to watch “Kalle Anka och hans venner” or “Donald Duck and his friends”. This is a one-hour medley of cartoons that has been shown on Swedish Television every Christmas Eve since 1958! All Swedes have grown up with it and I don’t think that anyone would disagree that it is as important to Swedish Christmas as Santa is!
Before Kalle Anka comes to an end, the smaller children start getting restless, looking out of the window to see if they can spot a sled pulled by reindeer. As soon as the credits start rolling on the screen, there is a stampede down the stairs, so that everybody is ready for the knock-at-the door that they have been anticipating all day. And it is not long in coming – perfect timing as always! Santa is invited in and given the most comfortable chair in the house (and a glass of something strong to sustain him for the rest of his trip). He than asks if the kids have behaved well during the past year. He proceeds to handout the presents and is then sent off so that the hard work of opening presents can begin. We are a large family, so this process takes a long time.
Afterwards, whilst the kids are playing with their new toys, the adults put the finishing touches to the Christmas dinner, which also commonly includes boiled potatoes, different types of cheese and salmon (both smoked and “gravad” (cured with salt, sugar and dill). Then it is finally time to to sit down to a large and long meal (accompanied by Julmust for the children and beer and nubbe (or snaps) for the adults.
The next few days are a marathon of trying to finish all the left overs, after which we are all happy to wait a year until next time!