By December, Sweden has very few hours of daylight. The first Sunday of Advent comes as an eagerly awaited sign that Christmas is approaching. Time to light the candles, heat up the mulled wine, or glögg, and get into the Christmas mood.
Decorations keep the dark at bay
While the commercial decorations are there for a specific purpose, they also have a wider effect − they keep the dark at bay. Throughout the country, Swedes help by putting electrical candlesticks in their windows and arranging lights on a Christmas tree – or any other tree for that matter − in the garden.
In northern Sweden, where the midnight sun shines in the summer, the sun never rises above the horizon at this time of year. ‘It’ll soon turn’, Swedes tell one another when they meet. The midwinter solstice falls on 21 December, and only then will the days begin to get lighter.
Countdown to Christmas
On the first Sunday of Advent – four weeks before Christmas – people light the first candle in the Advent candlestick. This is always a special event, eagerly awaited. Each Sunday until Christmas, a candle is lit (and blown out after a while), until all four candles are alight.
The children’s expectations grow with every candle. On TV, there is a special Christmas calendar show for the young with 24 episodes. It, too, serves as a countdown to the big day.
A normal year, Christmas fairs selling handicrafts and decorations are a common sight in towns and cities, while at home people start baking in preparation for the holiday. Christmas 2020, markets will be few and far between and we will most likely have to focus on the baking part.
Glögg and gingerbread biscuits
December is often a hectic month for Swedish families. The burden of work tends to be heavy at this time of year. There is much to be done in a short space of time before everyone can sit back and relax. For the children, meanwhile, December normally involves numerous end-of-term ceremonies, shows and activities. Again, a different story in 2020, though.
The longed-for peace and quiet comes later, when all the preparations have been completed and Christmas can begin in earnest. On the first Sunday in Advent, many Swedes enjoy glögg – a hot, spicy mulled wine with blanched almonds and raisins – and pepparkakor (gingerbread biscuits) to accompany it.
Last updated: 18 November 2020