CHRISTMAS IN SWEDEN
“God Jul Och Ett Gott Nytt Ar!”
(Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year) from our Swedish-born Head Chef, Magnus Karlsson. Magnus has been getting into the Christmas spirit at No. 4 Hamilton Place and wanted to share with us the interesting Swedish traditions around Christmas time, and his favourite parts of the festive season.
“In Sweden, our Christmas begins with Saint Lucia Day on December 13. The custom goes back to Lucia, a Christian virgin martyred for her beliefs at Syracuse in the fourth century. Adults celebrate this by eating pepparkakor (ginger bread cookies), saffron buns and drinking glogg (a type of mulled wine), while children celebrate at school. Children vote for a pupil to be Saint Lucia and then dress them in a white robe, with a red sash and a crown of evergreens with tall-lit candles attached to it. They then sing songs about Christmas, St. Lucia and various other traditional topics. The Saint Lucia ceremony is fairly recent, and it represents the traditional thanksgiving for the return of the sun.
Around two days before Christmas, the Christmas trees are brought into the house and decorated with gingerbread cookies, straw ornaments and flowers. Christmas Eve is known as Julafton in Sweden and is the highlight of Christmas. Traditional Christmas Eve dinner usually includes smorgasbord or a Swedish Christmas buffet with ham, pork, or fish, as well as a variety of sweets. A popular Christmas tradition in Sweden is to serve Risgrynsgrot, special rice porridge with one almond in it. The person finding it gets to make a wish, or is believed to get married the coming year (this varies between families). If you are a believer in trolls and elves, like me, then you should place a bowl of Risgrynsgrot outside your door for the elves, as if you don’t, they might bring you trouble!
My favourite Christmas dishes are all of the different types of pickled herring, the baked ham served with hot and sweet mustard, and of course the meat balls, because they are flavours of my childhood and upbringing.
After the festive Christmas Eve dinner, someone dresses up as Tomte (the Christmas gnome) who according to Swedish myth lives on a farm or in the forest. Tomte looks a little like Santa Claus and hands out the presents while doing funny rhymes.
The Christmas season ends on January 13 in Sweden, with the Hilarymas celebrations. We bring the season to a close with get-togethers, lots of food, dancing, and plundering the tree of edible decorations. Then the countdown begins again!”
foodbydish Head Chef at No. 4 Hamilton Place