tockholm, Sweden sparkles and shimmers with light despite the darkness that settles over the city in the afternoon during this darkest time of the year. The Christmas spirit reigns starting in November. Display windows are decorated, Christmas tree lights are lit and sprigs of spruce line the shopping streets. We’ll tell you here a little more about Stockholm’s yuletide traditions and what goes on in the city in the Christmas season.
Advent – preparations leading to Christmas
On the first Sunday of Advent, usually the last weekend in November, the first of the four candles is lit in the Advent candlestick, which has one candle for each Advent Sunday. Morning service in ?church on the first Sunday of Advent is the most attended next to the service on Christmas Day. During the days of Advent the city gets decorated. In homes, the Christmas stars are hung up in windows and Christmas candlesticks, with candles lined up like facing staircases, light up window after window in the darkness. The 18th century Christmas goat made of straw is the oldest Christmas symbol of the Swedes and adorns homes even today.
Glögg, a kind of mulled wine, is part and parcel of Advent. A traditional Swedish Christmas drink since the end of the 19th century, glögg is imbibed warm with raisins and almonds. During December, the Historical Museum of Wines and Spirits is holding a special exhibition that includes glögg tasting. www.vinosprithistoriska.se Yuletide and music go together.
December is a real concert month for churches filled with choral song during Advent. On First Advent, (November 30 in 2002), the classic concert in St. Jacob’s Church was at 3 p.m. Several Advent concerts and musical presentations can be found at http://www.stockholmtown.com/events
Lucia – Queen of Light
The first Swedish Lucia Day was declared in Stockholm in 1927. Today, Lucia is celebrated at home, in daycare centers, and in schools on the morning of December 13. Lucia and her bridesmaids sing Christmas and Lucia songs in old-age homes and hospitals. Even the Nobel Prize winners at the Grand Hôtel are awakened with song on that morning. Lucia is the time for eating “lussekatter,” a kind of saffron-flavored bun. Lucia is dressed in a white ankle-length chemise with a red sash around the waist and on her head she carries a garland of lingonberry sprigs with lighted candles. The Lucia garland is meant to remind us of the glory of the original Saint Lucia of Sicily. In Skansen, the year’s Lucia is crowned at 4 p.m. on December 1 at the Sollidenscenen outdoor stage. On December 13, Lucia and her bridesmaids come to Skansen in procession at 6 p.m. The Lucia celebration concludes with fireworks. The Cathedral of Stockholm in the Old Town and many other churches hold Lucia concerts in the morning and evening.
A Lucia concert that has become very popular over the years is held at the Globe Arena. At these concerts 1,200 singing children and teens take over the Globe and sing the songs of Lucia and Christmas.
Christmas fairs with holiday charm
Christmas fairs are a beloved pastime during Advent, and Stockholm has many of these to visit both inside and outside the city. In the center of the city, the Christmas fairs in Skansen and the Old Town are very popular, as is the one in Kungsträdgården. Many palaces and estates in the area hold traditional Christmas fairs that are just right for a day’s outing. In the winter archipelago also there are Christmas fairs, easy to get to from the city on regularly scheduled boats. Following is a sampling of some of the most popular Christmas fairs. Many more can be found at http://www.visitstockholm.com/en/To-Do/
Skansen – Stockholmers’ open-air museum celebrates Christmas
One Christmastime institution is Skansen, where the holiday spirit is high in all the houses and farmsteads, and the Christmas table is set as in the old days. In addition to Skansen’s popular Christmas fair there are many other holiday happenings there. There is a Christmas Workshop open in Novilla at the same time. Try making candles in the traditional way or decorations of straw and paper. From 11 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays when the Christmas fair is running, Skansen’s rhyming cottage is open, where you can get help putting personal rhymes on presents.
The classic Christmas buffet
Throughout December, many of the city’s restaurants feature a classic Christmas dinner in the form of a smorgasbord (called the Julbord). Taste Swedish specialties like meatballs, Jansson’s Temptation, pickled herring, and much more – all in the wonderful spirit of the holiday. Combine these gustatory treats with boat ride in the tranquil magic of the winter archipelago. The steamer S/S Stockholm has lunch-, afternoon-, and evening tours to choose among. www.strommakanalbolaget.se Travel in high style to a Christmas dinner at the Djurgården restaurants, wrapped up in reindeer hides with a horse and wagon or sled, trotting along by torchlight to the clinging of sleigh bells. www.hastakeriet.se or +46 8 570 277 98.
New Year’s celebration with fireworks in Stockholm
While Christmas is observed in the home with family, New Year’s is celebrated on December 31 in a more high-spirited way in the good company of friends. A three- or four-course dinner, champagne, and fireworks when the clock strikes midnight are an absolute must. In Stockholm, New Year’s is celebrated at most restaurants and nightclubs, and the sky lights up all over the city from the different fireworks displays. In Skansen, Tennyson’s poem “Ring Out Wild Bells” is read aloud at midnight, a tradition that goes all the way back to 1895.
More about different Winter activities in Stockholm and its surroundings can be found at http://www.visitstockholm.com/en/
SOURCE: Stockholm Visitors Board AB
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