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Swedish Sankta Lucia

Lucia is a festival occurring on December 13, or Lucia Day. Lucia is a young girl, wearing a white garment and with a Lucia crown with candles on her head. She is followed by a number of girl attendants, also dressed in white and with candles in their hands. There are also boys, 'star-boys', participating in the ceremony. They, too, are dressed in white and they wear pointed caps. Lucia and her attendants visit places like schools, hospitals, offices and churches and sing traditional songs like Sankta Lucia. They may also bring coffee, gingerbread biscuits and 'Lucia cats', a kind of saffron bun.

The Lucia tradition is based on the legend of a pious Sicilian girl who wanted to devote her life to God instead of marrying. When she refused the proposal of a nobleman she was killed, and subsequently she became a martyr.


Advent is the period of four weeks immediately preceding Christmas. Each Sunday during this period a new candle is lit in a special Advent candlestick. This means that, on the fourth Sunday, there are four candles burning, and Christmas is about to begin.


From Lucia and on, a lot of preparations for Christmas are being made. Decorations are put up, cookies, cakes and bread are baked, and the ham to be served at the Christmas buffet is either boiled or roasted. In most homes there is a Christmas tree which is decorated with stars, straw animals, spangles and festoons.

On Christmas Eve, some families still do the 'dipping in the pot', an old tradition where slices of bred are dipped into the broth from the boiled ham. The ham itself can be found on almost every Christmas dinner-table, and so can sausages, meatballs, herring, plums, sallads, etc. A dish only to be served around Christmas is lutfisk, or boild ling which has previously been soaked in lye. It is served with a white sauce, salt and pepper. The dessert after the Christmas dinner usually consists of boiled rice pudding with milk, sugar and cinnamon.

"Christmas" to Swedish children most of all means Christmas Eve, the day when Father Christmas comes. He does not put his gifts into a stocking, but gives them to the children directly.

On Christmas Day a lot of Swedes get up early to attend a special church service at six or seven, which is called julottan (literally: Christmas-early-in the-morning).

New Year´s Eve is celebrated in the way most Western people do it. You go to a party or invite some friend and at twelve o´ clock great fireworks are let off, and people make a toast in champagne and wish each other a happy new year.


Easter witches

Next to Christmas and Midsummer, Easter is the most important festival of the year. In the old days, it was thought that, during this period, all witches went away to see the devil and the place where they met was called Blåkulla. If you spend Easter in Sweden, you will see allusions to this belief in the papers and on TV. Also, on Easter Eve many children today dress up as Easter witches. They put on the gaudiest clothes they can find, paint their faces in the same fashion and knock on people´s doors asking for candy or money in exchange of drawings.

Walpurgis Night

The celebration of Walpurgis dates back to the Viking Era. It was a festival to honour the return of Spring, and is only one of the several pagan festivals still celebrated in Sweden.

Midsummer's eve

Easter witches

Midsummer's eve is probably the most popular festival day in Sweden, together with Christmas. Midsummer is an old pagan celebration, dating back to the Viking Era. It was a fertility rite originally, where the May pole was a phallic symbol, "impregnating" Mother nature. It was hoped that this would help to give a good harvest in the autumn. In modern times, it is a national holiday, where family and friends meet, eat herring and fresh potatoes and drink schnapps and beer. The actual day of the celebration is also the longest day of the year (summer solstice), signifying that summer has reached the half-way point.

Photo 1: Copyright © GP/Bildservice
Photo 2: Jan Tham
Photo 3: Tina Buckman

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