Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Danish and Swedish Christmas Traditions

One of my travel goals is to spend Christmas in a foreign country – preferably one that I have previously visited. This made me curious as to how Christmas traditions varied by countries. So I thought I would pick some of my favorite past trips and research their Christmas traditions.

I have picked four sets of countries and put them into blocks - meaning I have grouped them together in the way that I first visited them. For example, I will start with Denmark and Sweden. I visited both countries in 2006.

I am also in the process of teaching myself Photoshop, so I have been rifling through the past trip photos, organizing, scanning and cleaning them up with my new Photoshop skills.

Therefore I am going to include some of the photos from my 2006 trip. I know they’re not Christmas photos, but I’ll post those one I spend Christmas there – eventually!


  • Swedes enjoy the process or preparations that lead up to Christmas time particularly gifts, decorations and food
  •  The Christmas season kicks off with a glögg party in which mulled wine is consume
  • December 13th is Lucia Day this tradition involves a young woman rising early and serving coffee and  Lucia buns to everyone in herhousehold while wearing a traditional Lucia costumme

  • There are many countdowns to Christmas with Advent calendars and candles

  • Every Christmas Eve at 3pm EVERYONE in Sweden stops and watches a Walt Disney classic cartoon starring Donald Duck
  • A typical Swedish Christmas revolves around a nice fire and many candles
  • The Julbord is the Christmas buffet and is consumed on Dec 24th
  • On Christmas Eve Santa arrives in person to pass out gifts
  • Christmas trees are bought the day before Christmas Eve and are kept until January 13th known as the Twentieth Day Knut
  • When the tree is ready to be disposed of every one gathers around has a party and then the tree is ‘plundered’ or thrown out the window
Stockholm, Sweden

The view from Drottingholm Palace - Sweden


  • Like the Swedes the Danish countdown to Christmas with Advent calendars and candles
  • The Danish also celebrate Lucia Day on December 13th – the Swedish tradition was introduced to the Danes by The Norden Association during the German Occupation in 1944
  • Christmas lunches are celebrated throughout the Christmas month- these are primarily in the work place and consist of traditional Danish recipes and lots of alcohol (one reason I love the Danes!)
  • Danish breweries always produce a special Christmas brew
  • The Christmas tree is decorated one the day before Christmas Eve or on Christmas Eve
  • Because of the war with Germany Danish Christmas decorations are usually dominated by the national colors of red and white
  • Christmas is celebrated December 24 -26 and most shops and businesses are closed
  • Most people go to church during the day on Christmas Eve and spend the rest of the holiday at home with their family
  • Christmas Eve dinner starts the celebrations and once dinner is finished it is time to light candles and open presents
  • Father Christmas brings the presents replacing the pixie and the old farm leprechaun of the pre-Christian era
  • The Little Mermaid - Copenhagen, Denmark
    Copenhagen, Denmark
The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art - Denmark




  1. Fascinating! I knew some of those facts about Sweden, but nothing on Denmark, and I didn't know they didn't put the tree up until the 23rd!!!

    In Spain we keep our decorations up until the 6th of December (Epiphany or 3 Kings Day aka the Twelfth Day of Christmas) which is a big holiday here. :o)

    If you're interested I wrote a series of posts about Christmas markets on one of my blogs last year, that's my only truly "foreign" Christmas experience as I've always "gone home" for Christmas no matter where I lived:

    Christmas Markets

    They're about Belgian and German Christmas markets.

    I look forward to hearing about more Christmas traditions in other countries! :o)

  2. Here in the US most people put their tree up the day after Thanksgiving - usually the around the last weekend in November. We put ours up last Sunday, but it is not fully decorated! Ha! I couldn't imagine waiting until Christmas Eve to get a tree and then decorate it at that time.

    I'd love to read your posts on Belgian and German Christmas markets. Heading over there now!

    Germany is a country that I would like to see at Christmas time!

    1. If it doesn't snow this weekend I might discover a new German Christmas market on Saturday: Mainz! But it seems doubtful as the forecast is for snow, and the friends I'm visiting in Belgium don't want to risk the drive if there's snow...
      Oh well, that will just mean extra time for me to enjoy the Christmas ambiance in Belgium! :o)

  3. Have a fantastic time drinking warm wine and shopping. I do hope you will post lots of pictures! We visited Belgium in 2005, and I loved it.

    1. Will do! I lived there for 8 years plus 2 additional Autumns and loved it was well... most of the time! ;o)
      And even not liking beer it's not a bad place to live! (hint: chocolate!!)