Julafton / Swedish Christmas

Swedes love their traditions and Christmas is no exception. Here's how Swedes celebrate a traditional Christmas and how you can have your own Swedish Christmas here in Sydney.  

By Caroline Brandelius 

In Sweden Christmas eve is the main day to celebrate and unwrapping Christmas presents. The food is absolutely a crucial part of Christmas eve. Swedes love to sit down for hours and eat from the traditional Christmas buffet. On the buffet you can find selections of pickled herring, Janssons potato bake, cured salmon, cold cuts, ham roast, meatballs, brussels sprouts, red cabbage, rice pudding and a very special thing called “dip in the pot”. That is heated up fat from the ham roast which you dip a special dense bread in. It is also important to have schnapps to drink with the Christmas food and the non-alcoholic soft drink “julmust”. 

How come almost every swede watches cartoons at three o’clock on Christmas eve year after year? This tradition started in 1960 when the only time to watch cartoons on Swedish national television was on Christmas eve. Some people would say Christmas starts when “Kalle” Donald Duck on tv comes on. The program is a mix of short Disney films and has been the same since 1960. The program is always presented by a Christmas host, which is a very hot topic to discuss every year and to follow the gossip of which this year’s celebrity it will be. It is a big honour to be the Christmas host, almost like becoming the president of the nation.

Swedes like to open their Christmas presents in the afternoon or evening on Christmas eve; just so the kids can go a little bit extra crazy after they have been waiting a whole year for Santa’s arrival. A very common discussion in families is if the present opening should be before or after Donald Duck. After Donald duck is a popular choice because then daddy or grandpa (Santa) can go and buy the “newspaper” while the kids watch tv and then come back dressed up as Santa. A great way to trick the children.

For some very creative swedes rhyming is a big part of the Christmas present opening. With every present you write a rhyme that is going to be a clue what’s in it. The person who receives the presents can then make a guess what it’s going to be. It can be really fun and sometimes incredibly silly.

If you are one of the lucky ones to celebrate Christmas down under you can still get the full Swedish Christmas experience at Fika (pre 2020). Between the 20th and the 24th of December we usually serve up our epic buffet with Fika’s meatballs, ‘Janssons potato bake, glazed ham, ‘prince‘ sausages, pickled herring, freshly baked bread, sweets & much more.