Much against the norm, in Scandinavia, Christmas is celebrated on the 24th of December, as the country practices Protestant Christianity. However, there is no change in the festive spirit of the country. It is the same as that practiced in the other countries of the world. Days before the festival, preparations for food, decoration and shopping start. In the ancient times, instead of Christmas, 'Jul' or 'Yule', was celebrated as an observation of the winter solstice. This time of year is marked as the transition from the dark winter to spring and the time to celebrate harvest, fertility and birth. With time, the celebration emerged from being a pagan festival to Christian custom celebrating the birth of Jesus. Let us explore the Scandinavian Christmas traditions in detail.
Christmas Celebration in Scandinavia
Though Scandinavians do not follow any religion, Christmas still remains a religious festival. The celebration includes going to the church on Christmas Day, lighting candles and laying wreaths on family graves. The festival starts with Advent, which falls on the first Sunday of December. This is followed by the second, third and fourth Advent, until 24th of December. It during this time that the house and the garden are decorated with tinsel, lights, Santa Claus and the items that revel the festivity. While the windows are lit up with candlesticks, the garden adorns little light bulbs.
Throughout Scandinavia, Advent is highlighted in different ways. While lighting four candles on the wreath is a major part of the festivity in Denmark, in Sweden, candle-holder solves the purpose. On December 13, Scandinavians enthusiastically celebrate St. Lucia. They refer to Lucia as the Queen of Lights. As per history, it is believed that she brought food for the poor Christians who hid in the catacombs of Rome. In order to keep her hands free to offer food, she wore a wreath in her hair, carrying candles to light her way in the darkness. The Lucia festival falls on the night between 12th and 13th of December and is celebrated mainly in Sweden and Denmark. A Lucia is selected and crowned with the candles. She is made to travel around the town, with her followers; all dressed in white, singing traditional Christmas songs.
On Christmas Eve, children in Scandinavia keep a bowl of porridge for the little gnome called Julenisse, who live in the attics. Though it might seem strange, but according to the local superstition, it is dangerous to sleep alone on Christmas Eve. As such, master and servants and the extended family members all sleep together on a freshly spread bed of straw. Just like the other countries, Santa Claus is the most famous figure associated with Christmas. In the evening of 24th December, Santa Claus visits all the homes in Scandinavia. In the country, festivals are synonyms to great feasts and Christmas is no exception. There is a wide range of cold and hot food, fish, meat and desserts that are served in every household. In addition to this, schnapps is also relished. It is a strong alcoholic beverage, which is taken during the meal.