USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Swedish Christmas’
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Santa Lucia Candle Crowns on Christmas

Main Piece
Put that down, that on Christmas eve, Santa Lucia, L-U-C-I-A: Girls would wear real candles in their hair on Church service on Christmas eve, in a crown. It was really annoying because the wax would melt into the hair, and you always thought your hair was going light on fire.
I’m not sure what exactly it stemmed from – I know it is an old Swedish tradition. I don’t just remember why – people didn’t ask, people didn’t care, but we did it. There is definitely a reason behind it, but we definitely forgot it.

Background
The informant had grown up in a religious home, and made note of the different traditions she saw over the course of her life. She took part in this tradition, and therefore can talk about her experience. This occurrence was during the 1970’s and 1980’s, and she is unsure if they are still continuing the tradition, although she believes that they are.

Context
The informant who provided this information is a 52-year-old Caucasian women, born and raised in Southern California. The information was collected while sitting outside her home in Palm Desert, California, on the 20th of April, 2019.

Analysis
This tradition is really interesting to me, due to the fact that I never personally experienced this tradition. Being raised in the same religious way as the informant, I would have expected to have seen this tradition, yet I have not. I do think that it seems like a dangerous tradition, and I am glad to not have taken part in it or seen it thus far. I believe that the tradition relates back to Saint Lucy and her martyrdom, using candles to light her way bringing food to hidden Christians in the 3rd century. I find it interesting however, that the informant does not know what the tradition actually represents, but they still continued practicing it. I think this may be due to the idea that the tradition is representing the religion in a way, and although even if not known the exact reason, the commemoration of the religion is enough for the informant.

For another version of this tradition, please see Florence Ekstrand’s 1998 Lucia, Child of Light (Welcome Press).

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Rituals, festivals, holidays

1. Julmust: A Crucial Part of a Swedish Christmas

Background information:

Julmust is very easy to find in grocery stores all around Sweden from November to January, as it is in high demand and often replaces the original Coca-Cola. At any other point of time during the year, however, it is very difficult to find as it is not Christmas season during the months outside the range of November to January. Therefore, as this drink is not always available, it makes the drink much more appealing to people because many enjoy the taste, feel that they can better celebrate Christmas with it, and feel that they will miss out if they do not drink it when it is available during the Christmas season, as they will need to wait until the next year to drink it if they choose not to drink it that Christmas.

 

Main Piece:

In Swedish Christmas traditions, food is an extremely important part of the celebration. Usually the array of Christmas foods or “julbord”, literally translated to “Christmas table”, does not vary much from family to family. The “julbord” usually always contains the Christmas ham among many other Christmas foods typically found around the world. A specific Christmas food that is significantly different from others around the world, however, is the Swedish “Julmust”. Anyone who has celebrated Christmas in Sweden knows about the importance of Julmust at the Christmas table, as a Christmas meal is not complete without Julmust. Julmust is a staple for many Swedish families, including mine, around Christmas time as it is basically a more festive version of Coca-Cola. It is seen as festive because it tastes very similar to regular Coca-Cola but also has a blend of spices mixed into the drink that give the flavor more of a holiday feeling. For this reason, many, including my family, feel that Julmust is essential to celebrating Christmas because they have the perfect Christmas drink to complement the Christmas foods at the julbord. Because I was raised with Julmust being an integral part of my Christmas celebrations, I cannot imagine Christmas without it. Julmust not only tastes good, but also is a drink that everyone in my family enjoys and therefore brings us together around the holiday season.

When we moved from Sweden to California when I was almost six years old, however, it was very difficult to find Julmust in grocery stores because American grocery stores do not know what Julmust is and therefore do not carry the drink. As a result, through searching online forums, visiting special Scandinavian grocery stores that were hours away, and going to IKEA, we were able to locate Julmust at IKEA and the Scandinavian markets and were thus able to celebrate Christmas in the United States with this drink every year thereafter.

 

Personal thoughts:

I am a huge fan of Julmust and cannot imagine my Christmas experience without it. Even though I have lived in the United States since I was almost six years old, I will never forget my Swedish roots and will continue to practice even the most trivial Swedish traditions such as drinking Julmust when celebrating Christmas.

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Rituals, festivals, holidays

Nisse in Swedish Culture

Background information:

Like my dad, my mom also had legend characters that she believed in. Whenever Christmas rolled around, she would always talk about the “nisse”, (plural: “nissar”) and said that these tiny little helpers were part of what made Christmas the amazing and cozy event that it is.

 

Main piece:

My mother had very high respect for the “nissar” as she told us from a young age that they helped with the logistics and took care of a lot of work to prepare for Christmas. As such, she made sure to bring them to my sister’s and my attention every Christmas. She did this by saying that the “nissar” had dropped off small gifts in our Christmas stockings randomly throughout the Christmas season. There was no organization or special time that the “nissar” dropped off the gifts into our stockings, but I remember her telling me that the “nissar” would only drop off gifts if we had been respectful to the “nissar” and been friendly overall. Every Christmas, the “nissar” would visit and drop off small gifts in our stockings around three times total: sometimes they would visit more, other times they would visit less, it all depended on the year. As I grew older, I realized that my mom was the one that was putting the gifts in the stockings, but she was always adamant that she was just a messenger of the “nissar” and was helping them out.

 

Personal thoughts:

I really enjoyed this tradition and the legend of the “nisse” because it brought a lot of happiness and excitement to my Christmas experience when I was growing up. I remember talking to my American friends about the “nisse” when I was younger and although none of them could relate to me, they always thought that the “nisse” sounded amazing and very generous, which I regard them as being, as well. Because this was such a heartfelt and warm memory, I will be sure to share this tradition in the future.

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