Swedish Christmas Traditions

[E]: During Christmas we have a bunch of Swedish traditions…we eat a lot of food…i’m not gonna say the food is great, it’s more traditional food. It’s fish, peas, potatoes, it’s very…you know…viking. But we do this celebration before we end up opening presents which is always on Christmas Eve and we all hold hands and the person in the front, who’s usually the oldest person in my family so it’s always my grandmother, we all hold hands in a line and sing this song and dance around the house and we go into every single room in the entire house singing this song. It’s basically just talking about how it’s a new year and we’re ridding the house of any negative spirits from the year before or any negative auras, like saying a room but everyone’s in there and we’re all singing together. So then we go back to the kitchen and we wrap around this island in the kitchen and we pass around this big…what’s it called…pitcher of beer and you pass it around to every person next to you and they do that in Sweden to make sure that nobody poisoned the beer because that would be the beer that they’d drink from for the whole night. You say these things, it’s a bunch of Swedish words that mean “can I drink this? Yes you can drink this! Cheers” and cheers is skol.

E is a 20 year old college student who grew up in Pasadena, CA and has grown up visiting her family in Sweden often. She is also very close to her grandmother, who was born and raised in Sweden and who has passed a lot of knowledge down to E.

Based on this interview, it’s easy to see that these Swedish Christmas traditions are deeply tied to Swedish history, ideals, and customs. E refers to the traditional Christmas food as “viking,” indicating that she sees a direct connection between Sweden’s long history and the present. The ritual of going through each room of the house while singing represents a belief in the importance of cleansing and renewal, and the idea of starting the new year with a clean slate. I’d be interested in further exploring what E meant when she talked about “negative spirits,” specifically whether or not she actually believes that there are metaphysical spirits or if that’s just the tradition that’s been passed down. Additionally, the act of passing the pitcher around to make sure that no one has poisoned the beer shows a level of trust and community spirit, as well as a wariness of potential dangers—likely established over a long period of time, when people used to be legitimately poisoned at such gatherings. All in all, these Christmas traditions show that modern Swedish customs and celebrations are very connected to the physical and cultural history of the nation and its people.