Tag Archives: Swedish

Swedish Passing of the Jug


For this ritual, the participants form a circle and pass a jar of an alcoholic beverage all the way around until everyone has drunk. At each passing of the jug, they say this to each other (person one starts holding the jug).

Person 1: Per Mattsa!

Person 2: Vud vill du?

Person 1: Jag vill dricka.

Person 2: Så dricka då

Person 1: Per Mattsa!

Person 2: Vad vill du?

Person 1: Hur smakte det? 

Person 2: Känn På!


Person 1: Greetings

Person 2: What do you want?

Person 1: I want to drink.

Person 2: So – drink

Person 1: What do you want?

Person 2: How did it taste?

Person 1: You taste it.


The informant is part of a Swedish-American family and does this tradition on a yearly basis at Christmas time.


This tradition has its roots deep in Swedish Viking tradition according to the informant. They claim it was used to prove whether or not it was poisoned as everyone had to drink it. Another variation of the story is that it was used by royalty and the king was the last one to drink and so he would know that it was safe by the time it got to him. Either way, this tradition is a form of showing unity among the group who is partaking in it at a time of year when this is important to them. Despite having its roots in the Viking tradition it is been adapted to being done at Christmas, like many other pagan traditions when the Catholic church pushed to Christianize pagan traditions. Although now it is not done to show the liquid is not poison, the sharing indicates that all are willing to share the same jar. Like many traditions it gets adapted from its original form, keeping the same outline but now being used in a different setting, all the while helping those involved retain a sense of their heritage.

Swedish-American Christmas Foods


On Christmas Eve the foods are based on the Viking traditional foods in Sweden : 

  • Cold First course: 
    • Beet salad with beets, pickles, herring 
    • Herring 
    • Rye or hard bread with butter and cheese 
  • Warm second course 
    • Ham with mustard 
    • Julienne potatoes with cream and anchovies 
    • Meatballs 
    • Sausages 
    • Cabbage 
  • Dessert
    • Cookies with cream and berries 

Then on Christmas day aside from the leftovers, the foods are based on Christianised Swedish foods:

  • We have leftovers from Christmas Eve for the first course
  • Second course
    • Lutefisk or another more mild white fish 
    • Boiled potatoes 
    • Peas 
    • Bechamel sauce 
  • Dessert
    • Rice porridge with milk, sugar, and cinnamon 
    • Put a peeled almond in the porridge (so it is the same color) and everyone takes it without looking
    • Then we say poems around the table while eating and the person who gets to almond has to pretend like they don’t have it and everyone guesses who got the almond
    • Whoever gets the almond gets a little almond gift 


The informant is the granddaughter of a Swedish immigrant and these are the traditional foods eaten on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day for dinner.


The informant’s family is Swedish-American and therefore mixes some American traditions in with the Swedish but relies heavily on the Swedish ones for the majority of what they do. Eating these foods although difficult to get and not always the favorite of the American guests allows for the family to retain part of their identity that they find important. They make an annual summer trip to Sweden and would like to eventually spend Christmas there as well as there are more Christmas traditions that they cannot do as they are not in the right location. Because of this, they do the ones they can which include the food they eat. Retaining the pre-Christian Viking food as well indicates a sense of pride in their heritage and brings them together. Keeping the traditions also helps add a sense of family and fosters an atmosphere of community. The family is very close as a result and all of them meet for all major holidays. The traditions bring them together and give clear boundaries of who is considered family and who is not, as it is a big deal to be invited to partake in the traditions.

Wedding Crown



This crown was made for the informant’s mother out of a bracelet her grandmother wore on her wedding day. The mother of the informant is Swedish and the crown was made by the same jeweler that makes the Swedish Royal Family’s jewelry. It gets passed down from the oldest daughter to the oldest daughter but can be worn by any of the grandchildren that wish to wear it. It is seen as a form of good luck as every bride that has worn it has remained with their husband their entire life.


This item not only serves as a wedding ritual item but also as a good luck charm. Weddings of course are times of transition and change, therefore it makes sense that an item of good luck would be used. In many situations, as discussed in the lecture, where there is luck involved or there is no control over what will happen there are often good luck charms. Weddings are one of the three biggest milestones in life and the only one we are conscious of adding to the importance to us of the occasion. The symbol of the crown, made by the jeweler who makes royal jewelry could also indicate that on this day the person who wears it is above all else, royalty in their own right. It emphasizes the importance of the day and what is happening. Similar to a coronation the crown is only worn at special occasions.

Swedish-American Happy Birthday


This tradition involves bringing in a Swedish apple cake with candles on it to the birthday person and waking them up with first the American Happy Birthday song:

Happy birthday to you

Happy birthday to you

Happy birthday dear  [the name of the person]

Happy birthday to you

Followed by the Swedish Happy birthday song:


Ja må hon leva! 

Ja, må hon leva! 

Ja, må han leva! 

Ja, må hon leva uti hundrade år! 

Javisst ska hon leva! 

Javisst ska hon leva! 

Javisst ska hon leva uti hundrade år! 

Ett fyrfaldigt leve för [the name of the person], hon leve, 

hurra, hurra, hurra, hurra!


Yes, may he (she) live!

Yes, may he (she) live!

Yes, may he (she) live for a hundred years!

Of course, he (she) will live,

Of course, he (she) will live,

Of course, he (she) will live for a hundred years!

Hooray, hooray, hooray, hooray!

If any of the candles are not blown out that is the number of new partners that person will have in the next year of their life.


The informant is the daughter of a Swedish immigrant who came to the US for college and ended up staying here and marrying an American. This tradition is done at every birthday by all people present.


For me, this indicates the merging of cultures, Swedish and American. As neither one wants to let their culture go the traditions are combined to form a new one. The Swedish song is very common throughout Sweden and is not unique to the family, however, combining the two songs is something only done by the half Swedish half American side of the family. In addition, the Swedish apple cake with candles on it was part of the Swedish tradition as well as the idea of the number of remaining lit candles correlated with the new partners. The reason for the keeping of these traditions is to preserve a sense of identity and culture. All of the grandchildren participate very strongly in all of the traditions and are proud of their Swedish heritage. Even when new people like significant others join the family it is very important to keep these traditions, although the addition of the American Birthday song may also be there to soften the entry.

Swedish Garden Game – Kubb


Interviewer – Tell me about Kubb.
LN – Um, kubb is a Scandinavian game that you generally would play outside on a small field of grass, with, in my experience, friends, at some sort of, like, spring or family get-together when the weather is nice.
Interviewer – Ok, um, how do you set it up, and what are the pieces that you have?
LN – So the players split into two teams, each team has five blocks, which are about a foot tall, and the blocks represent their army. Their army gets lined up on opposite ends of the field, so one army against the other. And in the middle of the playing field there’s a taller block, representing the king, which the players are trying to knock down or kill.
Interviewer – Do you, how do you kill the king, and do you try to kill the king first, or do you kill the armies, or does it matter what order?
LN – Um, so the starting team gets a set of six sticks, which are used to knock down first the blocks of the other team’s army, before they can knock down the king pin.
Interviewer – What happens if you knock down the king pin first?
LN – If a team knocks down the king pin before knocking down all of the other team’s blocks then the team that knocks down the king loses.
Interviewer – Okay. And do you just, or what happens if you run out of sticks and you haven’t knocked down all of the army?
LN – Then the sticks are transferred to the other team, and the second team has to collect the blocks, their blocks that had fallen. Those blocks get thrown on the field between the king and the opposing army.
Interviewer – And what happens then with those?
LN – Those blocks are then stood up and the second team needs to knock down those blocks before they can hit— before they can knock down the opposing team’s blocks.
Interviewer – Okay, So they have to hit, so then the second team has to hit the extra blocks, and then the regular army, and then the king.
LN – Correct.
Interviewer – So they end up just building up more and more things that they have to hit.
LN – Right
Interviewer – And then, if they don’t hit all of the blocks then…
LN – Then it’s just the other team’s turn.
Interviewer – And they, um, do they have to hit the whole army of five all over again? On the other side’s team. Or do they continue with whatever was left of the last round?
LN – They continue with the remaining blocks, so they only have to knock down the ones that they didn’t— that they missed before.
Interviewer – So then, you said, they knock down the armies, and then you go for the king? And that’s game over, you win?
LN – Yes.
Interviewer – Is it something you play once and put it away or do you play multiple times in a row when you take it out? Like is it a long or short game?
LN – The rounds are short so you can play a whole bunch of rounds.
Interviewer – Do you really like this game? Has this stuck in your head since you first learned it?
LN – Ya, it’s a lot of fun. I learned it when I was about thirteen, so 11 years ago. And, um, I learned how to play it when I was—when my family was visiting friends in Sweden, with our family friends at a picnic during the summertime. Um, so, when we came back home, we were actually able to find a set of kubb blocks, and so we have a set at our house that we play with, with friends in the summer.
Interviewer – So is this something that people usually buy, or is it traditionally handmade, do you know?
LN – Um, I would think handmade. They’re just pretty crude, like, blocks. They’re like, what, 3×3 inches by 8-12 inches or whatever? Something like that. And the king pin only has a few extra lines to set it apart.
Interviewer – Is this game usually played by kids? You said you learned it when you were 13, so that’s pretty young. Is it usually just a kids game?
LN – Um… no? I would say it’s a game played by everyone. But it’s—it has simple rules so kids can learn from a pretty young age.
Interviewer – Cool.
LN – It’s not all that complicated, but I don’t have a ton of background knowledge on it.
Interviewer – But your impression is its a really old game that’s been played for a long time? By… Scandinavians…?
LN – Ya. It’s a classic game and it seems to be widespread in Sweden, if not Scandinavia.


The game reminds me of other yard games like corn hole, or throwing horse shoes. They are all seasonal because they are played outside and rely on decent weather, and involve tossing objects with as much accuracy as a person can muster. Kubb seems to have more of a history or a narrative attached to it, because there is a king piece and army pieces, and you have to “kill” the other team’s army. I’ve never heard of corn hole or horse shoes having a narrative. The informant has taught other people—mainly their friends—how to play it, even though their friends have never been to Sweden. Kubb does not seem to be very widespread where the informant lives (USA East Coast), because they have never met anyone else outside of their family who was familiar with the game. It’s a competitive game, but also pretty chill, so it is fun to play while having a conversation with friends on both sides of the field, just enjoying a nice day.