Christmas in Sweden with Kids: A Magical Family Experience


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As someone who has made Sweden their home, I’ve enjoyed experiencing a Christmas quite unlike any other. 

Though I’m not originally from this beautiful country, my children were born here, and it’s important to me that they grow up knowing and loving both Swedish and Venezuelan traditions. 

In this article, we’ll explore everything from the magical ‘julbord’ and the exciting ‘julklapp’ tradition to the experience of celebrating St. Lucia’s Day. Whether you’re in Sweden or halfway across the world, these traditions are a way to add a touch of Swedish charm to your family’s holiday celebrations.

The Build-Up to Christmas in Swedish Style

In Sweden, waiting for Christmas is as fun as the holiday itself! When it gets cold and snowy, Swedish families start getting ready for Christmas. This time of the year is full of unique things to see and do.

Short Days, Long Nights, and Warm Clothes 

In winter, the days in Sweden are short, and the nights are long. This means it gets light late in the morning and dark early in the evening. It’s also icy cold, and sometimes it snows! So, when you’re in Sweden during this time, remember to wear many layers to stay warm.

Advent: Counting Down to Christmas

Advent is the time when Swedish people start getting excited about Christmas. They count down the four Sundays before Christmas Day. Families use an ‘advent calendar’ to mark each day. During the first Sunday of Advent, they also put up an ‘Advent star’ in their windows, which is a big star that lights up. It symbolizes the star of Bethlehem that guided the wise men in the Christmas story.

Advent candles

Another interesting thing in Swedish homes and offices is the ‘Advent candles.’ There’s a special candlestick with seven candles for each day of the week. But the most traditional Advent candles are four in a row. Each Sunday before Christmas, families light one more candle. This tradition came from Germany a long time ago.

St. Lucia’s Day: A Festival of Lights

One of the most exciting days in December in Sweden is December 13th, which is St. Lucia’s Day. On this day, young girls and boys dress up and join in a parade. The girls wear long white dresses with a red sash around their waist. The girl who is chosen to be St. Lucia wears a crown with candles on her head. In the old days, these were real candles, but now they use safer electric ones. The ‘star boys’ in the parade carry stars on sticks and wear tall, pointy hats.

A young child in a striped shirt delights in lighting a traditional Swedish advent candleholder on a windowsill, with the soft glow reflecting on the window, evoking the warm, festive spirit of Christmas in Sweden. Pin
Christmas in Sweden

St. Lucia was a young Christian girl who was born into a wealthy family. It is said that even as a child, she knew she wanted to help people who didn’t have much. 

According to the legend, Lucia was brave and didn’t just do what everyone expected her to. She defied expectations that she would obey and submit, and for that, she was punished. Lucia was strong and stood up for what she thought was right. 

Today, Sweden celebrates Lucia. It’s a big festival of lights where Lucia symbolizes light in the darkness. This day is very important in Sweden, just like Midsummer. It’s a celebration of light and kindness during the dark winter days.

Christmas Fun for Kids in Stockholm

Stockholm becomes a really fun place for families during Christmas. Here are some cool things to see and do with kids:

Skansen: Where Swedish Traditions Come Alive

Skansen is an excellent place to see Swedish Christmas traditions. This outdoor museum shows how Christmas is celebrated all over Sweden. Kids can learn a lot and have fun at the same time. It is open from late November to December.

Gamla Stan Christmas Market: A Place Full of Treats

The Christmas market in Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s old town, is open from November 25th to December 23rd. It’s open every day from 11 AM to 6 PM. It’s the oldest Christmas market in Sweden. You can find Christmas decorations yummy sweets, and pretty candles there. It’s a really festive place to walk around with your family.

Christmas market in Gamla Stan

Stockholmsjul: Streets Full of Lights

Stockholmsjul starts on November 12th. More than 40 streets and squares in central Stockholm are lit up with Christmas lights. It’s beautiful to see and makes for a great family walk in the evening.

Nordiska Kompaniet’s Window Display

In late November, the Nordiska Kompaniet (NK) store unveils its Christmas window display every year. This tradition began in 1902, and the window scenes have a new theme each year. The displays are amusing to look at and are known to make children wonder and smile.

The city offers several Christmas markets that can be worth visiting.

Christmas decorations in Stockholm

Christmas in Sweden: Gothenburg at Christmas

Gothenburg turns into a super fun place for families at Christmas.

Liseberg Christmas Market: A Place Full of Lights

One excellent spot is the Liseberg Christmas Market. It starts in the middle of November and goes until the end of December. If you go in the afternoon, it’s not too crowded, but after 6 PM, lots of people come.

Stay Warm! It’s essential to wear your warmest clothes when you visit the market. Gothenburg gets really cold in winter. So, put on your cozy coats, hats, and gloves to keep warm while you have fun looking around.

Fun with Huskies in Swedish Lapland

Going on a husky sled ride in Swedish Lapland is a super fun and exciting adventure for families.

A couple of years ago, I had the chance to try this husky sled ride in Kiruna, in the far north of Sweden. It was fantastic! We zoomed across the snowy landscape, pulled by a team of energetic huskies. The whole experience felt like being in a magical winter world. I can’t wait to do it again when my kids are older.

A Warm Stop in a Sami Tent 

In the middle of the sled adventure, there’s a cozy break in a Sami yurt. It’s a special kind of tent where you can warm up with a hot drink. The Sami are the local people of Lapland, and visiting the yurt is a great way to learn about their culture.

Hoping to See the Northern Lights Next Time 

When I go back with my kids, I’m really hoping we’ll also see the Northern Lights. Imagine watching those beautiful lights dancing in the sky while on a husky sled ride! It would be magical and a perfect addition to this exciting adventure.

Best for Bigger Kids 

This activity is especially great for families with older children. It’s a bit chilly and bumpy for the little ones, but big kids will find it thrilling. So, if you have older kids, they’re in for an unforgettable ride!

Fun Swedish Christmas Traditions for Kids

In Sweden, Christmas has fun traditions that make it exciting for kids.

The Joy of the Julgran

In Sweden, the Christmas tree, or ‘julgran,’ is a special part of the holiday celebrations. The tradition of having a Christmas tree indoors began in Sweden in the 18th century, influenced by German customs. Christmas trees in Sweden used to be decorated with natural items like apples, saffron pretzels, and wax candles.

Today, when Swedes decorate their Christmas trees, they often choose natural and rustic decorations. You won’t find anything too flashy or loud on a Swedish Christmas tree. Instead, the decorations are simple and beautiful, adding to the cozy and warm feeling of the holiday season.

The tree is taken down around St. Knut’s Day, January 13th, which marks the end of the Christmas season in Sweden.

The Gävle goat

A Tree Full of History and Meaning

Historically, trees have been symbols of rebirth and eternal life in many cultures. Among pre-Christian Germanic and Scandinavian tribes, firs were important in celebrating the winter solstice at the end of December. They saw these trees as a sign of the returning light and life during the darkest time of the year.

Julbord: A Big Christmas Buffet

The Swedish ‘julbord’ is a big buffet during the Christmas holiday. It has many different foods like meat, fish, cheese, and bread. Kids can try many different kinds of tasty foods, making mealtime fun and exciting.

Julmust: The Special Christmas Soda

A favorite drink in Sweden during Christmas is ‘julmust.’ This soft drink is sweet and fizzy, a bit like cola and root beer mixed together. Kids love its unique taste, and it’s a popular choice during the Christmas season.

Julklapp: Christmas Presents

Julklapp is the Swedish word for Christmas present. The word comes from ‘Jul’ which means Christmas and ‘Klapp’, meaning knock or tap. In the past, people used to knock on someone’s door on Christmas Eve and leave a straw or wooden present as a joke. They would quickly hide after doing this. 

Christmas Eve in Sweden: A Day Full of Joy and Traditions for Families

Christmas in Sweden is unique. The main festivities take place on December 24th, not in the morning like in many other places.

A Day Packed with Celebrations

On Christmas Eve, Swedish families do lots of exciting things. They all get together, give each other presents, eat a big meal with lots of different foods, and have a great time. It’s a day when everyone feels happy and enjoys being together.

Watching Donald Duck at 3:00 PM

There’s a fun thing that almost every family in Sweden does on Christmas Eve. At 3:00 in the afternoon, they watch a TV show with Donald Duck. Everyone, from kids to grandparents, looks forward to this unique tradition.

Santa Comes During the Day

In Sweden, Santa, called ‘jultomten,’ comes to visit on Christmas Eve, not at night. Sometimes, a family member pretends to go out to get the newspaper. But actually, they dress up as Santa to surprise the kids. 

Swedish Christmas Cuisine: Tasty Treats for the whole family

Swedish Christmas food is full of delicious and fun dishes for kids to try. From the big ‘julbord’ buffet to gingerbread cookies, there’s something for every taste.

Lussekatter: A Saffron Treat

A special treat in Sweden is the ‘Lussekatt,’ a traditional saffron bun. These buns are made with sweet wheat dough flavored with saffron and dotted with raisins. 

People eat them on St. Lucia’s Day and throughout the Christmas season with ‘glögg’ and gingerbread biscuits. Kids love their bright color and sweet taste.

Julbord: A Buffet Full of Yummy Foods

The ‘julbord’ is a big buffet with lots of tasty dishes. It’s usually eaten at lunchtime on Christmas. One of the important parts of the julbord is cold fish. You can enjoy herring in various ways, along with gravlax, which is salmon cured with sugar, salt, and dill. Smoked salmon is also available. Kids might find it fun to try these different fish flavors.

Besides fish, there are also other cold meats such as turkey, roast beef, and ‘julskinka’ (a special Christmas ham). You can also find cheeses, liver pate, salads, pickles, and different types of bread and spreads.

For hot foods, there are meatballs, ‘prinskorv’ (small sausages), ‘kåldolmar’ (meat-stuffed cabbage rolls), jellied pigs’ feet, lutfisk (a type of dried cod with a thick white sauce), and ‘revbenspjäll’ (oven-roasted pork ribs).

There are also vegetables like potatoes and red cabbage. A special potato dish is ‘Janssons Frestelse’ (potatoes layered with cream, onion, and small fish, baked until golden brown). Another fun dish is ‘dopp i grytan,’ where you dip bread in the tasty broth left from boiling the ham.


Building Gingerbread Houses

Another fun activity is making gingerbread houses, or ‘pepparkakshus’. Families gather to create and decorate these small houses with icing and candy. It’s an excellent way for kids to be creative and enjoy sweet treats.

Risgrynsgröt: A Cozy Christmas Treat

‘Risgrynsgröt,’ or rice pudding, is a cozy dish that Swedes love to eat during Christmas. It’s usually part of the julbord and is often sprinkled with cinnamon. Though you can have it any time of the year, it’s a special treat at Christmas.

There’s a fun tradition associated with this rice pudding: an almond is hidden inside the porridge. During this playful part of the meal, everyone tries to find the almond in their serving. And don’t forget to leave out a portion of risgrynsgröt for the ‘tomte’.

Interactive Learning: Swedish Christmas Vocabulary for Kids

  • God Jul – “Merry Christmas”
  • Julklapp – “Christmas present”
  • Lussekatt – A traditional saffron bun
  • Julbord – “Christmas table/buffet”
  • Glögg – A warm spiced drink, similar to mulled wine
  • Jultomten – “Santa Claus”
  • Snögubbe – “Snowman”
  • Julgran – “Christmas tree”
  • Julstjärna – “Christmas star”
  • Pepparkaka – “Gingerbread cookie”

If you’re traveling to Stockholm, here are some posts that you should check out as well:

Photo of author

Astrid Chacon

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