Swedish Christmas Traditions: A Celebration Rooted in Culture

December 10, 2023

Swedish Christmas Traditions: A Celebration Rooted in Culture

Christmas is a wondrous time of year in many places around the world, but there is something extra special to us about Christmas in Sweden. Swedish Christmas traditions are a beautiful blend of ancient customs and modern celebrations. You may not be in Sweden this Christmas, but that doesn’t mean you can’t embrace the festive traditions, from the mouth-watering Swedish feast, to decorating the Christmas tree. A Swedish Christmas is a truly magical one, exemplifying the spirit of love, generosity and unity.


Advent Celebrations

Advent celebrations have become as much a part of Christmas tradition as the Christmas feast. In Sweden, the Christmas countdown begins with the celebration of Advent. Every Sunday on the lead up to Christmas, families light a candle on the Advent wreath to mark the passing weeks. The daily opening of Advent calendars provides an exciting treat for children, revealing small gifts for each day of December.

Saint Lucia's Day

One of the most significant events of the Christmas period is the celebration of St Lucia’s Day which can be traced back to the 4th century. It commemorates the martyr, Lucia of Syracuse, who was said to have provided food to Christians hiding in Roman catacombs. She would light her way by wearing a candlelit wreath on her head, and as such, became known as the bearer of light and Swedish treats.

This historic custom takes part on December 13th where processions of singing characters dressed in white gowns and carrying candles are led by Lucia herself, wearing a candlelit lingonberry crown. This beautiful spectacle is played out on national TV, in schools, churches and towns around the country.


Photo by lasse bergqvist

Decorating the Christmas Tree

Decorating a Christmas tree is popular the world over, and Sweden is no different. Unlike the maximalist style, the Swedish Christmas tree is minimal in design. Hung with simple, natural decorations such as straw figurines, dried fruit, wooden ornaments and twinkling candles – although real candles were traditionally used, electric candles are the safer option!



No Christmas celebration is complete without food – and the cherished Swedish tradition of the Julbord Christmas buffet is one of the most delicious. It is an abundant spread of delectable dishes including herring, meatballs, gravlax and lutfisk, accompanied by a plethora of bread, cheeses and seasonal salads. If you have any room left after devouring the Julbord, the desserts are waiting! Creamy rice pudding, almond sponglets, fruit cake and gingerbread cookies await.

Santa Lucia and Tomte

In addition to Santa Claus, Sweden also has its own gift-giving characters. Santa Lucia is often portrayed as a young woman with a crown of candles, as mentioned earlier. Tomte however is a mythical creature similar to a sprite or elf and is believed to protect homes and farms. On Christmas Eve, it is customary for families to leave a bowl of porridge for Tomte as a gesture of gratitude.

Dancing Around the Christmas Tree

Much like other Swedish traditions, the importance of gathering with family and friends is a huge part of Swedish Christmas celebrations. One of the most joyful of these celebrations is dancing around the Christmas tree. Everyone holds hands whilst dancing and singing. What could be more festive than that?!