Hi everyone ! I have been off for a few weeks now – I was back in France for Christmas.
First of all happy new year to you.
Second, I must confess one thing: the picture I used at the top of my article does not reflect at all the atmosphere here, in Linköping. I must admit that I am a little disappointed: I was convinced that I would come back under snow falls and extremely low temperatures, but I did not. In Linköping it is still pretty warm (2°C) and no snow on the horizon… Meanwhile, in the north of Sweden snow has been falling like crazy, entailing huge electricity blackouts and storms all over the place. My phone’s weather forecast is telling me it should be coming soon, but at that point I don’t know if I should believe it.
Anyway I had a very good time celebrating Christmas with my family and spend an amazing New Year’s Eve with my best friend in Brussels. Plus, in December I had time to enjoy the all-christmassy atmosphere in Sweden, and I loved it ! I am going to tell you why.
Swedes go crazy on traditions
In France we have a few traditions that keep existing for Christmas, such as the advent calendar or the Christmas tree decorated in gold and red – or blue and silver, depending on tastes. But here, in Sweden, Christmas traditions exist on a whole other level.
First, they organise a big celebration on the first week-end of December to light the streets. In Linköping the event was called “Vinterstad i Ljus” (The winter city enlightened). Concerts, speeches, videos… the city center was full of people waiting for the lights to shine in the night – it was 4pm.
Starting from there, each Sunday before Christmas is an advent Sunday. Swedes usually have a set of four candles, destined to be lighted one Sunday after the other. And while you light them, you must say a short poetic line, which almost sounds like a witch incantation. You can see the candles my Swedish housemate handcrafted herself on the picture below – the fourth one is missing, but don’t worry we made it on time.
On the second advent, my housemates and I were also invited to an “advents fika” at our neighbors’ house, to share pastries and coffee in a very warm atmosphere.
Of course in France, we have a lot of Christmas markets. But I think it is nothing compared to the ones you can find in Sweden. Here in Linköping, the main one is settled in Gamla Linköping (the old town). It is very traditional and you have a wide range of corners where you can buy woolen gloves, hot wine (glögg) and biscuits (peppar kakor).
It’s only organized two week-ends in December, but it’s worth blocking one afternoon in your schedule to enjoy the Swedish Christmas atmosphere !
Food & drinks
I told you in the previous section about glögg and peppar kakor. These two are the main reasons I love Christmas here. But what are they exactly? Glögg is a wine you can buy light in the supermarket (2% of alcohol) or strong in Systembolaget* (up to 14% of alcohol). You usually warm it up in a pot and put some almonds and other dry fruits in it to give it a nice sweet taste.
Peppar kakor are ginger biscuits, Swedes eat all the time during Christmas. You can bake them – I did not – or buy them in the supermarket. They usually have some meaningful shapes, such as hearts. Then you can also decorate them with a special paste you can also buy in the supermarket.
Finally, I strongly recommend to organize Christmas dinners with your friends. I organized one with my housemates, where we all cooked and baked traditional dishes from our home country and we had a really good night!
* Systembolaget is the state shop where you can buy strong alcohol (over 3%), I will write about it in a later post.