Christmas Eve arrives
As Christmas Eve arrives, the Swedes have travelled a long way to visit their loved ones and to celebrate Christmas. Every family has its own traditions, but the most important part of the day is usually the impressive Christmas buffet. A Christmas buffet in Swedish Lapland usually features plenty of fish and game. Cured or smoked salmon is a must, together with various kinds of pickled herring, served with home-made bread. The traditional Christmas ham, roasted in the oven, covered in mustard and breadcrumbs and decorated with cloves smells wonderful and it is difficult not to sneak a taste before dinner. The meatballs are there, naturally. How could we celebrate a Swedish Christmas without meatballs served with beetroot salad? It does not end there but continues with pickled-herring salad, the so-called ‘Jansson’s temptation’ with anchovies and potato, sausages, different kinds of smoked meat, potatoes, brawn, kale and so on. A Swedish Christmas buffet is something to experience with all your senses.
Once the food has been relished, sweets are produced and there is no end to the supply of chocolate, toffee, fudge and other incredibly tasty goodies available throughout the evening.
“Merry Christmas, are there any nice children in here?” breaks the silence and once again, children are shown that magic does exist.
At 3 pm on Christmas Eve, something interesting happens in Swedish homes. Families sit down in front of the TV and watch a program called ‘Donald Duck’s Christmas’ together. Yes, you read that right. We spend an hour watching short film sequences from old and new Disney films with a Christmas theme and the highlight is a crazy exotic bird that makes Donald Duck lose his mind. In some homes, this is a virtually sacred tradition and must not be missed. Perhaps it is the parents who value this long-standing ritual, rather than the children. It remains a mystery how we manage to link this Christmas Eve entertainment to our other customs.
Once the food is eaten and evening draws near, the children’s patience begins to run out. When will Father Christmas arrive with all the gifts? Where does he come from? Will he land with his reindeer on the roof? The questions are many and the excitement evident. Suddenly someone shouts that there is a light out there in the darkness. A lantern swinging from side to side at the edge of the forest as someone comes walking towards the house. It is Father Christmas, carrying a sack stuffed with gifts over his shoulder. The bearded man knocks on the door and enters a house that is suddenly silent as if the children are holding their breath with sheer excitement. “Merry Christmas, are there any nice children in here?” breaks the silence and once again, children are shown that magic does exist. Because how else could Father Christmas get to every house in one evening?