With the festive season around the corner, and knowing that, whatever happens, it’ll be a little different this year, check out a few Swedish traditions that might encourage us to embrace change.
Usually this time of year our calendars are brimming with social engagements and we’re trying to juggle those with busy work schedules, Christmas shopping and preparations. It’s easy to get stressed and worried about keeping on top of everything, as well as keeping spending down, but this year there’s an opportunity to take a step back. Maybe we can look at it as a chance to find that elusive balance between work and play.
When it comes to minimalist design, coffee breaks and work-life balance, the Swedes just seem to do it better. Just as we borrow Swedish space-saving ideas from IKEA, why not adopt a few of their Christmas customs and ideas to start some new family traditions this December.
7 Swedish Traditions we can ‘Borrow’
- Advent Candles. Christmas in Sweden is all about building anticipation. Swedes embrace the idea that waiting and preparing is half the fun. Four Sundays before Christmas, on Advent Sunday, they light the first of four candles to start the holiday countdown. Then, every Sunday on the lead up to Christmas, an additional candle is lit so that by Christmas you have a line of candles going down in height. An alternative to this would be to have an advent candle on your dinner table and light it at each evening meal on the lead up to Christmas Day - the excitement increases as the candle decreases!
Keeping Everyone Safe: Remember to keep a close eye on your little ones when candles are lit and to always fully extinguish.
- Gingerbread and Mulled Wine. While enjoying the candle through Advent, Swedes also enjoy eating pepparkakor, which is gingerbread, often in the shape of a heart, but sometimes also moose-shaped! Cafes and shops in Sweden serve these with coffee, but at home, adults will wash these down with Glögg, which is a strong, hot mulled wine with almonds and raisins in it. Why not find a recipe for these and give them a try!
- Subtle Decorations. It can be very tempting to go over-board with our loud and proud Christmas decs and lights, but it is it really necessary? In classic Scandi-style, Swedes keep their decorations classic and rustic. Let’s face it, all these decorations aren’t cheap to buy and they sit in boxes for the majority of the year! (And that’s without mentioning the increased electricity bill…) Maybe this year try a ‘less is more’ approach and avoid the temptation of competing with next door over who has the ‘flashiest’ lights!
- Presents Wrapped with a Rhyme. Forget shop-bought tags, instead, the giver will often attach a funny poem or limerick to the gift that hints at what’s inside. This might also help to slow the present-opening down slightly, with everyone trying to ‘crack the code’ and guess their gift!
- Re-watch or Re-read Christmas Favourites. Every Christmas Eve at 3pm, Swedes gather around the TV to watch the same ‘Donald Duck’s Christmas’ Disney cartoon from the 1950s. And it’s not just the children who do this, even the grown-ups join in - unbelievable, but true! What would you choose to be your regular Christmas show or movie? If TV isn’t your thing, or your children are a bit young to sit through a movie, why not choose a Christmas book instead like Stickman for example, something your children will enjoy listening to or reading on Christmas Eve year after year - a tradition they could even pass down to their own children one day!
- Christmas Day on the 24th ‘Buffet-Style’. For Swedes, Christmas day is the 24th and rather than having a set lunch with turkey as we traditionally do; they have a smorgasbord or julbord – a Scandinavian feast or banquet where traditional Christmas food, such as meatballs, smoked salmon, pickled herring and home baked ‘Christmas ham’, are served in the form of a buffet. Although you may not be ready to swap that Christmas turkey dinner for a buffet yet, it is something to consider for those after Christmas meals instead - a Boxing Day Buffet, for example - perfect for eating up all those left-overs and hopefully offering something for even those ‘fussy’ eaters!
- Follow the Swedish concept of “lagom”, which is translated as 'just the right amount'. During this season so many of us are guilty of putting pressure on ourselves to make it the ‘perfect’ Christmas, this year, let’s try instead for ‘just right’. Let’s stop trying to be the perfect parent and providing the perfect Christmas and aim instead for it being ‘just right’.
Without a packed social calendar, there’s a chance to embrace a slower pace this Christmas. It’s a good opportunity to avoid doing everything in excess and scale it back a bit. Whether you choose to be mindful of spend, avoid overindulging, or embrace lagom to the full by keeping it simple and trying to keep your home uncluttered, it’ll help to focus on creating a warm, cosy and relaxing home environment to unwind and enjoy a peaceful, if different, Christmas.