A Swedish Christmas Carol

It is 4 PM. It is cold and it is dark but heading home thru my hometown a day before Christmas eve is a pleasant walk. There are plenty of lights in every window and you could see the positive expectations in the faces you meet.

24 hours later most of the Swedes are full, just stopped watching cartoons and are waiting for the Santa to arrive. Eating a huge buffet, watching cartoons and greet Santa are the traditional way of celebrating Christmas.  At 3 o´clock after the buffet most people sit down and watch one hour Disney cartoons. And the older generation has done this since 50 years! 50 years ago I have understanding for this habit, but today when every family can watch cartoons round the clock…I must admit it is a weird tradition. There are only two reasons I can think; 1) people need to lay down in the sofa and digest all the food they just consumed, 2) they are getting tired of their relatives and need a break.

After the cartoons, dad needs to go out and buy the newspaper. As if there was no better think to do on Christmas. Unfortunately he then misses the arrival of Santa.

However the most important tradition takes place before the cartoons and the Santa visit – the julbord. The julbord is a long lived tradition and the main ingredients have not changed over the year. It contains lots of fat fish (herring and salmon), smoked fish and meat and lots of different pork dishes. Therefore it takes an empty stomach to make it through all the delicacies.

Herring de Luxe

Eating a traditional julbord, you should at least eat five different plates;

  1. Different kinds of pickled herring
  2. All other cold fish dishes, such as cured and smoked salmon,
  3. Cold meat such as smoked and salted ham and sausages
  4. Warm meat (Köttbullar, sausages, ribs)
  5. Sweets (chocolate and sweets with traditional Christmas flavouring, ginger, cinnamon, clove).

In our family the focus is on herring. The last couple of years we have made at least 10 different pickled herring each Christmas. We try new tastes each year and this year’s favorites were a tomato and capers herring and ginger, fennel hering.

A julbord without Snaps is like a Italian dinner without wine – not an option. Our traditon is to purchase the special Aquavit Aalborg bring out each year. We are only allowed to drink these Snaps at Christmas and therefore it is hard to empty them. We started this tradition 1996 and so far we have emptied all bottles until 2002. The 2012 edition was one of the best with a nice touch of caraway and dill.

Do you wonder what happens after Santa has left? We bring the best of the Julbord on the table and eat it all over again.

Music: Nu är det jul igen

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