Christmas in Singapore for me has always been about going to church/performing in the Christmas nativity play, having a cosy dinner with my family, driving down Orchard Road to view the lights, meeting up with friends and exchanging secret santa gifts. The main focus of course would be around the birth of Jesus and I was never brought up with any other special Christmas traditions otherwise.
However here in Sweden, they have some very special traditions that completes a Swedish Christmas. I do not know the significance or meaning behind any of these traditions but here goes:
1)Lights in all shapes and forms
The winter months here in Sweden are very dark and perhaps that is the reason why there this mini obsession with lights. On the first advent, almost every home would have lights at the window and they would typically come in the form of candle lights (above) or stars or hearts…
I decided to go for a simple star to place at the window because it could be converted into a normal lamp after Christmas (long term thinking!). Plus my neighbours have also added a lot of fairy lights across their balcony so it looks really nice at night.
Swedes would also light a lot of candles around the house and in particular they have 4 advent candles where they would light one candle every Sunday till Christmas. I skipped out on this tradition this year because I would not be in Sweden to light all of them.
2) Christmas everything – drink, cheese, ham, porridge…
I still cannot wrap my head around this but basically they have a lot of Christmas specials – Julmust (Christmas drink), Julost (Christmas cheese), Julskinka (Christmas ham), Julgröt (Christmas porridge)
I do not think there is anything particularly significant behind these Christmas specials and to be honest I cannot tell the difference between Christmas cheese and regular cheese. Perhaps this is the Swedish answer to our Chinese New Year goodies? Once a year specials, haha!
This could possibly be my favourite Christmas special. Unfortunately I do not know why Swedes eat gingerbread cookies during Christmas BUT I do know that these thin gingerbread cookies are SO GOOD.
I am guilty as charged for eating one whole container on my own because they are so addictive. This was also my first time eating different shaped varieties (yes I am a sucker for such things).
4) Julbord aka Christmas Table
Like I mentioned before, they have Christmas everything but I felt like this deserved a special mention on its own because it is not just any table but THE Christmas table.
If you are invited to multiple Julbords then here is what you can expect multiple times – Salmon cooked in many different ways, Herring in all tastes and colour, 10 varieties of ham/sausage/pate minimum, Prinskorv (Prince sausage), Meatballs, Lutfisk (Dried cod), Janssons frestelse (“Jansson’s Temptation” – a potato casserole).
Please do not attempt to be creative with your Julbord or Christmas would not be complete if any of the above are missing. Hahaha okay I am exaggerating but if you ever invited to a julbord, definitely do not turn it down!
4) Glögg and sweets
This may not come as a surprise but sweet loving Swedes must have a good share of candy at Christmas or julgodis (Christmas candy) as they would call it. All the classic Swedish candy brands would release their candy in Christmas related shapes like Christmas trees, Santa etc.
Then of course, there is glögg is a mulled wine that can be alcoholic or non alcoholic. I might have insulted a few Swedes by turning glögg down during my last julbord but basically it is a warm sweet drink that you can add raisins and almonds to. Very good for this cold weather!
I hope this was interesting and if any of you in Singapore would like to sample any of these Christmas treats featured above, please do let me know!
Till the next time!