Sunday, 23 December 2012

The Difference between Swedish and English Christmas

Normally I get the best (or worst!) of both English and Swedish Christmas. Usually I spend most of December in England and get to eat mince pies and drink mulled wine until I'm fed up with it. Then I go to Sweden just in time for Christmas to enjoy gingerbread snaps and "glögg" (The Swedish version of mulled wine served with raisins and almonds).

This year I've been in Sweden for the whole month and therefore I've missed out on all the English Christmas parties. To me it seems like the English Christmas is louder and merrier especially with the crackers and silly little hats. Swedish Christmas feels quieter and more holy. Already on the 13th we get a bit of holiness through Lucia, people dressing up in white,  putting candles in their hair and singing carols.*

I'm not going to talk much about the food as I'm a vegetarian and both Swedish and English Christmas is very meat based, but to simplify it: Swedes eat ham and the English eat turkey (and perhaps roasted swede, but parsnip is more likely!). In England people usually get a plate with all the food while people in Sweden help themselves from a buffé known as a smörgåsbord.

Maybe the biggest difference is that Swedish Christmas is celebrated on Christmas Eve, and Santa knocks on the door and enters the house to deliver the presents. (In the picture last year's Santa knocks on the window.) In England Christmas is celebrated on Christmas Day and Santa usually leaves the presents in a stocking.

So what do I prefer?
Mince pies or gingerbread snaps (pepparkakor)?
Mulled wine or glögg?
Merry or holy?
Xmas Eve or Xmas Day?
Santa himself or a stocking?

The answer is of course ... I want all of it! I want a Swenglish Christmas
and therefore I got my brother to buy crackers from The English Shop in Stockholm.


*I'm aware that I'm generalising and what I'm writing is just personal observation. There are some Swedes that get very merry indeed after a few "snaps" (shots of spiced vodka). And there are some English people that have holy nights too.


  1. Santa knocks on the door and enters the house to deliver the presents. (In the picture last year's Santa knocks on the window.)
    Did it really happen in Sweden ? I thought all the parents just put the presents under the Xmas tree on 23th of Dec in the evening after kids falling asleep... at least, I did that every the way, I am a Chinese living in Stockholm and my kids were born in Sweden so I try my best to fullfill their fantasy about Santa... I have lived here for 10 years and I do not have any Swedish friends but I do have many Swedish colleagues but I never checked the details about Xmas with them....

  2. Hello, yes it's quite common that Santa enters the house to deliver the presents in Sweden. Usually the parents have given him the presents beforehand and have labelled them with the names of the kids (and some adults!). Santa reads out the names. Santa can be your dad or uncle dressing up, but some people ask their neighbour and in some places you can even hire a Santa :).