Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Childhood Christmas in Sweden, Part 4

Julotta and Julgransplundring

After a long day of Christmas Eve celebrations, many Swedes get up very early to go to the Christmas Day early morning service, julottan. The church in our community outside Stockholm was small, white-washed, with a spire. It was set on a small hill in the older part of the community and it was a lovely little church. I don't believe I ever attended a julotta there as a child. I went when I was older and only have vague memories of the service. Isn't it interesting how I remember everything so clearly from when I was smaller and then memories seem to fade away?

I hope you can imagine this as I'm imagining it: On the farms the sleighs were cleaned and polished, sleigh bells were put on the harness, the horse was curried, his tail and mane  brushed and dressed with red ribbons. Around four in the morning, the farmer's family woke up, got dressed, had something warm to eat and drink before they ventured out in the dark and cold early morning hour. There would be plenty of snow, of course, so off they went with sleigh bells ringing, wrapped warmly in their sheepskins in the back of the sleigh, the horse trotting happily through the snow. It was a tradition that all animals on the farm got a special treat for Christmas and the horse had munched on his earlier and was in good spirits.

Their pretty little country church was ablaze with live candles and colorful Christmas decorations. The congregation sang one of the most beautiful hymns I know, called Var halsad skona morgonstund, and listened to the traditional Christmas Day service. After the service, I'm sure they went home and ate and drank some more.

Something I do remember from my childhood was the parties where children go to each other's homes and plunder the Christmas tree, called julgransplundring. Twelfth Night (Epiphany), is called trettondags jul in Swedish, and is observed as a holiday there on January 6. Between  this day and something called 20-day Knut we would be invited to these parties. (Each day in the Swedish calendar has a name assigned and the names day of Knut falls 20 days after Christmas -- sorry if I'm not very clear here -- I'm not even very sure, but I think this is how it is.)  In Sweden, 20-day Knut is the formal end of the Christmas holiday season. Upon our arrival at our friend's home we would find the Christmas tree dressed anew with fresh candies and cookies. There was something called, I think, smaellkarameller, a sort of tube with candies inside, wrapped in silk paper with sort of frilly ends that hung in the tree. You pulled something and it went "bang" and all the candy would fall out. Anyway, we danced around the tree, something called ring dance, ate, played games, and then set about robbing the tree of all the goodies. When the tree was empty, we would drag it outside and put it in the yard for the grownups to dispose of. And then we went home, happy with our loot of candies, cookies, nuts and a fruit or two in our goodies bags. Looking back, I think it was a lovely way for a child to say goodbye to Christmas on a high note.  

Since I have no pictures of a Swedish Christmas, I've inserted a few from this morning. Yesterday's horrible weather must have made a turn for the better during the night because we woke up to some snow and sun this morning. The dogs have been outside, having a ball in the snow. Soldier and I went for a walk up the hill earlier and he was delirious with joy. Its very cold and a perfect winter's day for me.


  1. You do have such vivid memories and describe them well so we can picture them. I love how the kids mob the tree. What a great tradition! The sleigh bells and horses and treats all bring sights and sounds to mind. :)

  2. texwisgirl: Thank you, I have enjoyed trying to remember and describe Christmas as it was for me as a child.

  3. Oh, Ingred! I could see and hear the sleighs adorned with their bells gliding through the cold Swedish air! I loved it!!! Thanks!

  4. My favorite....sleigh bells and horses!
    So glad you have these's wonderful you're sharing them too:)
    You should write a book to hold on to traditions!!

  5. Yes, I can envision the sleigh and the ride to church - perfect! As far as waiting 20 days to get rid of the tree - I don't believe I could wait that long! Of course, back then you didn't have tv commercials pummeling you since September and making a person sick of Christmas, before it got here. I think the old ways were a lot better!

  6. I think that the 20-Day Knut party is a wonderful idea. It prolongs the holiday period for the kids during a period of time when it is probably quite dark and snowy in Sweden.

    One of my fondest, and in a way, saddest, memories is of the church I went to as a child. It was an old church, and the congregation decided that they needed to renovate. I went to the last Midnight service held in the old sanctuary. Somehow, it seemed to me that spirits of all the people who had gone to that church were there that night, to celebrate one last Christmas in the sanctuary that they had known.

    Glad to see that you got some snow, so that the dogs could go outside.

  7. Jeff: I'm so glad you liked my Christmas memories.

    Dawn: Thanks, b/c I feel a bit insecure about this kind of writing. I am a technical writer, but that's different.

    Sharon: Don't forget, our tree went up on December 23rd, not the day after Thanksgiving like it so often does here and now. So we kept it a shorter period of time.

    Louise: Old churches are so special, I think.

  8. Again an interesting post of your childhood memories in Sweden. We have yet to get snow here in my part of the country. Can't wait.

  9. Inger, isn't that a coincidence? I remember getting small treats too...popcorn balls and candies and only one present. I'm glad you walked today...I did too!...:)JP

  10. Inger,
    How lovely! I have so enjoyed learning aobut your past Christmas, as well as traditions and cultures. It has been fun! I like the tradition at the end when you all drag the tree outside and then go home and eat cookies...sounds like a great send-off!
    Happy New Year, Inger!

  11. Christine: We had snow in November then it got unseasonably warm here. It's freezinf cold out now.

    JP: I realize now what a nice tradition this was for the kids.

    Tracy: I like the send-off too. I'm sure we didn't mind that the holidays were over.

  12. I just loved reading about Christmas in Sweden. Thank you for sharing it with us.
    Sleigh bells! Sleighs! Horses with red ribbons! What a sight that must have been.

  13. I thought of you the other day. I was at IKEA and I could not resist getting a cone of Pepparkakskola , Gingerbread toffee.

    I love making caramel and my brother had suggested trying some chili flavoring. My mind instantly went to ginger instead.

    The gingerbread toffee certainly gives me a flavor idea.

    Thank you, as always , for your lovely stories.

  14. What wonderful, happy, memories. I felt like I was there... enjoying the fun. Thanks for sharing these special memories.

  15. Inger I have waited to read your post this evening when I had some time and could really take the time to enjoy and imagine your words. I'm so glad I did. What beautiful memories you have...They feel like they are right out of a story book...Thank-you again for sharing them with all of us.

  16. What fun that would be to be in that sleigh with the bells jingling... And I can almost picture the little church you described.

    What great memories you have Inger. :) Thank you for sharing them.

  17. Thank you for sharing your Swedish Christmas memories. Really lovely to learn about.

  18. This was the best one the sleigh and bells and the candles at the church hmmmm lovely.

  19. what a lovely tradition. i have so enjoyed reading about Christmas in Sweden. thank you! your photos are nice also. stay warm!

  20. Terry: I'm so glad you enjoyed it. And I forgot to mention the torches on the side of the sleighs.

    Upupaepops: It has been so much fun remembering and sharing my childhood Christmas stories. I love ginger and it seems to help my arthritis too.

    Bobbi: That's what I wanted -- to make you feel like you were there.

    Kim: I feel so honored that you set time aside to read my post. Thank you for letting me know.
    It inspires me to try my best for some good and interesting posts in the new year.

    Nancy: I am so glad you liked my childhood memories.

    Farmchick: You are so welcome.

    Changes in the Wind: Thank you!

    Hopeful: I'm glad you enjoyed my stories. It was 20 F this morning and it is gorgeous out there with snow and blue skies.

  21. Thank you for gathering so many memories and informations and expressing them for us to enjoy!

  22. Yes the dogs must be ecstatic about the cold weather!! I can just see them now!
    I really enjoyed your stories Inger. Good to hear and learn about other cultural customs this time of year.

  23. Happy New Year Inger! Hugs! xoxo

  24. Loving this story and dad reads it to me while I'll snuggle at his feet. I really am glad to have met you this year and want you to know that I think a Happy New Year is wending it's way to you. Cheers!

  25. Olá feliz 2011!
    Quero hoje que você possa ver o trabalho feito no Folhetim Cultural que é o blog pelo qual sou responsável este abaixo é o endereço:
    hoje sábado 1º dia do ano, voltamos com as publicações.
    Ás 9 horas da manhã minha coluna poética
    Às 13 horas O Poeta entrevista quadro de entrevista
    e ás 17 horas Chá das 5 onde um poeta colaborador escreve uma coluna poética. Ao longo da semana atualizações são feitas com noticiário cultural, espero que possa contar com seu apoio nessa empreitada e que possa opinar sobre o nosso trabalho agradeço a atenção lhe desejo um ano super!

    Magno Oliveira
    Folhetim Cultural

  26. Sophie: Thank you Sophie and I'm so very glad to have met you too. I can just picture you at your daddy's feet while he reads to you. That's so sweet. Your daddy is a very good man, I can tell. I hope you have the best time in 2011 with lots of adventures and fun.--Your friend, Inger

  27. Beautiful vivid happy sounds wonderful..thank you for sharing xx

  28. Beautifully written, Inger:) Thanks for sharing your memories. And, I'm chilly just looking at your pics of the snow!!! Happy New Year to you, your husband, & the pups!!

  29. Catching up and was stopped by these beautiful photos!

    Hope you have a great New Year.

  30. Well, I don't know about the rest of the folks but I am beginning to get a little worried since it has been so long since you have posted. Hope all is well......


Thanks for leaving a comment.. ~~ Inger


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