The height of the celebration is Christmas Eve, the 24:th of December, followed by the two hollidays Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Christmas festivities involves numerous traditional activities and attributes, the most important of which are the Christmas tree, the Christmas meal and the visit of the tomte (Christmas gnome).
Introduced in Sweden from Germany, the Christmas tree has been a part of Christmas in Sweden since the 1700's. It was not until the present century that the custom became general, however. Nearly every Swedish household now brings in a tree one or two days before Christmas and decorates it with sparkling objects, gaily wrapped candies, glass bulbs and so on.
The tree is kept watered and many housholds keep their tree until the very end of the holliday, which falls on the twentieth day after Christmas, Knuts day in the swedish calendar.
Christmas Eve, is the height of the festivities. Traditionally it is a day when no work should be done other than seeing to one's livestock. This is the day of the Christmas feast, which comprises a smörgåsbord including a few traditional dishes such as ham, jellied pigs feet, lutfisk and rice porridge. Lutfisk (literally: lye-fish) is most likely a
throwback to a period of fasting from pre Reformation times. It is a dish prepared of ling that is dried and then boiled.
The Christmas feast also includes a tradition called "dipping in the kettle" (dopp i grytan), in which the assembled family and guests dip bits of bread in the broth left over after boiling the ham. Both lutfisk and "dipping in the kettle" are actually a poor mans fare from olden days, but they live on thanks to their role in holiday festivities.
After the meal, it is time for a visit from the tomte. He was believed to live under the the floor boards of the house or the barn. The tomte was credited with looking after the family and their livestock. Toward the turn of the past century a Swedish artist began producing greeting cards illustrated with gnomes. Her figures were a tremendous success and
soon the tomte had assumed a role comparable to that of the various Santa Claus figures in other countries. He is believed to come with presents. In many households nowadays, someone disguised as a gnome comes on Christmas Eve with a large sack of presents.
By tradition Swedes attend church in the small hours about 7:00 in the morning, Christmas morning. In the old days it was a custom to have a race to the church in sleds or wagons home from the services. The winner of the race was believed to have the best harvest the coming year. Otherwise,
the day is spent quietly within the family circle, with Christmas parties and get-togethers the following day and on throughout the holidays until Knut's day a week after Twelfth Night.
2 1/2 lb lutfisk
1 cup slaked lime
2 quart oak or maple ashes
2 tablespoon butter
1 dash of pepper
3 tablespoon flour
3 cup fish stock
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
Saw fish into 3 parts, clean thoroughly and place in a wooden bowl or pail. Add water to cover and set in a cool place for 5 to 6 days. Change water each day. Remove fish and thoroughly clean wooden bowl. Make a solution of water, lime and ashes and allow to stand overnight. Drain off clear liquid and pour over soaked fish, set in a cool place for 7 days. When fish is soft, remove from solution, scrub bowl well and soak fish for several days in cold clear water.
Cook in boiling salted water at simmering temperature for about 20 minutes. Drain well and serve. Serve it with mustard sauce. Allow 1/3 pound per person.
Melt 1 1/2 T. butter, blend in flour, salt and pepper, add fish stock gradually, stirring constantly until thickened then cook for an additional 3 minutes. Add mustard and remaining butter. Serve with boiled lutfisk, haddock or cod.
Makes 2 1/2 cups sauce.
If fish stock is salty do not add salt listed.
Recipe From: Our Favorite Grange Recipes, compiled and edited by the Home Economics Committee of the California State Grange, Gladys True, Chairman. Printed by the Record of Yolo County, 1965.
Dipping In The Kettle
In memory of an ancient famine, the family gathers in Swedish kitchens on Christmas Eve before the midday meal. A great pot is filled with a broth made of drippings of sausage (korv), also a mixture of sausage (korv), pork, and corned beef is said to be used, but I have found no more information on this. The recipe for Korv has pork and beef in it. Each family member dips a piece of dark bread on a fork into the broth until the bread is saturated and then eats it. This is necessary for good luck and a coming year of plenty.
Phaed Potatiskorv (Korv Sausage)
5 pounds raw potatoes
2 1/2 pounds beef, ground
2 1/2 pounds pork, ground
3 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon pepper
1 tablespoon crushed all-spice
3 or 4 onions, chopped fine
Beef or pork casings (about one pound)
Peel, chop potatoes, mix with meats and seasonings. Stuff into washed
casings. Do not pack too tightly as mixture expands when boiled.
Cook gently for one hour in slightly salted water. These sausages can
be kept in brine in a cool place for some time.
Christmas Porridge (Julgrot)
1 cup rice
2 quart boiling water
2 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon sugar
5 cup milk
1 blanched whole almond
1 cinnamon or grated almonds
1 cold milk
Add washed and drained rice to boiling water. Again bring to a boil and cook, uncovered, 1 minute. Drain rice thoroughly; add butter. Add rice, salt and sugar to milk in top of double boiler. Cover and cook over gently boiling water until rice is tender and milk is absorbed, about 2 hours. Pour into serving dish and stir in almond.
Sprinkle top generously with cinnamon and sugar or grated almonds and sugar. Serve with cold milk. Yield: 8 servings.
(Julgrot) Christmas rice porridge is a part of the traditional Christmas Eve supper. According to an old Swedish tradition and practiced in many homes in American each person must compose and recite a rhyme before touching the porridge and the one who gets the almond hidden in the porridge will marry during the coming year.
Christmas Rye Bread
2 cup milk
1 cup water
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 oz dry yeast; (2 pkg)
6 cup rye flour; approx
3 cup white flour; approx
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup dark molasses
2 teaspoon anise seed; crushed
1 teaspoon salt
Scald the milk and combine it with the water and brown sugar in a very large bowl. (You need something that holds at least 4 or 5 quarts.) When the mixture is lukewarm, dissolve the yeast in it, then stir in 2 cups rye flour and 1 cup white flour to make a paste.
Let the mixture rise in a warm place until it is light and foamy. This usually takes about 30 minutes to an hour. Check it frequently-it can really make a mess if it rises enough to overflow the bowl.
Stir in the granulated sugar, oil, molasses, anise seed and salt, and enough flour to make a stiff dough, using 2 parts rye to 1 part white. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, or until it is smooth and elastic, adding more flour to keep it from sticking to your hands.
Clean and grease the bowl. Put the dough in the bowl, turning it to grease all sides. Cover the bowl loosely with a clean towel and let the dough rise until it's doubled in bulk. Punch it down and let rise until double again. (5) Divide the dough into three loaves and put in greased pans. You can make round loaves and bake them on cookie sheets. Cover with the towel and let rise until double again.
Bake for about 45 minutes at 350 deg. F. Because of the high sugar content, this bread can burn rather easily; watch it closely so it doesn't get too dark.
Note: Rye flour can be a little hard to find these days. You may have to visit a store that specializes in natural foods. Avoid the kind that is very coarsely ground with big chunks of bran in it, though; this doesn't seem to have any gluten at all in it, and since the proportion of rye flour is so high in this recipe, the texture of the bread will come out all wrong. You need something that looks more like ordinary flour.
The Icon below will guide you to the other Swedish Recipe & Tradition Page