Christmas in Sweden, and in the region of south east Skåne that is known as the Österlen, is celebrated with a firm grip on traditions, an abundance of light, candles and flame and the heaping up of plates with masses of good Swedish foods.
Every house – from the smallest apartment to grand country villa – is lit with an abundance of stars in all the windows, chains of bright white lights and light nets decoarating any plant, tree or flagpole that is available. Swedes love to chase away the darkness of midwinter, and even have a specific festival of Sankt Lucia that is performed in all schools and churches which embraces that concept. Blonde girls in white dresses, adorned with candles in their hair or carried in procession could not symbolise the love of the light any more. Inside the home, candles are everywhere, and coupled with a log fire create such a cosy ambience that you cannot fail to actually love and be warmed by this time of year, however much you actually think that you hate the ‘bleak midwinter’. Whether the weather be rain, blowing a gale or hopefully snow you will bask in the glow of warmth & contentment. Burning braziers and flaming torches will light up the streets and pathways, and welcome you into your Swedish hosts home.
Shopping for food around the region for your ‘Julbord’ (literally, Christmas Table) is delightful, as there is an abundance of artisan food producers, and even the local supermarkets will stock regional independent products. Cafes are welcoming with masses of lights & candles, smells of warm foods, spices and hot coffee. Visit Olof Viktors, Österlen Choklad, Kåseberga cafe, Soderberg och Sara, Byavägen 35 och Byavägen Simrishamn for a wide and delightful highest quality offering, with many of these establishments being featured in Sweden’s White Guide – the annual collation of the country’s best restaurants and cafes.
From November there are also many Christmas markets (Julmarknad) to explore, most often set in grand country houses and church-like barns, offering local crafts and gifts alongside tiny local food producers with plenty to sample and enjoy! They will undoubtedly put you in the Christmas frame of mind!
Shopping for the julbord will include local pickled herring, such as Branteviks or Käseberga Fisks own blends, with sliced herring steeped in vinegar with added herbs, spices and onions, sometimes mustard or perhaps creamier sauces. Eaten from the jar, on fresh sourdough or dark Skänsk Kavring bread, or crisp ‘knäckebröd’ from Olof Viktors the taste cannot be beaten! Top with a slice or two of hard boiled egg and some fish roe – Kalles, in a tube, if you’re a purist – perfect!
Include a slice or two on your plate of ‘jul skinka’ … Christmas ham that is cured and often quite smoky for a seasonal flavour, with the top quality local supplier at Tolonga farm being one of the most popular. Here they breed their own cattle and pigs, and have an amazing farm shop on site. Meatballs, mini sausages and salmon complete the meat offering, rounded off with a hot potatoe gratin and warm cheese pie. Johnsson Fretålse and Västerbotten päj are eaten all over Sweden, and usually made at home, although many supermarkets will sell a very good one from their delikatssen. Vegans need not panic! Christmas in Sweden has you catered for too, with many restaurants having plenty of options. Supermarkets also offer plenty for your home ‘julbord’ … tofu pieces prepared in the same way as the pickled herring, topped with some caviar that is produced from seaweed is a perfect alternative. Sliced ham or beef replacements are easily found, made from either tofu or pea protein and with the vegan mini sausages -‘Prins korv’- and vegan meatballs, your Julbord will not be falling short.
You cannot escape a pepparkakor or a cup or more of glögg at Christmas, anywhere in Sweden! Shops, cafes, offices, garages and any business that you choose to walk into throughout December will have boxes of the delicious thin spicy biscuits, tasting of clove, cinnammon & ginger and in rounds, heart or christmas tree shapes on every desk and till point! In our first year here, we could get through a whole box in one sitting! Thankfully, we have now manged to temper our pepparkakor habit! We sell a delightful assortment from the local famous bakery and cafe Olof Viktors in our on-site butik, so the tempation is always close. A unique way to enjoy this sweet biscuit is with a topping of crumbly blue cheese or one that is squeezed form the tube … a taste to be experienced to be believed, but one that works. Try it yourself! With a warm cup of spiced apple juice or fruity mildly alcholic red wine, in which you can spoon in an almond and raisin or two, sat by the fire with candles all around and the weather doing it’s thing outside, you have Christmas in Sweden all wrapped up. Så mysigt! How cosy!