Celebrating Christmas

7 Surprising Ways To Celebrating Nordic Christmas

7 Surprising Ways to Celebrating Nordic Christmas

I have put 7 Surprising Ways to Celebrating Nordic Christmas together just for you. Have I said the C word? Yes the Christmas word. Less than 100 days to Christmas. Are you ready? Getting panicky? Thinking about all those things you need to get ready, presents to kids, family, food the lot? No panic. So that you can enjoy the festive season with grace and color and embrace and celebrate Nordic Christmas knowing where these traditions came from. These are the ways you can celebrate Nordic Christmas.

1. When to Celebrate Nordic Christmas?

In the western countries, it is celebrated on Christmas Day 25th December when Father Christmas has been and delivered presents and we have Christmas lunch. Well, in Scandinavian countries Christmas is celebrated on the 24th of December, on the eve of Christmas Day. That is the day when Father Christmas (joulupukki in Finnish) comes to bring presents in the evening. These are laid under the Christmas tree and you actually get to meet Father Christmas. You also gather to have Christmas dinner with family, have a sauna and visit the graveyards to leave a candle for you loved ones who are not with you. The graveyards look magical with the lights of the candles against the snow.

2. Joulu, Jul, Jol, Yule comes from pagan holiday Yule

Christmas has many names in the Nordic countries. Although Christmas is a Christian tradition and it is celebrated on the 24th December it is based on the days-long feast that was perhaps the most important celebration of the year, the winter solstice by the pagans. It was a turning point, the longest and darkest time of the year before the new year and start of the new season.

Happy Nordic Christmas

3. Santa Lucia and Advent

The Nordic countries begin the Christmas celebrations early. First Advent at the end of November the Advent wreath of spruce and red berries, the first candle of four are lit. One will be lit every Sunday leading up to Christmas. The Advent is celebrated in all Nordic Countries. In Sweden, Denmark, Norway and in Finland it is called Santa Lucia’s Day. December 13th  is celebrated as Santa Lucias Day with church service and girls dressed to white dress with the wreath and four candles are observed. This celebration used to be more Swedish speaking people in Finland but is now celebrated all around.

4. The Gnome, Joulutonttu, Nisse or Yule Lads

The gnome has many meanings in Nordic folklore. In Finland, the joulutonttu peeps through the windows to see if the kids are nice or naughty and reports back to Father Christmas (Joulupukki). In Sweden, Norway and Denmark Nisse the mischievous gnome starts visiting kids 12 days before Christmas,  leaving presents for the kids in their slippers. Meanwhile, in Iceland, the Yule lads are mischievous and might leave a potato if the kids have been naughty instead of presents.

5. The Christmas Goat (Joulupukki)

We make these from a straw as Christmas decorations for the Christmas table. But the goat has a different meaning as its origins go to the pagan god Thor and its chariot pulling goats. The goat is transformed into a character who punishes people who had not cleaned their house ready for Christmas. Later the Christmas Goat transformed to Joupukki  (Christmas goat if translated from word to word) like it is called in Finland. Bringing presents to children like it does even today.

[bctt tweet=”So Joulupukki is the one and only Father Christmas according to Finns who celebrate Nordic Christmas.” username=”thenordicmumpodcas”]

Happy Christmas

6. The Christmas Sauna (joulusauna)

We need to talk about the sauna as it is central of Finnish culture. Joulusauna (Christmas sauna) is taken on the eve of 24th December. You gather together with your family before the dinner to clean yourself and Sauna is also free of bad spirits. To keep the Saunatonttu (saunagnome) happy you offer him some Christmas porridge after a sauna on a plate that you leave under the seats.

7. Christmas Food

Every Nordic country has their own delicious food for this season. But there are similarities as well. Gravalax cold smoked salmon is eaten in all Nordic countries in different forms. There is plenty of meat on the table. In the olden days the meat was cured, smoked or dried when served in Christmas table. Today the Christmas feast has mainly pork in a different formation, roasted in Norway, Denmark Sweden and Finland. Smoked lamb in Iceland or grouse with berry sauce. There are lots of a different kind of pickled herring on the table. Also rye bread, carrot and swede casserole in Finland.

This feast of food is bigger than Thanksgiving in US. The food usually lasts a few days after Christmas when you make soups from the leftovers or freeze whatever you can to be eaten later.

What You Can Do to Have Nordic Christmas

There are plenty of ways to incorporate these surprising ways to celebrating Nordic Christmas to your festive time. We live in a warm climate so we have Christmas on the 24th December evening when we have a big dinner with family. I tell Joulupukki comes on the 24th of December. Then on Christmas Day we celebrate some more and eat some more. We incorporate the Advent on every Sunday before Christmas as we bake some Finnish Christmas tarts or gingerbread ready for Christmas. Kids are told about the joulutonttu (gnome) lead up to Christmas telling kids they better be nice or no presents from Joulupukki (Father Christmas).

There are many ways how you can make your Christmas feel more Nordic and some candles, nice Nordic Christmas music, and enjoying for what you have will make you feel less stressed about Christmas and more connected to the celebrations.

If you are interested more about Nordic Lifestyle I recommend that you grab a copy of my Nordic Lifestyle book available in all big retailers and in my Nordic Mum Book shop.

Connect With Me

You can connect with me on the following social platforms.

Facebook: @SusannaHeiskanenAuthor
Instagram: @SusannaHeiskaneWrites


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1 Comment
  • Marte
    Posted at 21:37h, 23 October

    Notes from a Norwegian: Lamb Ribs are at least as common as pork, next to dried cod treated with lye. Santa never visits 12 days before christmas, but on the night of the 24th. A lot of people go to episcopalian mass even though they do not identify as Christians the rest of the year. We drink a lot of “christmas soda” and “Gloegg” which is a Norwegian version of Glüwine. We also eat A LOT of mandarins and gingerbread cookies.

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