Christmas time in Sweden is known as “Jul,” and Sweden has many unique customs associated with the season. Christmas is celebrated with two public holidays on 25 and 26 December each year.
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In Sweden, Jul begins on 1 December and continues until 13 January with Saint Knut’s Day. The main event of Swedish Jul is Christmas Eve, which is the time when the festive meal is eaten and Christmas presents exchanged.
The tradition of a mid-winter time of merry-making and of the term “Jul” itself seems to pre-date Christian times in Sweden. It once involved sacrifices to Norse pagan gods and a feast marking the winter solstice.
December 13 is the traditional day to set up your Christmas tree in Sweden. Tree decorations include the usual baubles and lights but also such things as apples, candles, gnomes, and ornaments made out of straw. Homes will be decorated with red tulips and have the aroma of gingerbread wafting through the air.
Santa Claus is known as “Jultomten” (the Yule Man), and brings children presents in person on Christmas Eve evening, knocking on doors instead of sneaking down chimneys. The tradition of Jultomten seems to derive both from the old pagan gnome called “Tomte” and from the Dutch Saint Nicholas.
In many homes, a straw goat is constructed to “guard the Christmas tree,” and straw is also used as a decoration throughout the house to remind of Jesus’ birth in the straw-filed manger. While Sweden is a very secular nation in general, on Christmas morning, many will get up very early to go to church for special services.