20. Dec, 2020


It seems to be that there are three distinct phases to Christmas decorations in Sweden. The first is lights to be seen from outside, real winter lights. which can go up as early as November and stay up till well after Christmas. They consist very largely of what they call Advent Stars and also pyramid like candle holders (ljusstake). Despite the associations with Christmas these days in practice the tradition goes back much further, lights in the window to banish the spirits of the dark and generally cheer up the community during the long winter nights. The tradition is very strong that these lights are all white, not the multi coloured lights of other countries. Interesting that in our road one neighbour has got ropes of coloured lights up around a tree and wall but in the windows that stars and candle holders are still white, Never let anyone tell you that the Swedes do not love traditions.

Which brings me on to the second phase of Christmas, the feast of St Lucia on the 13th December. This is a Scandinavian tradition and still today girls parade through the streets dressed in white gowns and wearing a crown of candles, escorted by other children (I've put an example in the Pictures of Sweden section of this website). Again the tradition is now distinctly Christian but once again has some other roots in pagan times in the old festival of Lussinatta, the Lussi Night, when Lussi, a female being with evil traits, like a female demon or witch, was said to ride through the air with her followers, called Lussiferda. What I find interesting is yet again a strong winter tradition is about light beating back the darkness. It's also the time, one Swedish friend tells me, when decorations inside the house go up.

The third phase is Christmas Eve, the main day of the holidays as in so much of Europe, the time for Julbord and presents. Many families don't actually decorate their tree until the morning of the 24th, though I think nowadays many do this earlier.

2020 has been such an awaful year, even here in Sweden, that personally I have found decorating for Christmas (or the winter solstice if you prefer) more rewarding than in other years. Perhaps there is a lot to be said in the end for hoping that light will defeat darkness.