Christmas is a mix of Christian and heathen traditions. Particularly this is true in Sweden where the old traditions of folk customs dating back to the Middle Ages are somewhat alive. Christmas has not got the word Christ in it but rather ”jul”, yuletide in English. Also Santa Claus (Saint Nicholas) is called Tomten, an old mythic creature from Swedish folk traditions.
In Sweden though both Advent and the day of Saint Lucia is celebrated in a way that it is not elsewhere.
A universal thought within the Christian world is that Christmas should be peaceful. Christians believe that the coming of Christ has special significance for them and he is known as a ”saviour” and ”bringer of peace”.
One of the most famous political speeches made in Sweden in modern times was Olof Palme’s televised speech on the Christmas Day bombing of Hanoi in Vietnam. This speech angered the United States of America and led to frosty relations between the two countries for nearly two decades.
In England less emphasis is placed on Christmas Eve than in other countries, much more is made of Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Carol singing, midnight church services and going out to the pub are some of the activities that many families enjoy (sometimes all three activities can be combined into one fun night out!).
Night time on Christmas Eve though is a very exciting time for young children. It is the time when Santa or Father Christmas comes. They hang up their stockings and go to sleep. Santa and his elves make all the toys for Christmas in his home in Greenland. On Christmas Eve he piles all of the toys onto his sleigh and rides across the sky with his 9 reindeer (Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner (or it may be Donder), Blitzen and of course … Rudolf!). The most famous one is Rudolf the who is always the one at the front, to lead the way with his red nose. In the morning when the children wake up they open their stocking presents. Traditionally on Christmas Eve mince pies and sherry (or milk) are left out for Santa and nowadays carrots are left for his reindeer. Most children are in bed way before midnight waiting for Santa to visit.
More on English Christmas traditions is found here.
Discuss with a friend and try to come up with other traditions that you have noticed about the UK and the US that are different from traditional Swedish ones.
Describe your Christmas or other religious or secular holiday that you celebrate. Walk us through the day and describe what happens and what is eaten, etc.