We’re multi-cultural, let’s share our holiday quirks!

I chickened out on using Swedish Christmas activites in @Murdocku’s game, but @Bibliovore mentioned being interested in traditions in other countries.
Let’s share some of our cultural quirks, this doesn’t have to be about Christmas, all holidays are equally interesting!

Sweden was christened very half-heartedly, as long as the people claimed to be Christian, they were allowed to celebrate their feast and holidays just like before. Our names for the days are pagan, Eastern is all about witches and Christmas is still called jul, like the viking winter party yule

2. You gotta feed the sassy goblin!
Back then, people believed that there was a tomte living on farms, it sort translates into gnome or goblin. Imagine a garden gnome kind of creature. This little creature lived and worked on the farm, especially keeping an eye out for the animals. If the farmers treated the animals poorly (or were disrespectful to the tomte itself) it would punish them by breaking tools or others sorts of mischief.

At the winter solstice, later at Christmas, you’d thank your tomte for all his help throughout the year by leaving a plate of porridge and a glass of milk on your door step. Because of this, most Swedes eat ”gnome porridge”, similar to rice pudding, for breakfast at Christmas. Some families put ONE almond in the porridge, the one who gets it, will be the next one to marry!

Tomten (= The Tomte) is the Swedish name for Santa Claus. Using the word in plural (tomtar) refers to the tiny little creatures, similar to Santa’s elves in the US.

3. Goats and pigs
Before Santa Claus became a thing, it was up to the Yule Goat to hand out presents, the goat was a symbol for a good harvest. A straw goat is still a very common Christmas decoration, my mum has a pretty big one standing next to her tree guarding the gifts :blush: In the city of Gävle, they always put up a huuuuge straw goat, which traditionally always get torched. They haven’t been able to burn it down in years, but this year they managed to set it ablaze again!

Pigs are been connected to Yule and to Christmas too. Pork was served every day in Valhalla and was a symbol of fertility. Nowadays a marzipan pig is a common gift for secret santa, or when you’re just out of ideas. The most typical Christmas food in Sweden is ham with a mustard crust!
And yes, my mum has a straw pig next to the straw goat :blush:

Typical Christmas food, the ham is in the middle, of course

4. It’s all about (the) Eve
Christmas Eve, Midsummer’s Eve. The Swedes only celebrate the eves! The main Christmas event thus happens on the 24th, families get together, eat, play games…and Tomten comes by personally to hand out gifts!


Last night (Christmas Eve) we made seven fishes. It’s supposed to be 12 meatless dishes; however, we had bacon with the scallops. This morning, the garage still smelled like fish.

It is an adventure in how many people can we get to not smell like fish.


I knew a German woman who would make a pig out of a lemon. She inserted 4 wooden matchsticks for legs, then made a small horizontal cut in one end and inserted a penny into it.


My sister In law is Ukrainian. They do the fishes thing. They have pickled herring and lox with cream cheese and rye bread, pierogis, borscht, and kutia. Unfortunately they’ve all got covid so it was just the four of them. Usually her sister’s family comes, their parents, my parents and sometimes I come too. We’re doing Christmas on epiphany.


it’s not unusual for Australians to spend Christmas Day at the beach.

My family is English so we’ve always stayed home and done the big meal at lunchtime bit, with the hot foods substituted with cold meats and salads.
Served hot or cold, prawns are definitely a staple of most Aussie Christmases. (Including mine! Lol!)


Here in Hungary, both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day is important.
We decorate our trees on Christmas Eve’s day, then light candles and sparklers and exchange gifts (“officially” brought not by Santa (who comes on the 6th and brings sweets) but Little Jesus) on Christmas Eve. Fish is the traditional Christmas Eve dinner.
Then Christmas Day is the day of big family lunches.
Zserbó and bejgli are traditional Hungarian Christmas desserts (so Hungarian that they don’t even have English names or Wikipedia articles :smiley:.)

One tradition that’s not so much for Christmas as for advent is that of “Lucia’s Chair”. You start making a chair on St Lucia’s day, Dec 13. Then you work on it a little every day until Dec 24, and, according to folklore, if you stand on your chair on the midnight mass, you can spot witches! (But rest assured, as far as I am aware, here, no witch trials were conducted based on any accusations made by someone standing on such a chair :wink: .)


Oh, interesting that you celebrate Lucia, too! I thought that this was typical Scandinavian.

It’s a pretty big thing in Sweden, it has nothing to do with chairs though :wink:

It’s commonly celebrated in schools or work places, people dress in white, one is choose to be Lucia and then walk around in a procession singing Christmas songs, then eating saffron sweets.

As a kid we would walk around in the neighbourhood and sing for the neighbours


I couldn’t picture whether the penny was supposed to represent the snout or something at first, so I did a web search and found fun details and photos. Reportedly the penny was for New Year’s luck. :slight_smile:


That’s it, and I love the cloves for eyes!


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