Baby, it’s cold outside! And as December approaches, daylight becomes a rare thing indeed in many parts of Sweden. Around Stockholm, the sun will be dropping out of sight by mid-afternoon, while in the far north it barely peeks above the horizon before night falls again! But this is a beautiful and uplifting time of year – over much of the country the first of the winter snows will be lighting up the nights, and all over the land windows will shine welcomingly with the glow of 7-candle “Adventsljusstakar”.
The first Sunday of Advent is a long-awaited sign that Christmas is just around the corner. Each table is graced with a special Advent 4-candle holder, and each Sunday until Christmas a candle is lit until, as the big day approaches, all four are burning. Advent means “arrival” or “coming” – the coming of Christmas.
Advent candles have been a custom in Sweden since the 1890s. They were once placed in Christmas trees, but in the 1930s iron or wooden candlesticks began to be used instead. At the same time, the Moravian custom of hanging a star from windows also became popular in Sweden. Swedish TV, too, joins in the run-up to Christmas with a special 24-episode “Julkalendern” children’s show.
Since the Middle Ages, the Swedes have kept the cold at bay at this time of year with a glass of “glögg”, Swedish mulled wine served with almonds and raisins with “pepparkakor”, or ginger biscuits, on the side. Alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions are on offer, but whichever you choose, a warm glass cupped in the hands will certainly ward off the chills!
So while the endless days of summer may be a distant memory, the ground sparkles with fresh-fallen snow, windows glimmer with candlelight, and the Swedes are making the most of the dark and enjoying the unique and magical experience of a Swedish winter.
The Nature Travels Team