First of Advent
As the month of December starts, the bright hours have drastically decreased. The sun is setting below the horizon by early afternoon. The first Advent occurs on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and involves a long-awaited promise of Christmas. On the first Advent, the first candle in the Advent candlestick is lit.
Every Sunday until Christmas, a candle lights up until all four burn. In the cities, recurring Christmas markets are organized with crafts and decorations and in the homes we start baking for the weekends.
The first Advent many Swedes meets and drinks mulled wine; spicy hot wine with raisins, scalded almonds and gingerbread.
Receipt of Gingerbread:
3 cups flour, 2 teaspoons Ginger, 1 teaspoon Cinnamon, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 3/4 cup butter (softened), 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar, 1/2 cup syrap, 1 egg, 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract.
Mix flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg and salt in large bowl. Beat butter and brown sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add syrup, egg and vanilla, mix well. Gradually beat in flour mixture on low speed until well mixed. Press dough into a thick flat disk and wrap it in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, Roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness on lightly floured work surface. Cut into gingerbread men shapes with 5-inch cookie cutter. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets.
- Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until edges of cookies are set and just begin to brown. Cool on baking sheets 1 to 2 minutes. Remove to wire racks and cool completely. Decorate cooled cookies as desired.
The Lucia celebration is one of the most central ceremonies in Swedish culture and has a clear connection to the Nordic farming community, darkness and light, cold and heat. Lucia is an ancient figure and has a function as a light carrier in the dark Swedish winter.
On Lucia morning, many preschoolers, schoolchildren and choirs walk together and sing Lucia songs. The tradition is that there is a lucia with long white dress and a chandelier in her hair, after Lucia goes terns, star boys, gingerbread men and saintas little helpers.
The songs are performed mainly in the mornings, in schools, at churches, at companies, in elderly homes and hospitals. To this day gingerbread and “Lussekatter” are also served; a sweet saffron spiced wheat bread, shaped into cats with raisin eyes. You eat them together with mulled wine or coffee.
Christmas, which is celebrated in memory of Jesus’ birth, has long been the most important celebration of the year. The Christmas table shows up with ham, herring, jam, sausage, porridge and “lutfisk” (dry fish put in lye, then soaked in lye, then in water, before finally boiling). Houses are decorated with wall hangings and Christmas decorations. The birds get an oat sheaf and Santa gets a barrel of porridge.
The day before Christmas Eve, the Swedes go out to find the perfect Christmas tree, the Christmas tree itself is the symbol of Christmas and it should preferably be dense, even and straight. If you live in the countryside you cut your own fir in the forest, you live in the city you can buy the fir in most places.
The Christmas tree is decorated with Christmas balls, tinsel and lighting. The home is decorated with hangings picturing santa and winter landscapes, tablecloths with Christmas patterns, candlesticks, santas and angels. Many also decorate homes with flowers such as hyacinths, poinsettias and amaryllis.
At 3 pm, the swedes watches TV, which shows a cavalcade of old Disney films that have been reprinted since the sixties. After Christmas TV, the “smörgåsbord” is presented with the classic dishes; Christmas ham, pork sausage, stew, herring salad, pickled herring, homemade liver pie, wort bread, potatoes, cured salmon.
When dinner is over it is time for the Santa Claus to visit all homes with christmas gifts and wishes of a happy christmas.