Nell Iris' Christmas

Christmasvaganza: Swedish Holiday traditions


Wednesdays during Christmasvaganza is Swedish tradition-day. If you’re anything like me, you like learning about other people’s cultures, so that’s why I thought I’d talk a little about how we celebrate Christmas in Sweden, and the things we just can’t live without.

First, you need to know that Swedes aren’t, in general, a very religious people. Only 29% (according to this website, I’ve seen variations of the number) of Swedes claim to be religious (compared to 59% worldwide), so our Christmas celebrations have very little to do with religion these days. We tend to focus more on eat, drink, and be merry, so that’s what I’m going to focus on.

I’ll start with one of my favorite Christmas traditions: glögg!

Glögg is a kind of mulled wine, i.e. spiced wine served hot. We serve it in tiny cups (think espresso size, maybe a bit larger) with a spoon so you can scoop up and eat the almonds and raisins that are added to the drink.

Traditionally the spices were added to cover up the taste of wine of questionable quality, and it’s been around in Sweden for a long time. According to history, King Gustav Vasa (1496-1560) was very fond of a version of it, and served it for his coronation in 1523.

It’s perfect for dark, cold winter days that are so plentiful in Sweden in December, and we start drinking it on the first day of Advent. (Some of us might even start earlier than that😇) We invite friends and family to glögg parties where we serve it with gingerbread cookies and hors d’oeuvres and listen to Christmas music.

Every year, Swedes drink FIVE MILLION LITERS of glögg (1 liter is app 34 fl oz)! Considering we’re about 10 million people and only drink it in December, that’s a lot of glögg!

I LOVE glögg and when I lived in Sweden I used to arrange glögg tastings (there’s app 80 different kinds sold at Systembolaget—the government-owned liquor store chain that’s the only place Swedes are allowed to buy booze—so lots to choose from) for my friends. Here in Malaysia, there’s no glögg, though. Not even at Ikea where we usually can buy Swedish food items, because the Malaysian Ikea isn’t allowed to sell anything with alcohol due to halal rules.

But I don’t let that stop me: instead, I make my own:


I mix one bottle of wine with sugar, cinnamon, dried ginger, star anise, cloves, orange zest and a splash of brandy. I let it sit for 24 hours before straining away the spices, and after that I heat it up carefully so the alcohol won’t vaporize, and enjoy it (without raisins though because I’m not a fan) with my favorite Christmas playlist, and gingerbread cookies (that ARE available at Ikea).

And that’s what I’ll be doing on Sunday when it’s the first day of Advent!

I hope you’ll be back next Wednesday for more Swedish traditions. Also come back tomorrow: I have a very special guest for you!!


2 thoughts on “Christmasvaganza: Swedish Holiday traditions”

  1. That sounds like a tradition I could back wholeheartedly! Glögg sounds delicious (and that’s coming from someone who is not a big drinker), and glögg parties sound like a fun excuse for a gathering!

    My own family’s holiday tradition is unique to my family (although I suppose it’s possible others have independently come up with the same idea). We have what we call the annual “meatball party” usually around a week before Christmas. I don’t imagine I need to explain the theme of the food dishes, eh?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s why glögg is perfect: even if you’re not a big drinker, the cups are so small so you don’t really drink all that much. Unless you’re like me and love the stuff and have several cups…but most people don’t. And glögg parties are really fun. I used to google fun recipes with finger food to go with the theme and we’d mingle and have a lot of fun.

      And yay for meatball party! Sounds awesome! My dad makes the most delicious meatballs for Christmas: made from elk meat. Sooooo good!!

      Liked by 1 person

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