Christmas Anarchy in Sweden


Like most things in Sweden, the Christmas season unfolds in a hyper-structured, highly organized, regimented manner.

Unlike in the US and UK where the Yule build-up begin as early as September with sales and Christmas music in shops, Sweden marks the official start of Christmas on the first Sunday of Advent.

The holiday kicks off with the lighting of the first Advent candle; a decorative light with four candles representing each Advent Sunday.

On this day Swedish families, traditionally, gathered together to enjoy the season’s first baked goods of ginger bread cookies and saffron buns and to illuminate this dark season.

The Swedish Church began to light Advent candles during mass in the late 1890s.

Initially lit in small Christmas trees later wood or metal candleholders became available. Today many versions, traditional and modern, appear in windows all across Sweden during the Christmas season.

Every Swede lights an Advent candle or else!

advent candles in pig shaped ornament
advent candles

Mandatory electric candles displayed in windows in Sweden

This Advent candleholder should not be confused with the mandatory triangular shaped electric candleholder which every Swede puts in their windows or else.
An unspoken Christmas regulation insists you clean your windows thoroughly at the end of November in preparation for the first Advent to arrive.

Most important, Sweden’s Aryan Lights of Christmas Policy requires that any additional electric holiday light bulbs must be white.

I’ve seen homes with multicolored electric lights once or twice. This lasted a day or two then I never saw these people again.

So remember clean your windows well at the end of November, light the advent candle, put the electric trianglar candleholders in the window and white lights only need apply.

Any variation risks the Swedish Cultural SWAT Team repelling into your home on tinsel while tossing Christmas ornament flash grenades and spiriting you away to Sweden’s version of Guantanamo Bay, a Yule gulag AKA a secret IKEA labor camp for your Christmas cultural re-education.

How did you think they produced such affordable furniture? Gnomes?

“ Where did Johan go?”

“ Colored lights”

“ Ah most unfortunate”

“ Anarchist”

Christmas stars
One holiday decoration not mandatory but acceptable even welcomed is the large illuminated star.

This large, cardboard or plastic star, imported from the German Moravian Church in the 1930’s remains a Swedish holiday standard.

Commemorating the star the three wise men followed to Bethlehem, Swedes hang this ornament in the window and illuminate it with white light bulbs naturally.

One year my daughter left her star in the window past the Christmas season. To add insult to injury during the Christmas trimming of our apartment she drew a smiley face with a can of snow spray on the window.

This garnished many disapproving stares and much finger pointing from our neighbors but when my daughter insisted upon keeping our window decorations up until April we tipped over into holiday sacrilege. 
Yet in their defense, some neighbors enjoyed the smiley face and even expressed their approval directly to us. However many more disapproved especially when I allowed both to stay up past its shelf date into spring.

Now, we live in an apartment but our neighbor’s horrified judgmental disapproval my daughter’s self expression tempts me to buy a house simply for the joy of filling the house and lawn with grotesque American multiple colored Christmas decorations. 
In the U.S., Americans express Christmas in an individual way that reflects the competitive nature of their culture.
In Sweden, Swedes express it in a way that represents their uniform, lagom or  ‘we are all the same’ culture.

When in Sweden do as the Swedes do or risk spending time in a holiday re-education gulag.



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