Did you know that, thanks to a character called Julbock, the phrase ‘acting the goat’ has a very different connotation in Sweden?
You see Julbock is the Christmas Goat - a creature traditionally believed to be the bringer of festive presents to children across Sweden. Indeed, it was thought that having a straw effigy of Julbock in the home would bring good luck to the family and, even today, giant effigies are still burned in town centres for good luck.
Once the tradition of Santa arrived in Sweden, however, Julbock became less popular. The Swedish Santa, however, is not the one we know. His traditional image was merged with that of the Swedish house gnomes or Tomte to create the bearded gnomes now commonly held to be the bringers of Christmas gifts in Sweden.
Festive celebrations in Sweden actually start on the 13th December. In times gone by, the eldest daughter of the household would wake the family at dawn with coffee and Lucia buns. She would then put on a white gown and, carrying a candle, join the procession of Lucia’s Maidens. The procession would be led by a girl representing St. Lucia and wearing an evergreen candle wreath on her head and a red sash around her waist.
Nowadays the custom of getting up at dawn is not so commonly practiced, but every year girls walk in procession singing the Lucia song, accompanied by ‘Star Boys’ wearing long white shirts and pointed hats.
These are just a couple of the magical traditions involved in Christmas in Sweden. To discover more of the traditions and culture of this marvellous destination, why not book a winter break?