Swedish Language Blog

The Swedish Christmas tree Posted by on Dec 23, 2011 in Culture, Uncategorized

It’s the day before the dipping day, only one episode is left of the thrilling tv-advent calender “Tjuvarnas jul” and the countdown is down to hours, not days. Julafton awaits around the corner and today is the day when many families will bring in the mother of all Christmas decorations, the all important and wonderful Christmas tree.

The tradition with bringing in and decorating a Christmas tree can be traced back to the 18th century. Back then, the were mostly decorated with edible things, like sweets and fruits. And real candles, of course! The most imidiate fire hazard was prevented by hanging apples on the tip of the branches, this to make the branches heavier and the candles further apart. When the Christmas tree tradition spread beyond the upper class, home made decorations  from straw and paper became popular. Lots of tiny Swedish flags was also fashionable back in the days.

As we all know you can put pretty much anything you like in your Christmas tree. But in general, you will probably find the following in a Swedish Christmas tree:

Christmas tree (Julgran)
* A star to put in the top to symbolise the star of Bethlehem (Stjärna)
* Electric candles (Ljusslinga)
* Tinsel (Glitter)
* Glass baubles in any colour (Julgranskulor)

Quite often you can also find the following:
* Decorations made of straw, for exanple goats, hearts and stars
* Lollipops (Polkagrisar)
* Christmas crackers (Smällkarameller)

So what do you do then once your tree is there in its pride and glory? Well in Sweden, we dance around it. Hand in hand, like a big circle with the tree in the middle. There are certain dedicated dance-around-the-Christmas-tree-songs that you are supposed to sing while you are swinging away. To be fair, I’m not sure how many families who acctually do this on Christmas eve, but it’s certainly a tradition in nurseries and schools.

And finally, what do you do once you have gotten tired of your Christmas tree? Well, you throw it out with a big party of course. It’s tradition to throw it out on Twentieth Day Knut, that falls on January 13 and on this day you should have a party and dance around the Christmas tree for the last time before “plundering” it.

What have you got in your Christmas tree?

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  1. C.E.Burke:

    Merci for your kind description of the Swedish Christmas Tree.
    Today when so many families are facing unemployment, poverty wages, and are homeless in the USA and elsewhere in this world, it is sad to see that money is spent on this custom. The custom only benefits those who sold it to you for their own profit. The greed goes on.

  2. joel:


    Unfortunately, there are few still dancing and sing around the tree. i´m 33 years old and i remeber this dancing mostly taking place during school time. We don´t dance around the tree in my family(wife and 3 children) but it´s very important whit the christmas tree and 20:e knut. Just stumbled over this page by accident and couldn´t stop reading. Hope you had a merry christmas.

  3. Erik, native Swede:

    Where I live(Norrbotten), julgranskulor are known as “pumlor”(singular: pumla). 🙂