Friday, January 10, 2014

God Jul - Christmas in Stockholm

One of the things I'm excited to experience while living abroad this year is how different countries celebrate holidays.  We weren't actually in Stockholm for Christmas but we were still able to experience a few Christmas traditions before we left.

Since they don't celebrate Thanksgiving in Stockholm I felt like we could start celebrating Christmas earlier than we usually do.  Plus I wanted to have all of our Christmas shopping done before we flew home on December 12th which meant I needed to get on the ball.

Christmas in Stockholm was beautiful.  The decorations were very tasteful.  There were red and white lights in the main shopping areas, candles in windows, stars hanging in windows, advent candles and Tomtes (Swedish Santa Claus).
Here are a few electric candelabras.
 Electric candelabras were in almost every window in Stockholm it seems.  Not every apartment, every window.  We only have one for our whole apartment but technically I think we should have at least four since we have four windows.  They also had electric candelabras in each classroom at school.

Here is our electric candelabra and a few Christmas presents we exchanged before we flew home.

We also bought a candelabra that can hold real candles.
Advent candles are also really big in Stockholm.  In one of the classrooms I help with they had advent candles and they were lit at one point during class.  I wasn't in there when they lit the candle so I'm not sure how much they talk about in school but advent candle holders are all over the city.  We used the candle holder above as our advent candle holder.
The little guy sitting on this present is a Tomte (Swedish Santa Claus).  This is a Christmas ornament but they also have bigger ones for decorations and I think they are pretty cute.   Can anyone figure out what Jake wrote on my present?

I am not a huge candle person, or at least I wasn't one until we moved.  (I should really start making a list of things that I've started doing now that we've moved because other than some obvious things there are little things now and then that pop up that I wouldn't think about.)  Everyone lights candles over here.  I think they do it because it gets dark so early but also it helps warm up your apartment.  We have lots of candles around the apartment (several that our landlord left for us to use) and when we light them our apartment warms up really quickly.

Here is a picture of the downtown shopping area.
Notice the red and white lights hanging above the main street. The building on the left is Åhlens which is the main, and really one of the only, department stores in Stockholm.  It is nice but I wish there were more options sometimes.  The street that I am looking down in the picture is one of the main shopping areas in Stockholm and the T on the right-hand side of the picture tells you that there is a metro stop.  This stop is Central Station and is super busy but it was my ride home after shopping with my friend Lisa.

One of the things we wanted to experience this Christmas in Stockholm was a Christmas market.  They have them in different parts of town but the one we decided to go to was at Skansen.  Skansen is an outdoor, open air museum and zoo.  They brought in different buildings from around the country that were built in different time periods to show you what life was like in Sweden (similar to Cow Town).  We went to Skansen this summer when we visited Stockholm in June.  When we were there this summer we went on June 21st which was our 5th wedding anniversary and Midsummer which is a huge holiday in Sweden.  Here is a picture of us in June:
June 21st, 2013

It was only a little bit busy :).
We decided to go to Skansen on December 1st, our 12th dating anniversary.  Before we headed to Skansen we stopped by Burger King for lunch.  Seems like a strange place to stop for lunch but 12 years ago Jake asked me to be his girlfriend after we had Burger King.  I always get kids meals at Burger King and the night he asked me to be his girlfriend was no different.  What I didn't know was that he kept the toy from my kids meal. (I didn't realize it was going to be a life changing toy since he asked me after dinner but apparently he did.)  So now every dating anniversary I make him take me to Burger King so I can get a new toy.  I haven't kept all of the toys but I have our first one, the one from our 10th anniversary, the one we got this year and a few others.

After lunch we headed to Skansen.  It was pretty chilly that day but we remembered that "there is no such things as bad weather, only bad clothing" and dressed for the outdoor museum, in Stockholm, in December.

They had fire pits throughout Skansen.
This is the entrance to a park at Skansen.  Not just any park, Squirrel Park.  Ever since a crazy incident with a squirrel a few years ago every time I see one I get all excited even if I was just there :). (June 21st, 2013 on the left and December 1st, 2013 on the right)

Ice sculptures.  They were selling the molds to make these.
   Here are a few pictures from the main Christmas market at Skansen:
Jake enjoying some ostkaka = ost means cheese and kaka is cake.  Jake's family always has this at Christmas.
You can see some of the things they were selling at the market. Waffles, bread, marzipan, candles, coffee, ostkaka, etc.  We bought a few sausages to give as Christmas gifts this year but we forgot them so Jake has been enjoying them since we've been back.  He prefers the elk sausage over the reindeer sausage.

I tried to upload a video of people dancing at Skansen but it didn't work.  If you click on this link it should take you to the same video on youtube,

We went to a Christmas concert at this church in the afternoon while we were at Skansen.
Inside the church waiting for the concert to start.
Most of the concert was in Swedish but it was really pretty and warm in the church. I took a very short video but it wasn't very good.  But there were other videos on youtube if you want to check those out.

I went to another Christmas market in Gamla Stan (Old Town).  It was very similar to the one at Skansen.  They sold sausages, Christmas decorations, ornaments, candles, waffles, scarves, hats, etc.

The Christmas Market in Gamla Stan.
Around Christmas time Jake started hearing about people going to Julbords which is a Christmas buffet.  Julbords were advertised and available at several places throughout the city.  You could go to one at a restaurant, hotel or even a castle.  We obviously chose to go to one at a castle :) because, why not?

We took an hour long boat ride to the castle.  It was on the island in the archipelago.

Here is the Vaxholm Castle.

Jake enjoying some glögg and pepparkakor (glögg is hot, mulled wine and pepparkakor is a gingerbread cookie).
 We actually missed our stop at the castle.  We heard an announcement (that was in Swedish of course) but no one on our side of the boat got off.  By the time we put on our coats and moved to the front they had just closed the door and pulled away.  Thankfully they were just going to Vaxholm island to drop off the people who weren't going to the castle and pick up a few more before heading back to the castle.  We were thankful we learned this very valuable lesson when the consequence was only a 10 minute trip back to the island instead of completely missing our stop.
It had just snowed (the only snow we've had in Stockholm so far) which made it really pretty.

Here was the buffet:
 There were plates of food on the greenery but Jake took this picture after they had already picked it up.  This side of the buffet had different types of fish.  The table in the back had 14 kinds of pickled herring. 14.  Anyone want to guess how many I tried? 0.  
This side had cold cuts.  This was the part of the buffet I enjoyed.  I tried lots of smoked meats including reindeer, boar, and ox. On the left of this picture there is some hot food but most of the food at the Julbord was cold which we weren't really expecting.

We weren't sure what to expect other than a buffet of traditional Christmas foods.  After we went through and filled up our plates with fish, cold cuts, cheese and bread we looked around to see what others were doing.  We weren't sure if there were different courses or if what was out was the whole buffet.  We decided to ask one of the waitresses just to be sure.  The waitress said that all of the food was out and then she told us the order most people go in.  They usually start with the pickled herring, then move to the bread and cheese, fish, cold cuts and then the hot food.  They would be bringing out the desserts later with coffee and tea (of course).  So we went back through and filled up our plates again.  The food was good but I was expecting more hot food.  They did have meatballs and potatoes which were good.
Jake ordered lutefisk which is a traditional dish of air-dried fish.  It is supposed to smell pretty bad and not taste that great but Jake said it wasn't bad.
I definitely enjoyed the desserts.
We walked around the inside of the castle for a little bit and found other tables set up.  I'm guessing on the weekends the whole place is full and this would be a really neat room to have dinner in with a large group.
After dinner we decided to walk around the outside of the castle.  It was a little bit chilly but not too bad.

This was our view when we got off the boat.  See the stars hanging in the window? Those are one kind you might see in windows around town.
This is the island of Vaxholm.

Jake is not a planner but I love that he plans fun things for us to do and convinces me to go along with it or else I would be missing out on so many cool adventures with him.


  1. Kara, I can't believe you ate Rudolph! Lol! I loved ready this and looking at all the pics! Miss you friend.

  2. Kara, I loved seeing how the Swedish currently celebrate Christmas, called Jul, right? I am just now seeing it in January, 2015, but I love that you shared so much. Thanks!

    1. Christmas is called Jul and God Jul is like saying Merry Christmas. Glad you enjoyed the post.


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