Along with all things Hygge, I love Christmas festivities, especially from Scandinavia. My birthday falls on December 13th which in Scandinavia, is Sankta Lucia or St Lucy’s Day. This day has always fascinated me. The tradition is that a young girl in the family or community, wears a crown of candles representing the Latin word for light, lux and because St Lucia was a carrier of light.
This is so relevant to Scandinavia given their love of candles and because they have some of the shortest, darkest days at this time of year. The girl also wears a long white robe which symbolizes innocence with a red sash. Tradionally the girl will carry a tray with coffee, saffron buns called lussebullar or ginger snaps known as pepparkakor.
Many of the Scandinavian festivities are very similar to ours, but there is something about the way they carry out their festivities which has such a charm and uniqueness.
Advent is a very important tradition and just like us they celebrate the 4 weeks of advent by lighting a candle each week. They also have advent calendars which are a large part of their celebrations and hang an advent star in their window which is often lit.
To follow Scandinavian festivities and traditions this Christmas I suggest the following ideas.
1) Keep decorations natural in style and colour with white as the main focus wherever possible. Tie pine cones onto string or twine and drape them around your tree. Make clay or salt dough star shaped Christmas decorations – I love making these with the little ones in my family and use leaves or other textures to press patterns into them. One of my favorite Scandi festive decorations as an alternative to the less popular tinsel, is a paper garland. I love the one below made from an old book that is cut into triangles and rectangles sewn onto a cotton thread. Its the most perfect garland to drape on your tree or mantelpiece.
Danish trees often have real candles on them, woven hearts and cones hung from the tree filled with candy. Of course the tree has to be real for a truly Scandinavian Christmas.
2) Celebrate the month of December with traditional scandinavian sweets and treats. Red and white wrapped candy, pepparkakor (ginger snap biscuits) or a delicious almond cake. Make sure you have them stored in a tin ready for any surprise visitors to create a welcoming Hygge Christmas home.
Wherever possible take the time to bake together as a family – quality time is the essence of Hygge and it’s all about slowing down, savouring the moments and creating Scandi festivities together.
Serve piping hot coffee, hot chocolate or Glogg in gorgeous mugs and on wooden trays.
A traditional recipe for warming and fragrant Glogg, the Scandi equivalent to our Mulled Wine is below:-
1 bottle red wine
1-2 sticks cinnamon
5g dried root ginger
5g dried Seville orange peel (or other orange if you can’t get Seville)
7 green cardamom pods
15-16 whole cloves
splash of either vodka, aquavit, rum or cognac (optional)
Pour the wine into a pan, add the rest of the ingredients and heat to around 80C/176F, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for at least an hour.
Strain the mixture and return the mulled wine to the bottle – use a funnel to make life easier for yourself. The wine can be kept for around a week.
To serve, pour the wine into a saucepan and heat it.
Place a few flaked almonds and raisins in the bottom of your serving cups, and pour the glögg over the mixture.
If you want to give your glögg a kick, add a splash of either vodka, aquavit, rum or cognac just after you’ve reheated the wine.
Lastly…enjoy with loved ones
3) Light candles at every opportunity. Have them in your hallway to greet guests, on your dining table and in your living room. We love this Advent candle holder made from a piece of wood. Advent is one Scandinavian tradition not to be forgotten. Bring the outdoors in with natural additions such a greenery or wood for your advent wreath or holder.
4) Christmas Eve is traditionally the main celebration in Scandinavia rather than Christmas Day. Many families will attend church, then gather back at home around their Christmas tree and sing together. They will usually eat their Christmas meal on Christmas Eve and much like us will feature a goose or duck. However, if you want to bring some Scandinavian festivities to your home this Christmas, why not have a popular smorgasbord of Scandinavian food on Christmas Eve. Traditionally this is a lovely light meal of smoked salmon, rye bread, dill mustard, pickles, herring and vegetables. Serve on wooden platters with linen tablecloths and napkins. It’s a lovely way to share together as a family without having to cook another large meal the night before Christmas.
In my family we have a tradition on Christmas Eve when the elves deliver a new pair of pajamas, a movie and popcorn to the children for a family evening together. Quality time is so important for a Hygge Scandi Christmas so I love that this fits the Scandinavian festivities.
5) Create beautiful cosy, stylish table settings with inspiration from nature. Use twine, hand written brown paper name tags and herbs to awaken the senses. We love dill which is used lots in Scandinavian cooking or sage for a fragrant dinner table.
However most of all, be yourselves, have fun and relax with family and friends for a truly Hygge Scandinavian inspired Christmas,