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Festive foods & traditional treats

Sweden is an excellent place to explore food and gastronomic culture and your guests will find numerous other opportunities to try some unique and often quirky traditions, particularly those of an edible nature.

Traditionally eaten only on the day before Lent, otherwise known as Shrove or Fat Tuesday, semlor buns today are eaten on a daily basis by enthusiasts nationwide from Christmas until Easter. These altogether naughty, decadent buns of gorgeousness will become a mainstay of your guests’ fika if they visit during the spring. Just make sure to include lots of hiking and biking in the itinerary in order that they can work the calories off.

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Waffles Day is pretty much what it says on the tin. It’s the day when we eat more waffles than we usually do. According to the Christian gospels, 25 March is the day when the archangel Gabriel came down to earth and told Mary that she would bring birth to God's son. Vårfrudagen, ("Our Lady Day"), kind of sounds like vorfleday, or "Våffeldagen" in Swedish. Over time this tradition has become more about the Waffels than about virgin birth. We aren’t too sad about this fact.

Then we have the somewhat smelly tradition of fermented herring (‘Surströmming’). Luckily it tastes much better than it smells and has its own festival in August in Alfta in the north of Sweden.

Autumn is also the season for Lobster fishing on the West Coast, it begins the 20 September each year and is celebrated with excellent dishes across the region’s restaurants. It’s also possible for your clients to head out onto the water for a Lobster safari around Marstrand Island but be sure to book ahead.

Since the 1920s, cinnamon buns or kanelbullar have been a popular sight on coffee tables and at fikas across Sweden. Cinnamon Bun Day was created in 1999 by The Swedish Home Baking Council as an event to celebrate the organisation’s 40th Anniversary. Swedes happily embraced the new day of celebration and now, nearly 20 years later, there is a holiday feel all over the country each year on 4 October.

St Martin’s day (‘Mårten gås’) held annually on 10 November is mainly celebrated in the southern region of Skåne by having a goose for dinner. Try the restaurants at Hotell Gäslingen or Skanörs Gästgifvaregård in Skanör for a particularly special celebration on this day.

Speaking of unique traditions, a very special one is the crayfish party usually held in August. The centrepiece is the crayfish served together with side dishes. One very important party ingredient is the singing of ‘snaps’ songs. Restaurants up and down the country serve crayfish during this period and it’s well worth including in your guests’ itineraries. Of course there can be no ‘kräftskiva’ without singing. Your clients can practise snaps songs along with tasting a number of types of snaps and aquavit at the Spritmuseum of alcohol on Stockholm’s Djurgården island.

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Festive Food and the ‘Julbord’

If it’s at all possible, Sweden’s food culture steps up a gear in the build-up to the festive season.

The centrepiece of the season is the ‘julbord’ or Christmas table. The meal begins with a glass ‘glögg’, served together with gingerbread but this is a marathon, not a sprint. Next, guests are presented with pickled herring in a variety of flavours ranging from mustard to dill, potatoes, cured or smoked salmon, Christmas ham, sausages, short rib, meatballs and much, much more. And of course, there is also dessert. As with most Swedish celebrations, snaps is vital as is ‘julmust’, a sweet root-beer type drink that is particularly popular for those looking to consume something festive yet with zero alcohol.

Many hotels, restaurants and attractions serve a julbord from mid – November throughout December for your clients to sample a taste of the tradition. You’ll find traditional menus at Stockholm’s Grand Hotel or Gamla Riksarkivet or at Vaxholm’s Kastell in Stockholm Archipelago.

On the Island of Orust in West Sweden lies the boutique guesthouse of Lådfabriken or ‘The Box Factory’. Complementing the building and its owners’ style, Lådfabriken’s personal, colourful and creative seafood festive table is made with only the best locally fished and farmed seafood from Mollösund. Your clients can enjoy Lådfabriken's delicious celebrations if they book at least one night at the guesthouse. Further inland near Lidköping your clients could team a delicious julbord of locally sourced ingredients at Hvita Horten (the White Dear) at Victoriahuset Hotel & Naturum with an overnight stay and a wreath-making workshop or Lucia concert at nearby Läckö Castle, from which the restaurant gets its vegetables.

In the north, Piteå’s Restaurant Tage, a white guide establishment atop Hotell Kust is the place to head to for a traditional julbord in beautifully designed surroundings overlooking the city’s twinkling lights. Kust’s award-winning spa on the third floor of the same building is a perfect complement to all the food and drink, a way to truly relax and recharge. Your guests will thank you for booking them a room at the hotel too.

These are just a few merry highlights. Your clients can enjoy a julbord at literally thousands of venues all over the country. Due to their popularity with many a Swedish family, we recommend booking ahead via your local partner.

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