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Holiday Season in Sweden

The month of December and the build-up to the holiday season is an altogether magical time to visit Sweden.

Across the country your clients will find festive markets, pop-up shops, special foods, drinks and sweet treats to try, along with a whole host of beautifully decorated streets, towns and villages to amble around by themselves or join one of many organised walking tours.

An important note to make, Christmas Eve; 24 December is the day the magic happens in Sweden. Families gather to eat a grand Christmas feast (‘Julbord’) and give each other gifts. Many businesses are closed on Christmas Eve in order that families may celebrate together. A number of smaller or family run hotels may also close for Christmas itself but large hotels or chains tend to stay open, offering your clients the opportunity to soak up the joy of the holiday, Swedish style. This is especially true in the north of the country with hotels, lodges and guesthouses including Kukkolaforsen in Haparanda, Coperhill Mountain Lodge near Åre and Brändön Lodge near Luleå offering numerous packages for visitors to enjoy over the festive and New Year season.

Throughout the month of December, your clients will find traditional ‘Julmarknad’ or Christmas Markets all over Sweden. Decorated stalls selling festive treats of all shapes and sizes. Make sure your clients grab a cup of warm glögg (mulled wine which comes with and without alcohol) and some ginger snap biscuits (pepparkakor) to walk around with. Warning: both are highly addictive.

The most famous and largest market takes place at Lisebeg amusement park in Gothenburg, although there are always stalls dotted around the city centre too. In Jokkmokk, the heart of Sami country in Swedish Lapland; nestled amid the snowy streets your clients will find a beautiful market, filled with stalls selling Sami artisan handicrafts, sure to make the perfect present for family back home. The Christmas markets in the Old Town or Gamla Stan are the most renowned in Stockholm, set in the middle of the Old Town with its narrow streets and beautiful buildings.

At the Kosta outlet in Småland, home of the famous Kosta Boda glass, you can experience a glittering Christmas market with glimmering and shimmering Christmas decorations together with millions of Christmas lights. Let the children say hello to Santa Claus and his Elves and give them their wish lists. With its hundred medieval churches, the island of Gotland and the island’s largest town Visby is an altogether atmospheric place to be during the holiday season. A visit to Visby’s Christmas market is a sure fire way to get your clients in the mood.

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If your clients will want to spend time indoors, attractions stay open throughout the season, or for a quintessentially Nordic, authentic gift buying experience point them in the direction of design store Svenskt Tenn in Stockholm, which boasts both festive afternoon tea and guided tours of the store. Whilst your clients survey all the festive finery in front of them, they can learn about Swedish design traditions with a holiday twist. Another fun tradition amongst Swedes to do indoors is to build gingerbread houses (‘pepparkakshus’). At the architecture and design museum ArkDes in Stockholm there’s an annual exhibition where enthusiastic amateurs together with professionals display their imaginative gingerbread creations. This is a pleasant way to experience this truly unique Swedish Christmas tradition that suits all generations. At this time of year, the sauna culture really comes into its own too.

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Foto: Tuukka Ervasti/imagebank.sweden.se

The Feast Day of Lucia

The season begins in earnest on 13 December with the feast day of Lucia or St Lucy. From this date on, it’s officially ok to put up decorations at home… or maybe for your guests to make a mini display in their hotel room?!

A commemoration of an Italian martyr and the marking of the winter solstice forms the beautiful Lucia tradition. It’s a celebration of light and an event for the whole family to enjoy. Girls and boys form processions with flickering lights in hand and in some cases on their heads (these are mostly battery-powered now) dressed in white gowns, singing traditional Lucia songs, carols and more recently some globally recognised secular numbers have crept into the repertoire too.

Almost all churches and quite a few hotels organise Lucia celebrations that your clients can join. For something on an even grander scale, ensure your guests are in Gothenburg for the day so that they may take in the celebration at the beautiful Oscar Fredrik church, a city landmark. Should your clients find themselves in the southern City of Malmö, they can expect torch bearers, Lucia singers and a cortège of horses and carriages weaving their way through the city centre in a stunning open air display. In Stockholm, Skansen open air museum also forms a centrepiece of Lucia but for something a little different, recommend Folkmusikhuset Skeppis folk concert house to your clients. Each year the venue hosts folk-esque Lucia concerts with a mix of traditional and alternative Lucia songs played by some of Sweden’s best known folk bands and singers.

All Lucia events are popular so be sure to buy your clients’ tickets before they travel to avoid disappointment. If they don’t want the pageantry of attending an event or are short on time, your clients can enjoy Lucia in a more relaxed way. They might well come across Lucia singers as they explore their chosen destination. The open air singing is a tradition we love, value and want to share with everyone.

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