Cabbage, pickled herring and "dipping in the pot"
In December, Swedes go from embracing raw food, sushi and other modern diets to being totally nuts about pigs’ feet and rice porridge. A typical Swedish Christmas buffet includes Brussels sprouts, Christmas ham, salmon, cabbage, kale and never ending variations of pickled herring. All washed down with Aquavit. Some of the more peculiar foods are stockfish – boiled ling soaked in lye, and "dipping in the pot" – old bread dipped in ham broth.
Yes, we love Christmas food, and a "julbord" is definitely worth a visit if you want to experience something authentic during your stay. In Gothenburg there are lots of great restaurants, from fine dining to family pubs, serving Christmas buffets. Read our guide here.
Rice porridge for the farm's "tomte"
The Swedish word for Santa is "tomte", but this word has longer traditions in the Nordic countries than those associated with Saint Nicholas. The traditional Swedish "tomte" was more like an elf – a little man, often dressed in grey, who lived on the farm and watched over the animals and the people. Unlike Santa Claus, he was not always cheerful and kind, but could get grumpy and play tricks – or even worse, leave the farm – if he was not attended to properly. One of the important ways to treat your "tomte" right was to give him food from the Christmas buffet, and he was particularly fond of the rice porridge, served with a big pat of butter. Even though Swedes are less superstitious nowadays, the tradition of leaving a plate of rice porridge on the stairs still lives on in the countryside – to all farm cats' delight.
5 million litres of "glögg" ...
When it comes to drinks, Swedes are generally rather adaptable. We’ve gone from drinking whatever you could distil from potatoes, grain or even cellulose, to knowing the difference between Indian Pale Ale and plain Pale Ale. Still, there is one ancient drink so important to us that no other beverage can compete: glögg. This variation of mulled wine is served with almonds and raisins (often in the kind of plastic cups that you get at the dentist's). According to The Museum of Spirits, Swedes drink 5 million litres of glögg every Christmas – luckily not per person.
Visit the cosy Haga district for a great glögg experience this winter. Typically you can buy the hot drink from street stalls, with or without alcohol.
... and 40 million litres of "julmust"
Every December, Coca-Cola sales in Sweden drop by at least 50 percent when Swedes turn to their Christmas drink of choice – "julmust". This non alcoholic drink was launched in the 1920s by a man called Harry Roberts, and ows part of its success to the stricter laws on selling and producing alcohol that were introduced in Sweden during that time. The recipe remains a secret to this day, and all other manufacturers buy a mix from the Roberts company that they use to produce the drink. The taste is sweet and similar to both root beer and Coca Cola, and goes well with Swedish Christmas food. Too sweet for you? Try to mix it with beer!
Donald Duck is bigger than Santa (almost)
You may have heard it before but this is too strange to leave out. Every Christmas Eve at 3 pm, the whole country stops as millions of Swedes turn on the TV to watch a compilation of old Walt Disney clips from the 1950s. In 2017, 3,865,000 people watched the show which made it the most popular TV program of the year.
Gingerbread makes you kind
One of the most long-lived superstitions in Sweden is the idea that gingerbread makes you kind. One of the earliest examples of this goes back to the fifteenth century when King John of Denmark (and Sweden between 1497 and 1501) was prescribed gingerbread cookies for his awful temper. Whether it helped is unclear but to this day we eat loads and loads of gingerbread based on the same argument. Baking your own gingerbread at home is very popular, and families often have their own secret recipe for the perfect dough.