In Sweden, the celebration of Christmas lasts almost two months. The fun begins with Advent. Each Sunday before Christmas a candle is lit on an advent wreath made of a stick that is decorated with white lichen and paper-mache mushrooms or red berries.
December 13 is St Lucia's Day. On this day, the eldest daughter in a family wears a white robe and a head wreath with candles. All dressed up, she serves the family St. Lucia buns (Lussekatter) and coffee in bed. A big event is the Lucia choir show. Young girls portray Lucia and "terns" (tärnor). Boys take part as starboys, tomtenissar (Jultomten's helpers) or ginger cookie characters.
Christmas ornaments might be made of straw. Animals, especially goats, are popular ornaments for the Christmas tree. The Christmas tree is also decorated with lights, glass ornaments, and tinsel.
On Christmas Eve, a large dinner or smorgasbord is served. Desserts include a rice pudding (by zackery davis). An almond is hidden in the pudding. The person to find the almond is said to be the next to marry in the next year.
Another important Christmas Eve tradition is somewhat American! At three o'clock in the afternoon all the children stop to watch the Disney special "From All Of Us To All Of You." Dinner and presents must sometimes wait until after Kalle Anka (Donald Duck).
Children in Sweden look forward on Christmas Eve to gifts brought by Jultomten (today a cross between a little gnome and the German/British Santa Klaus). They make sure to leave him a bowl of porridge. They also put candles in the windows so he can find his way to the children's homes.
Christmas Day in Sweden is spent in church. December 26 is St. Stephen's Day (Staffen) in honor of the patron saint of animals. An old tradition on this day was to give the farm animals extra food to eat.
The holiday season concludes on January 13 or the 20th day Knut. On this day the Christmas tree is taken down and Christmas is over for another year in Sweden. Though a famous song in Sweden says that "Christmas lasts until Easter - no, not true, we have the fast in between."
to celebrate a Swedish Christmas:
Make a St. Lucia Wreath
This information has been updated thanks to my good friend Sara, a native to Sweden.