A Swedish Christmas

Christmas came early for me this year. I know its only early November but I’m excited for the first of many celebrations. Christmas is one of my favorite holidays as I am sure it is for many people. There is something about the coziness that surrounds the Christmas season. The sound of Christmas carols and smooth piano ballads in the background. The smells of cinnamon and spices, peppermint and freshly baked cookies. The knowledge of the bitter cold and snow while being inside with a warm drink in your hands and watching snowflakes fall with the soft glow of Christmas lights behind them. Being surrounded by people who care for you and the sense of magic and excitement that the season brings.

One of my favorite things to do as a child, and still to this day is baking. I love to make Christmas cookies, whether it’s with my grandparents and many siblings and cousins or with some of my closest friends. I’m sure my friends get annoyed every year by my constant plea to make a gingerbread house and then our joint inability to eat even a fraction of it. So when I suggested making Christmas cookies with my visiting host family, my host mom Lena went all out with a Swedish Christmas experience.

When I arrived to my visiting host family’s house, I was immediately greeted by the smell of cinnamon and nutmeg and a mix of leftover Halloween and Christmas decorations. My first introduction to a Swedish Christmas was drinking glögg and rolling out pepparkakka. Glögg is a mulled/spiced wine served warm and with whole almonds and raisins. It might sound strange but the warm sweet and spiced drink was a perfect way to start the evening (of course it was non-alcoholic since it was a school night). We then started rolling out some pepparkakka which is just a gingerbread cookie but thinner than how we would make it in the US.

After getting the cookies made, we started to make dinner, which was (you guessed it) Swedish meatballs and mashed potatoes. I was honored for my host mom to show me how to make her grandmother’s meatball recipe. I thought it was going to take forever to cook them all, but it turned out that rolling out the almost 200 meatballs between 3 people took the longest. She also showed me how to make the sauce that goes with them because it is a little different than how I would make gravy back home.

After dinner, it was time for us to make the Lussebullar (saffron buns). As we were waiting for the dough to rise, we all gathered around and watched an episode of the newest season of Allt för Sverige (Translates to Everything for Sweden but known in the US as The Great Swedish Adventure). It was great to hear my host family talk about the show and how excited they would be if the got the chance to be on it and meet some of their family that immigrated to the US or Canada. When the episode was over, we got the chance to roll out the dough and make fun shapes.

It was such a memorable experience to have the opportunity to be apart of a Swedish Christmas even though it was so early, now it just needs to snow! It made me even more excited to start celebrating and looking for Christmas activities to do before I leave. I know I am already excited to go to a Julbord (Christmas table) where they serve a spread of other traditional Swedish Christmas foods, shop at a few of the Christmas markets, go ice skating in Kungsträgården, and attend a St. Lucia day service!

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t already listening to Christmas music but I can’t contain my excitement. I will always treasure my time being in Sweden around the holiday season and although I will miss my family once Thanksgiving gets closer, I can’t wait to introduce my family to some Swedish traditions once I get back!

Happy Holidays!

Vaxholm

One of my first Swedish Adventures was to a city called Vaxholm. My roommate Val and I wanted to go somewhere in the Swedish Archipelago so we did some googling about recommended places to go. Found the website about the archipelago (found here) and got on a train and then a bus to get to the city. We had no idea what to do or what we wanted to do, besides see what the hype is about.

Getting there

From my house, Vaxholm is only 24 miles away, but it took less than an hour and a half to get there. We ended up taking the Red 14 line almost to the last stop and taking a bus. The bus ride felt a little on the longer side since it was somewhat crowded with people.

The bus ride wasn’t all bad we had some nice views for part of it!

What To Do?

We had no idea what we wanted to do once we got there and just figured it out as we went which was a fun way to do it. We saw lots of cute buildings and boats!

We were also intrigued by this round building that we later found out is the Vaxholm Fortress. We took a ferry over to the island to check it out.

Fun Fact: The fortress was used as a movie location for the 1970’s movie, “Pippi in the South Seas” which features Pippi Longstocking on an adventure to hunt for her father who’s been kidnapped by pirates.

We didn’t get a chance to tour the museum or walk the plank (I’m a little disappointed it wasn’t available…) BUT we did walk up several flights of stairs to see the view from the tower.

We also found some great photo spots, one with a sea mine and the other at a random table that was kind of cute.

Lunch

After walking up all those stairs we worked up quite the appetite. We found a restaurant that wasn’t going to hurt the wallet too much because we are still students with tons of debt even if we are studying abroad. I didn’t end up getting the name of the place because we were very hungry.

I wanted to be adventurous and get a traditional Swedish meal and a Swedish beer of course. I got fried herring and mashed potatoes with some lingonberries and a salad on the side. I thought it was alright, the herring was a little too bony for me, but I would be willing to try it again.

I’ll be back to the Swedish Archipelago at some point and get to see a few more islands, until then…

See ya later, Vaxholm