I find that the Christmas spirit really comes out after the first of Advent. In Sweden, this means that all the windows fill with lights and stars, the grocery stores fill with Julmust and gingerbread cookies, and the smell of glögg drifts through the air from Christmas markets.
Last Sunday was the first of Advent and, for Sweden, this marks the official countdown to Christmas. Most households burn four candles, one on every Sunday, to count down the days to Christmas. With every candle that is lit, more and more excitement grows for the coming of Christmas.
Besides candles, there are many other Swedish traditions that go along with the countdown to Christmas. Advent is the time that many holiday decorations come out. The decorations also double as a way to smother the darkness that covers the country this time of year. Stars and electric candles fill nearly every Swedish window to welcome the Christmas season and fight off the dark. With only six hours of daylight, you need all shinning stars and candles you can get.
Nothing says ‘Christmas is here’ more than the grocery stores this time of year. The shelves are stocked with ginger snaps, lussebulle (saffron buns), glögg (spicy mulled wine), Julmust (Christmas soda), holiday candies and Christmas beers. Every walk through the grocery store is a warm reminder that Christmas is around the corner.
Usually, the first of Advent also means the beginning of Christmas markets. Almost every town or city has their own holiday market filled with decorations, handicrafts, homemade clothing and accessories, as well as, cheeses, meats, breads and baked goods. And, of course, if you get cold or hungry there is always warm glögg and holiday food to keep you going.
While this time of year may seem dark and dreary, the first of Advent marks the coming of Christmas. For Swedes, the countdown to Christmas is filled with many cozy fikas including warm glögg, ginger snaps and lots of candle light. The holiday season brings together friends and family, with much light and happiness.