In West Sweden Christmas is celebrated on piers, in castles and at Santa Land

Pickled herring and schnaps. Photo: Göran Assner5

Pickled herring and schnaps are necessities on the Swedish Christmas table.

In the different parts of West Sweden, Christmas is celebrated in castles and cottages, in boathouses by the sea, or among tall trees in the snow-covered wilderness. And in all these settings, in the counties of Bohuslän, Dalsland and Västergötland, well-stocked Christmas Buffets are on offer. Try some local food traditions, customs and legends – it will give your Christmas celebrations a touch of West Sweden.


The Swedish Christmas Buffets are generously filled at this time of year. Hopefully, the whole of West Sweden is covered in snow by now and the children are rosy-cheeked after hours of snowball fights and sledging down nearby slopes. There is definitely a snowman in the garden, and we light torches to guide Father Christmas to our door.


Swedish Christmas food. Photo: Göran Assner

Classics on the West Swedish Christmas table. Photo: Göran Assner

Donald Duck, Glögg and Christmas Ham

At 3 pm on Christmas Eve, a modern tradition (about 40 years old…) among Swedes is to sit down in front of the television to watch the children’s program Donald Duck’s Christmas, with extracts from  classic cartoons – the same each and every year! The adults enjoy warm glögg (the Swedish version of mulled wine) and ginger snaps, the children drink a special fizzy Christmas brew. Family members on kitchen duty prepare pickled herring, salmon, ham and various warm dishes; meatballs, chipolata sausages, spare ribs and Jansson’s Temptation – a potato bake with sprats – sometimes there are also pigs’ trotters, tongue and kidney on the platters. All this is complemented by beetroot salad, various cabbage-based dishes, porridge, rice pudding, Christmas cheeses and the traditional dish “Dopp i grytan” (Dip in the pot). This consists of a large saucepan filled with the stock and fat from the cooking of the Christmas ham. The mixture is reduced and a few root vegetables, onion, cloves and allspice are added – sometimes a small piece of meat, known as the ‘salty piece’ is also put in the liquid. Once reduced enough, you dip a slice of bread into the liquid to soak, before lifting it out to be enjoyed – aaah!

There are lots of different Christmas goodies, including nuts, dates and homemade toffee, and the a number of traditional festive drinks are served, including Christmas beer and different types of schnapps.

Once we have helped ourselves from the Christmas Buffet twice, if not three times, a certain sense of fullness and contentment fills our festively decorated homes. This is when the children get impatient and start looking out of the window, to check for Father Christmas… – Santa must be here with the Christmas presents soon, Dad – don’t you think…?


Swedish Christmas food. Photo: Göran Assner

On the West Coast salmon is served smoked, lightly salted, poached and dill-cured. In some parts of Bohuslän the local delicacy Salted Mackerel is served – and beware of ‘the Little Grey One’…

Bohuslän is spelt Herring!

In Bohuslän, on the west coast of Sweden, the autumn storms are over and all along this rocky, barren coast, thousands of candles are being lit – like lighthouses at sea – to welcome you to a Christmas celebration where the tables are groaning under masses of seafood, including prawns and langoustines, salmon served smoked, lightly salted, poached and dill-cured – preferably with a mustard sauce and a few egg-halves. In some parts of Bohuslän the local delicacy Salted Mackerel is served – along with more herring, naturally! A proper Bohuslän Christmas Buffet should include at least ten different types of herring – preferably more! The Christmas Buffet at Restaurant Salt & Sill, on the island of Klädesholmen, contains more than 40 different herring dishes, 30 of which are pickled. The classic Swedish dessert ‘äggost’ is definitely on the menu.


The Little Grey One…
In the olden days, it was important to keep in with ‘the Little Grey One’ at Christmas time. This little fella lived in the boathouses and could influence life and work at the farm. It was compulsory to place a bowl of porridge for the Little Grey One on the front step on Christmas Eve – no-one would dream of ignoring this important character. Elisabeth Corsander, teacher and ethnologist at Bohuslän Museum explains:   – We have the usual big Santa with his sack, who arrives on Christmas Eve to give presents to the children, St Nicolaus. He arrived in Sweden as the industrialisation in the 19th century made it possible to mass produce and develop products. So he is something of a symbol of our consumer society. But then we also have ‘the Little Grey One’. This little creature was known as a ‘tomte’ and is not specific for Bohuslän, but in this part of Sweden he was thought to live in the boathouses, from where he influenced life and work at the farm. To summarise, it was very important to keep well with ‘the Little Grey One’. If a farmer was mean to his cows or horses, the ‘tomte’ could come to their defence and punish the perpetrator. To leave a bowl of porridge for the ‘tomte’ on the doorstep on Christmas Eve was a very important symbolic gesture.


Christmas Markets in the Inland of West Sweden!

Experience a genuine Christmas market in the Västergötland Region, with local delicacies, Christmas sweets, locally produced arts and crafts and Swedish designer gear – as well as eco-friendly Christmas products and fun family activities.

In Västergötland, the Christmas Buffets include stewed brown beans to enjoy with the sausages and meatballs, and the cheese platter contains matured flavoursome products from local cheese-makers Sivans Ost and Falbygdens Ost. Welcome to the full-flavoured Christmas traditions of Västergötland!


Swedish Christmas food. Photo: Göran Assner

Family members on kitchen duty prepare pickled herring, salmon, ham and various warm dishes; meatballs, chipolata sausages, spare ribs and Jansson’s Temptation… aaah!


Dalsland – a wild and wonderful Christmas!

Some people claim that Dalsland is where Father Christmas actually lives… could this be true?

If you visit one of the historic country estates in the Dalslandic forests, you will feel as if you step back in time when you walk through the door; straight into an old-fashioned fairy-tale, with a glistening Christmas tree, hot, aromatic glögg, and a sparkling Christmas fire, to the sound of traditional carols. In Dalsland, game is a natural part of the Christmas Buffet – common dishes include smoked elk, wild boar, venison and beaver! We recommend that you visit the mansion Baldersnäs Herrgård – an oasis in Dalsland!

When you make your way back towards your sleeping quarter after a delicious Christmas meal, be sure to look outside the frosted window. Isn’t that Santa’s sledge outside…?


Father Christmas likes Dalsland

Has Sten Torstensson in Mellerud lost the plot, or is his hobby to collect the benevolent symbol of Christmas just a pleasant pastime? The town’s old brewery is where Sten has found a home for his collection – and it is open to the public. Sten Torstensson has created the Nordic Santa Museum in Mellerud, home to thousands of figures collected over thirty years. Around five hundred of these are in the old style, from the 19th century, and busy teaching the younger ones the dos and don’ts of Christmas, all according to Sten Torstensson, who is close to the entire family of Santa Clauses and has almost daily conversations with them about life. Both before and after Christmas. So Father Christmas definitely likes Dalsland – how could he not?


Swedish Christmas table.

The adults enjoy warm glögg (mulled wine) and there are lots of different Christmas goodies, including nuts, dates and homemade toffee. Have some – it’s Christmas!

Enjoy a Christmas Buffet, full of all the best from sea, forest, lake and farm. Buy Christmas gifts in festively decorated shops or fill Santa’s sac at one of the many Christmas markets in the west of Sweden. Book your Christmas Package and stay at a castle or country estate – straight out of a Christmas fairy-tale!

See the film: Christmas in West Sweden >>

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