Sweden’s Christmas Traditions To Savor!

There is so much to love about different Christmas traditions from all around the world! Santa, Mrs. Claus and Autumn The Elf brought some international fun to Bronner’s during their Facebook LIVE appearances this holiday season. Their first stop?! Sweden. And with so many beloved Swedish Christmas traditions to inspire you, we had to break them up in to two posts. So here you’ll find good food, family and friends among some of Sweden’s Christmas traditions to savor. Additionally, you can find cozy, candlelit Swedish Christmas traditions in part one of our series.

Sweden's Christmas Traditions to Savor

If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

Sweden’s Christmas Traditions Features A Feast Of Treats

From the traditional saffron sweet roll of Christmas called Lussekatt, often enjoyed during Fika*, to the apex of feasting known as the Christmas Julbord on December 24, to the risgrynsgröt (sweet rice porridge) and everything in between – the Swedes have really nailed the art of season’s EAT-ings!

Fika - Swedish Coffee Break

*WHAT IS FIKA?
Fika is often translated as “a coffee and cake break”, which is kind of correct, but really it is much more than that.” … “Fika is a concept, a state of mind, an attitude and an important part of Swedish culture. Many Swedes consider that it is almost essential to make time for fika every day. It means making time for friends and colleagues to share a cup of coffee (or tea) and a little something to eat.”[1]

Lussebullar, Better Known As Lussekatt – Sweet Rolls

🎶”Can we skip to the good part?!”🎶

If you were to ask just about any Swedish person to name just ONE thing definably Christmas, chances are good you’ll be learning about Lussebullar (also called Lussekatt)!

Sweden's Christmas Traditions Include Lussebullar, Saffron Christmas Rolls With Raisins

So, we’ve gotten your attention haven’t we?! Autumn The Elf had ours too when she surprised us with a “giving plate” of Sweden’s traditional Christmas sweet rolls called “Lussebullar” during Santa’s Facebook LIVE appearance on November 26, 2021 whereupon we discovered the curiously shaped rolls which come in many different shapes. Lussebullar are a type of sweet bun made with saffron and cardamom.

“Saffron is one of the most precious spices in the world. The threadlike red stigmas—and the yellow hue they impart—are quite literally the stuff of legend. But what is saffron, exactly?” … “The spice originates from a flower called crocus sativus—commonly known as the “saffron crocus.” [2]  Vivid crimson Saffron “threads” are actually the flower’s stigma, each harvested by hand within a very specific window of time in the day! Moreover, a single flower yields merely three saffron threads. And after learning this, it’s a bit easier to understand why this exotic spice is so costly. Indeed, saffron has been described by chef, Dietrich Bronner to taste “floral with hints of paprika and a bit of chili with mild undertones of salt and pepper.”

Lussebullar is a treat that is pretty sacred to Christmas for Swedes. But since we celebrate Christmas without end around here, we won’t tell if you decide to give this delicious recipe a try sooner … you know … to test out one of Sweden’s Christmas Traditions in preparation😜.

Featured: Swedish Designed Brass Angel Chimes (1177678)

Furthermore, the saffron bread dough can be rolled in to a number of different shapes while still remaining true to Swedish tradition. However, our video explores the fun “S” shape, reminiscent of cat eyes … or perhaps as Mr. Claus prefers, “S” for Santa because it’s one of his favorite baked goods from his travels through Sweden!

Lussebullar Recipe

Sweden's Lussebullar Christmas Sweet Roll

Christmas Lussebullar (or Lussekatt) – Sweet Saffron Bun

Dietrich Bronner
Lussebullar is a treat that is pretty sacred to Christmas for Swedes. The yeasted sweet rolls are kissed with an exotic touch of saffron and cardamom and perfect served with a touch of whipped cream and a dusting of snowy-white powdered sugar!
Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine Swedish
Servings 6

Ingredients
  

Yeasted Milk

  • 7 tbsp Milk
  • ½ tbsp Sugar
  • ½ tsp Saffron Threads slightly ground, optional
  • 1 1/8 tsp Active Dry Yeast

Wet Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp Honey
  • 3 Eggs yolks only*
  • 1/8 cup Yogurt*
  • 3 tbl Butter browned

Dry Ingredients

  • cups All Purpose Flour sifted
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • ½ tsp Cardamom

Topping

  • 12 Raisins (or chocolate chips)
  • 1 tbsp Honey approximately
  • *Egg Whites

Instructions
 

How To Brown Butter

  • Brown butter by melting it on medium heat, stirring constantly and watching for brown specs and a nutty aroma, but do not burn. (Browning will begin after the melted butter first foams.) Set aside and allow to cool.

Yeasted Saffron Milk

  • Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine 7 tbsp of milk, 1/2 tbsp of sugar and 1/2 tsp of slightly ground saffron threads. On low heat, steam milk (to about 150˚ F), remove from heat and allow to cool to 110˚F
  • Once milk has cooled to 110˚F, add 1 1/8 tsp active dry yeast. (Temperature is important for activating the yeast – adding prematurely while the mixture is too hot will kill it.)
  • Allow to rest for 5 minutes. (When the yeast has bubbled a bit, it's ready.)

Combine Dry Ingredients

  • Meanwhile, sift 2 1/8 cups of flour, reserving 1/8 cup.
  • To flour, add ½ tsp of salt and ½ tsp of cardamom.
  • Create a well in the center to add the wet ingredients.

Add Wet Ingredients

  • To the well, add 3 egg yolks, 1/8 cup of yogurt, 3 tbsp honey. Additionally add the browned butter and yeasted saffron milk mixture.

Working The Dough

  • Work gently in to a dough. (If the mixture feels to loose, add reserved 1/8 cup flour; in contrast, if the dough is tough or dry, add up to 2 tbsp of water, incrementally.) Before the flour is fully blended in, turn the contents of the bowl out on to a clean surface and knead until dough is springy, about 5 minutes.

The First Rise

  • Place in a clean bowl and cover with a towel or plastic wrap and allow to rest until doubled in size. About 1 hour.
  • After the first rise, punch the dough down to release any air and flip on to clean surface. Divide in to 6 equal pieces.

Shaping & Preparing Lussebullar

  • Roll dough into a cylinder and then curl ends in opposite directions towards the center creating an “S” shape.
  • Place rolls on a parchment lined baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap, allowing to rest 30 minutes more, until doubled in size.
  • Meanwhile preheat the oven to 375˚ F.
  • After the second rise, add a raisin (or chocolate chip) atop each end of the roll and bake buns for approximately 6 minutes.
  • Remove the buns from the oven to quickly brush with the remaining egg white + approximately 1 tbsp of honey. Finally, bake buns another 6-9 minutes until the Lussebullar is nicely golden.

Notes

Try Forager® Organic Dairy-Free Vanilla Cashewmilk Plant Based Yogurt for additional flavor.
Additionally, different types of honey are a fun way to experiment with flavor profiles, try orange blossom honey for instance! This tip and other useful notes for baking with honey can be found from kitchn.  
TO SERVE (optional) – Slice rolls in half horizontally to fill with whipped cream. Dust with powdered sugar. 
Keyword Bread, Christmas, Christmas Bread, Fika, Lussebullar, Lussekatt, Lussekatter, Roll, Swedish Saffron Roll, Sweet Roll
Fika platter with lussekatt and pepparkakor flavor Sweden's Christmas traditions with sugar AND spice.
Fika platter with Lussekatt and Pepparkakor flavor Sweden’s Christmas traditions with sugar AND spice.

Lussebullar, as is, are only mildly sweet. As a result, we find them best served with a whipped cream filling and a dusting of powdered sugar – to celebrate Christmas snow!

Pepparkakor – Gingerbread

Unquestionably, the only way to follow up something as “sweet” as Lussebullar is with a little spice from another Swedish favorite, Pepparkakor (which means gingerbread)!

It is so fun to see how different cultures and countries enjoy these warming spices during the holiday season! Like Germany’s Lebkuchen or Bronner’s classic, “American” gingerbread recipe.

Gingerbread Cookie Dough
Find Bronner’s Classic Gingerbread Recipe.
Fika platter with lussekatt and pepparkakor

But aside from just another “side” during Fika😂, many Swedish take the art of pepperkakehus (gingerbread houses) very seriously! And we’re here for it!

Children decorating a gingerbread house known as pepperkakehus in Sweden
📷 Instagram Photo Credit: @maggiesskafferi

Julbord – Christmas Dinner

Consequently, when Swede’s mark their calendar for the big day it’s actually December 24! (We can hear the children cheering already 😂.)

Are you familiar with the Swedish term “Smörgåsbord”?! (It’s a buffet offering a variety of hot and cold meats, salads and hors d’oeuvres, etc.) If so, than it will come as no surprise that the climax of Christmas anticipation for many Swedish people culminates in a Smörgåsbord-styled Christmas Feast they call Julbord!

Table Set For Swedish "Julbord" Christmas Feast
📷 Photo Credit: David Castor

Christmas ham or turkey is not the star of the show here! A Julbord table spread will often feature different a variety of fish-centric dishes. Pickled herring, Gravad lax med hovmästarsås (Gravadlax with mustard and dill sauce), Gingravad lax (Gin cured salmon), Lutfisk (Preserved cod), Kräftsallad (Crayfish salad) and Rökt ål (Smoked eel) are just some examples.

Additionally you’ll find a selection of cold meats, pâtés and terrines to choose from. Salads and other hot dishes (yes, Swedish meatballs are part of this party!🎉) round out the main course before heading to dessert!

But without a doubt, we would be remiss not to mention that “Candles are ever-present and in seriously large numbers [during the Julbord celebration]. Most households light about 50 candles on Christmas Eve”[3] With that, you’ll want to check out several great Candlelit Christmas Traditions Of Sweden to illuminate your celebration this year!

Risgrynsgröt – Rice Porridge

Swedish Rice Porridge Christmas Tradition Risgrynsgröt
📷 Instagram Photo Credit: Goda Nyttigheter

Goda Nyttigheter shares her authentic Swedish recipe for this mouth-watering risgrynsgröt in her Instagram post; please note however that you may need Google Translator and a metric converter to follow.

Don’t be fooled! Because risgrynsgröt is more than just a rice pudding or porridge served even after Julbord dessert!

Risgrynsgröt ” … is normally dusted with cinnamon. Often an almond is hidden in the rice porridge and whoever gets the almond gets a task, like composing thanks in rhyme for the meal. In the old days, if a single young man or woman found the almond, it was a sign that the coming year would bring true love.”

“Finally it is important to put a dish of risgrynsgröt outside the front door for the Christmas elf, because otherwise he will get annoyed and cause mischief. In some families the risgrynsgröt should be put out before dawn on Christmas Eve, but others leave it until the evening.” [4]

Sweden’s Christmas Traditions Bring Comfort

Or should we use the Nordic term Hygge?! (Which means comfy, cozy and content.) What more can there possibly be if you want to enjoy some of Sweden’s Christmas traditions?! We’ll leave you with just two more ideas …

DIY Dried Orange Slice Ornaments, Garland & Décor

Being Nordic, many of Sweden’s Christmas traditions and decorations inevitably embrace the idea of light and warmth. So finding notes from the vibrant orange citrus fruit pop up in Christmas décor should come as no surprise!

You don’t need a dehydrator to add a vitamin C-sonal touch to your décor! 😂

  • Simply preheat your oven to 200˚ F.
  • Line a baking sheet with foil and mist with cooking spray and arrange finely sliced citrus slices (the same thickness is best) so they do not touch.
  • Dry in the oven for approximately 2-4 hours while flipping every so often. Baking time may of course vary depending on your fruits thickness. Keep careful watch to avoid burning.
Dried Orange Slice Decorations
📷 Right 2 Photos, Instagram Credit: Emma Hogmark

Orange slices are great for making in to ornaments with string or ribbon and beads. Alternatively you can string dried citrus slices into a beautiful garland. Seal with a fixative and store in an air tight container somewhere dry and cool to reuse the following year.

Oranges With Cloves

Another fragrant and fun option for decorating with oranges is to add whole cloves, creating “Pomander.” By all means, use a zester to carve out additional designs that play with the cloves if you’re feeling extra creative … or just plain fruity.😜

Pomander Christmas Decoration Of Orange and Clove
Orange And Clove Pomanders

Sweden’s Christmas Simply Isn’t Done Without Disney®

Perhaps a bit bizarre, but embedded in Sweden’s Christmas traditions nonetheless, is a Disney® Special that plays on Christmas Eve at 3 P.M.. Cuddled together in front of the television is where you’ll undoubtedly find families gathering together for a “viewing of the 1958 Walt Disney Presents Christmas special, ‘From All of Us to All of You.’ Or as it is known in Sverige, Kalle Anka och hans vänner önskar God Jul: ‘Donald Duck and his friends wish you a Merry Christmas.’” [5]

Swedish Christmas TV Special

And so to close, in Santa’s favorite way, “Merry Christmas God Jul to all, and to all a good night!”


We hope you enjoyed these Christmas traditions from Sweden and will consider subscribing to Bronner’s blog where you’ll continue to find Christmas inspiration, 365 days of the year!

Sources:

[1] “Fika: A Relaxing Coffee And Cake Break.” Swedish Food: Swedelicious Recipes – https://www.swedishfood.com/fika

[2] “What Is Saffron, the World’s Most Legendary Spice?” Healthyish https://www.swedishfood.com/fika

[3] “A Classic Swedish Christmas Buffet – Ett Klassiskt Julbord.” Swedish Food: Swedelicious Recipes – https://www.swedishfood.com/julbord

[4] “Rice Pudding – Risgrynsgröt.” Swedish Food: Swedelicious Recipes – https://www.swedishfood.com/swedish-food-recipes-desserts/389-rice-pudding

[5] “Nordic Quack – Sweden’s Bizarre Tradition Of Watching Donald Duck Cartoons On Christmas Eve.” Slate – https://slate.com/culture/2009/12/sweden-s-bizarre-tradition-of-watching-donald-duck-kalle-anka-cartoons-on-christmas-eve.html

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Recipe Rating