• Photo: Anne Grethes Foap - Visit Norway
  • Photo: Vastavalo - Tomi Lehtola Visit Finland

Everything you never knew about Christmas in Scandinavia

From Yuletide Trolls to a Christmas Sauna

Most countries have their own take on Christmas celebrations, and the countries of Scandinavia with their rich history of Vikings and Christian conquest are no exception. From 13 trolls of north Iceland to celebrating the winter solstice and the lengthening of the days, here is a bit more information on some of the Christmas traditions across Scandinavia.


Iceland's Yuletime traditions are a fascinating mix of traditional folklore and Christian celebrations. In Iceland there isn’t just one Santa, but 13. Technically these gift-giving miscreants are trolls, come down from the mountains with their formidable mother. While their mum hunts for bad children to boil in her cauldron (don’t worry, she can’t boil and eat you if you repent), her 13 hellion sons spend the 13 nights before Christmas generally causing mischief and leaving gifts in Children’s shoes; good children get a gift while naughty children get a rotten potato (as if their naughty-child-eating mother wasn’t enough of an incentive). All the while the family’s pet panther roams the country in search of anyone foolish enough not to get a new piece of clothing for Christmas, so make sure you pick up that new Icelandic jumper you’d been eyeing up.


Another country with a Christmas culture born of a mixture of modern Christianity and historic celebrations of the winter solstice. Norwegians celebrate their Christmas on the 24th December with a family orientated afternoon and gift giving which could be brought by Santa or small gnomes known as Nisse. The relics of their past celebrations of the winter solstice can still be seen; candles and multitudes of paper lanterns decorates homes in celebration of the return of the light and the now lengthening days.

One of the more well known of the Norwegian Christmas traditions is the Christmas tree that stands in Trafalgar square every year. It is a gift from Norway to the people of the UK as a thank you for their help during World War 2.


Like Norway, the main Christmas celebrations - gift giving and traditional family meal - are on Christmas Eve, but the 13th December, or Saint Lucia’s day, is also an important celebration day in Sweden. Saint Lucia is celebrated thanks to the stories which were told by the Monks who brought Christianity to Sweden. I’m sure it’s no coincidence that Saint Lucia’s day falls on the 13th December, which used to be the day of the winter solstice – or longest night, which was a big part of Pagan celebrations. Today it is marked with a special church service in which a young girl is dressed in white and wears a crown made of candles and lingonberry twigs (a type of evergreen plant native to the Arctic tundra of the Scandinavia region).


Of course, Finnish Lapland is the widely accepted home of Father Christmas but Finland has a rich history of Christmas celebrations dating back to the 13th century. At noon on Christmas Eve ‘Christmas Peace’ is declared across Finland and the people of Finland are encouraged to ‘avoid noisy and rowdy behaviour’ for 20 days. The declaration marks the start of the 3 day Christmas period and the country slowly withdraws to spend time with their families, enjoy a hot sauna and share a traditional Christmas feast before Santa appears to place gifts under the Christmas tree.

If you fancy celebrating Christmas in Scandinavia next year, why not get in touch. You can send us an email or give us a call on 0207 199 6015 and one of our specialists will put you through to the most suitable team.

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