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This is why Stockholm is a perfectly quirky winter wonderland

This is why Stockholm is a perfectly quirky winter wonderland

A typical Christmas market in Stockholm's Old Town

Known as the gay capital of Scandinavia, a visit to Stockholm at Christmastime will not be short of romantic, but also quirky, Nordic cliches.

Think Christmas markets, wholesome and warming food, ice-skating under the stars and of course, the story of Santa Lucia.

It’s a place where beautiful, narrow streets meet even more beautiful open minds, so whether it’s a traditional or contemporary Christmas you like, Stockholm has something for you.

It’s a fascinating time of year to visit, so here’s our guide to Swedish Christmas in the nation’s capital.

Christmas comes early

Swedish Christmas kicks off as early as the 13 December (or in and around), on St Lucia’s day.

The celebration is derived from folklore of the first two monks who brought Christianity to Sweden. Lucia was a young Christian girl who was martyred for her faith, way, way back in 304. She would secretly smuggle food for the persecuted Christians in Rome, who lived in the catacombs under the city.

She would wear candles on her head, so she had both hands free to carry things while navigating the dark dungeons. Plus, Lucy means light – a very important thing for wintery Sweden – illumination is important for everyday life and also for the soul.

Her feast day in Sweden is the Winter Soltice, the shortest day of the year. Early Christians appropriated this to celebrate Santa Lucia.

Today, you’ll see girls wearing white dresses with a red sashes round their waists and a Lingonberry brach crown of candles on their heads. This signifies the start of merriment (and much alcoholic consumption).

As you may already know, the Swedes are people with quirky traditions – and Christmas is abundant with them.

santalucia

During Santa Lucia day, people often sing songs about her whilst eating ‘Pepparkakor’, ginger snap biscuits. A common snack is Lussekatts: buns flavored with saffron and dotted with raisins.

As well as Lucia, children (and some adults and drag queens) will dress up as Stjärngossar (Star boys) and tärnor (maidens).

The Skansen museum is the perfect place to experience this phenomenon. They will be running celebrations from 10-13 December.

Shopholm

Christmas markets with hot ‘glögg’, Christmas candy and handicrafts are a must for visitors. And it isn’t actually a tourist thing, you’ll see generations of Stockholmers doing the same.

In recent years, the city has also had Christmas markets that interpret the holiday in new ways. Christmas markets are held during Advent, that is, the last four weekends before Christmas Eve and is a really great way to get into the spirit of the holidays.

For a genuine Stockholm Christmas, the Old Town’s Christmas market is a must. This is the most famous, and most traditional Christmas Market in Stockholm, located in the heart of Gamla Stan at Stortorget square (close to the Royal Palace).

Look out for the little red stalls that opens daily between 11am and 6pm, from 15 November until 23 December. Alternatively, do a walking tour to take in a number of Christmassy sights.

Ice ice baby

Being a city on the water, you won’t miss people teetering across the frozen lake Malaren. But for more reliable terra firma, pick up some skates and join the locals on many ice-rinks across the city.

ice-skating-stockholm

Because Stockholm is such a progressive, open-minded city, skating hand-in-hand with your same sex partner won’t even raise an eyebrow.

All about eve

Christmas Eve is when families get together to celebrate over a feast, unlike Christmas Day in many other places in the world. Lunch is a ‘Julbord’, or buffet. It consists of many Swedish delicacies.

Herring and seafood will generally feature, but also cold meats including turkey, roast beef and ham.

There will also be warm food like meatballs, prinskrov sausages and koldomar – meat stuffed with cabbage. It is an utter feast, washed down with ‘glogg’, a sweet mulled wine.

Families will then sit down to watch episodes of Donald Duck. Yes, you heard correctly – Donald Duck. Since 1959, at 3pm on Christmas Eve, Swedish TV broadcasts ‘Kalle Anka oh hans vänner önskar God Jul’. Or ‘Donald Duck and his friends wish you a merry Christmas.’

Presents are then opened, brought the previous night by ‘Nissar’ gnomes. Not really. We think…

A great place to experience the full Christmas works is in the greenhouse of the beautiful Rosendal Garden.

God Jul!

That’s merry Christmas in Swedish. Wishing you all a happy festive season!

For more about Christmas in Stockholm, or year-round things to do in Scandinavia’s most gay-welcoming capital, visit VisitStockholm.com.

For more inspiration on gay and lesbian Sweden, visit their dedicated LGBTI travel portal at VisitSwedenlgbt.com or follow the conversations on social with @VisitSwedenLGBT and the hashtag #SwedenYoureWelcome.