Six Christmas events to kick off December in Sweden

December is officially under way and that means the Christmas season is starting to pick up pace. Here are six great events to kick the festive period off across Sweden this weekend.

Six Christmas events to kick off December in Sweden
Gothenburg is about to turn on its 'Lane of Light' from the centre of the city to Liseberg. Photo: Liseberg

The Lane of Light, Gothenburg

One way to make the most of Christmas in Gothenburg this year is to follow the city’s 'Lane of Light'. In essence it’s a three kilometre stretch of Christmas light installations running from Göteborg Opera on the harbour to the Liseberg amusement park further south, with various buildings, bridges and more lit up in different ways along the route.

The path also cuts through Kungsportsplatsen, where Gothenburg’s ‘Singing Christmas Tree’ will feature daily performances of Christmas songs until December 23rd. The Lane of Light starts on December 1st and continues until January 8th. A handy map of the route can be found here.

A section of a previous incarnation of the Lane of Lights. Photo: Dino Soldin/Göeborg & Co

Icehotel 365, Jukkasjärvi

The Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi near Kiruna is famous the world over, but while previous incarnations of the building have been allowed to melt before being completely remodeled and rebuilt each year, this month marks the launch of a new permanent section.

Icehotel 365 boasts nine deluxe suites – each with their own sauna – as well as its own ice bar and ice gallery, but apart from that most of the details are being kept under wraps, including what it will look like! As usual everything is built out of snow and ice, sculpted by artists who have been brought in from around the world to create it. The new section opens on December 1st, so why not start Christmas by finding out what all the fuss is about? Prices and tickets are available here.

Christmas concert, Uppsala

University city Uppsala will get the month going in a more subtle way with a Christmas concert this weekend to help spread some festive cheer.

The performance will take place on Saturday afternoon at Helga Trefaldighets church right next to Uppsala cathedral, and while the building isn’t quite as grand as its bigger neighbour, it still dates back to the 1300s. Vocal group Simplyfive will perform, times and the venue’s address can be found here.


A photo posted by Krystal  (@semi__swede) on Nov 11, 2016 at 7:02am PST

Winter Live, Umeå

Northern Sweden's biggest town is set to host a special winter event during the first weekend of December which will take over Rådhusesplanaden, the stretch between Rådhustorget and Järnvägstorget. That means music, dancing and other performances, reindeer, mulled wine and much more.

The events will run between noon and 4pm on Saturday and Sunday. Details are available here.


Streetviews #umea #umeå #visitumea #visitsweden #swedishmoments #northernsweden #november #streetview #umeälven

A photo posted by Visit Umeå (@visitumea) on Nov 14, 2016 at 5:33am PST

Live Christmas calendar, Stockholm

Every year, TV network SVT broadcasts a new Christmas calendar series with daily episodes airing between December 1st and Christmas Eve, and it’s so popular that many consider it an essential part of Swedish Christmas tradition.

The concept is taken a step further by the Mäster Olofsgården charity in Stockholm’s Old Town, which for the last 12 years has organized a live Christmas calendar in the area. At 6.15pm each day between December 1st and 24th different windows will open in Gamla Stan and a new Christmas calendar scene will be performed by Swedish actors and musicians, so if you’re in the neighbourhood at that time it’s worth keeping an eye and an ear open.

For those not willing to leave it to chance, a map of the different windows and the corresponding dates on which they will be opened on can be found here.


#gamlastan #levandejulkalender #godjul #julafton

A photo posted by Gustaf Hedberg (@stepmonto) on Dec 24, 2015 at 2:50am PST

Winter Magic, Malmö

One of Malmö’s biggest 2016 Christmas celebrations will take place at Gustav Adolfs torg under the umbrella of “Winter Magic” (Vintermagi). The square will be covered in lights and host igloos, a winter garden, and of course, a Swedish Christmas market from now until December 23rd.

READ ALSO: Ten of the merriest Christmas fairs in Sweden

The festivities are open daily between 11am and 6pm, and cost nothing to look at. The sweet treats on sale at the market are a different question.

Check out our interactive calendar below for more things to do in Sweden.



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Why is January 6th a public holiday in Sweden?

Trettondedag jul, literally "the thirteenth day of Christmas" always falls on January 6th, which this year is a Friday. It's a public holiday in Sweden meaning many people have a day off. But why is it celebrated it at all?

Why is January 6th a public holiday in Sweden?

Trettondedagen, or trettondagen, or Epiphany as it is sometimes referred to in English, is the thirteenth day after Christmas Eve, the day when Swedes celebrate Christmas. Unlike most Swedish holidays such as Midsummer’s Eve (midsommarafton), Easter (påskafton) and Christmas Eve (julafton), the trettondag holiday is celebrated on the actual day, rather than the night before on trettondagsafton.

As a Christian holiday, it marks the day the three wise men met baby Jesus and gave him the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, and therefore the day God’s son arrived on earth. In Denmark and Norway, the day is still referred to as helligtrekongersdag, or “day of the three holy kings”.

Unlike the Twelfth Night or the last of the Twelve Days of Christmas, which is considered to be the last official day of Christmas in many Christian countries, the official final day of Christmas in Sweden falls on the twentieth day after Christmas, January 13th or tjugondag Knut. So, you can keep your decorations up for a while yet.

In Småland, trettondagen is sometimes referred to as farängladagen or änglafardagen(literally: “angel travel day”), as it was previously believed that the dead returned home the night between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, returning to their graves on January 6th.

How is it celebrated in Sweden?

In modern Sweden, most people don’t do anything in particular to celebrate trettondagen, other than perhaps taking down their Christmas decorations (although as mentioned above, many people do this on January 13th instead). It’s a day off for many, and state-run alcohol chain Systembolaget is closed.

In the Swedish Church, trettondagen is a day for raising funds for various charitable campaigns elsewhere in the world, such as this year’s campaign to end child marriage, female genital mutilation and gender-based violence.

The Swedish Church will often hold services on trettondagen or trettondagsafton. If you’re interested, you can find out what services churches in your parish will be holding here. Just type in your address, then look for trettonhelg to see what’s on.

How did Swedes celebrate in the past?

Traditionally in Sweden, the day was marked by boys and young men walking from town to town telling the story of the three wise men. These young men were known as stjärngossar (literally: star boys), a precursor to the stjärngossar you still see at Saint Lucia celebrations in modern Sweden.

This stjärngossetåg (star boy procession) would include the three wise men, Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar, who represented Europe, Africa and Asia, wearing pointy hats and white shirts, alongside King Herod, who Mary and Joseph were fleeing from (and the reason Jesus was born in a stable), Herod’s servants and a julbock (Christmas goat).

These storytellers would occasionally be given presents or money, and taking part in a stjärngossetåg was often a way for poor boys and men to earn some money, or even be given something alcoholic to drink.

The julbock‘s role was to collect these gifts or money, and it could even have a funnel hanging from its jaw which would lead to a container to collect any snaps gifted to the procession.

This stjärngossetåg still exists in some parts of Sweden, such as on the islands in the Stockholm archipelago.