Season of Light

The Season of Advent - almost as important as Lucia in Sweden is the season of Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas. 

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  • First up, of course, the First of Advent, this year on Sunday December 2, Second advent on December 9, third on the 16th and the fourth, just one day prior to Christmas Eve, on Sunday December 23 - 'Advent' in Sweden - waiting for Arrival, the arrival of Christmas.

  • During Advent many windows are also hung with an “Advent star,” while other windows create their own star from the sheer cold outside. Photography: Pär Domeij
  • By the end of November and first half of December it is time for friends or colleagues to gather at restaurants for the “Christmas dinner table,” a buffet combining traditional Christmas fare with the delights of the ordinary smörgåsbord. Celebrations, one way or another usually kick off around the first Sunday of "Advent" and not seldom with a gathering around glögg, the mulled wine of Christmas, and home baked specialties. Prepare your own first ..quick and easy Glögg Party

  • During Advent many windows are hung with an "Adventsstjärna" (Advent star). Photo from the Dalarna region by Bo Zaunders.
  • More on Christmas in Scandinavia

  • Our favorite Lucia image 2009: The Lodge Stenland Lucia, Becky Rasmussen enters the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Pearl River, N.Y. Submitted by Beatrice Rasmussen & Ingrid Allison.
  • Don't miss another important date in the Swedish tradition, subscribe today, for yourself or someone you know: The Gift of a Year (of America's Swedish newspaper. ..think about it; a gift that keeps coming for an entire year or more!) Check out our latest Christmas issue online: Nordstjernan, available in print or digitally (If you gift a subscription to Nordstjernan, this issue will be the first to reach your recipient together with a letter of Välkommen).

  • The approach of Christmas is signified by getting out the Advent candlestick. The first candle is lit on the First Sunday in Advent. Photo: Fotoakuten
  • Looking for a quick and easy intro to a Swedish Christmas – take a look at ‘God Jul - Recipes for a Swedish Christmas’ The book offers all of the traditional dishes, translated for the American home and modified to fit today’s lifestyle. 72 beautifully photographed and inspiring recipes covering herring dishes, cold fish dishes, cold meat dishes, vegetarian dishes, hot dishes, cheese & bread and of course yummy desserts.

  • Friends or colleagues gather at restaurants for a Julbord, the “Christmas dinner table.” Photographed by Bo Zaunders.
  • 'Första Advent' - First day of Advent
    In people’s homes, the approach of Christmas is signified by getting out the Advent candlestick, which is often a little box with four candleholders embedded in moss and lingonberry sprigs. The first candle is lit on the First Sunday in Advent and allowed to burn down by one quarter. Next Sunday it is time for the second candle, and so on, until by the fourth Sunday the first candle has burnt right down and the last one was started. This is a peculiarly Swedish custom, but it was inspired by the “Advent trees” of Germany and became widespread in the 1920s.

  • During Advent many windows are also hung with an “Advent star,” the original version of which, made of red paper, was introduced in the 1930s. Today you will often see more sophisticated versions of straw, wood shavings or metal. This custom also originated in Germany, but in recent years it has begun to be overtaken by the electric stepped candlesticks, which also shine from the windows of companies and institutions. In our neighborhood, since we have taken to placing both the stars in three windows and the stepped candlesticks we are commonly considered of Jewish origin—the stepped candlestick can easily be mistaken for a “Menora,” the seven-branched candelabrum and one of the oldest symbols of the Jewish people..
    Germany also invented the Advent calendar, nowadays called the Christmas calendar and first introduced in Sweden in 1932. Later, with the production of tie-in programs, first on the radio and then also on television, sales of Advent calendars broke all records. These calendars are 3-dimensional with twenty-four windows, one of which is opened every day from December 1 to December 24. Behind each window is a picture, a clue, or – if you’re lucky to have a chocolate calendar – a sweet.

  • The celebration of Advent then, is of fairly recent origin. It is only in our own time that church services on the First Sunday in Advent have joined the early morning service on Christmas Day in topping the year’s attendance figures in otherwise secular Sweden. Common to many aspects of modern Advent celebrations is the part played by candles, and this is usually quoted to instance a 20th century “candle revival,” with living light” providing a counterpoise to the cold lighting technology which, towards the end of the 19th century, superseded the old, mellower light sources.

  • Written by Ulf Barslund Mårtensson. First published in Nordstjernan. Source: Professor Jan-Öjvind Swahn, Sweden.

  • The word Advent has its origins in the Latin word adventus, which means arrival.

  • The lighting of the first of the Advent candles is often a solemn but happy occasion in Swedish homes. The Fourth Sunday of Advent this year falls on December 23.

  • Don't miss another important Swedish tradition - subscribe to Nordstjernan in print; 18 issues per year, delivered to your door every other week: ($55 will bring you or someone special the joy of warm memories, news, trivia and traditions for a full year!)