Traditions: Jul Celebration

Finally, the 24th of December, the day we celebrate Jul. The house is sparkling, the tables are set, the Glogg is heating upstairs, appetizers are in the oven.  Our fingers are crossed that no one shows up early, so we have a moment to get dresses calmly- this never happens. Someone always shows up a few minutes early, a few years ago we went so far as to lock the front door and put a sign up that said “Sorry you are early, we don’t open till 3pm.”

Once all of our family and friends have arrived, some are always late (you know who you are) we gather to sing “Nu Ar Det Jul Igen” holding hands and dancing through the house. This song is about it being Christmas again and it will last until Easter. One family member (I won’t rat him out here) actually leaves his Christmas tree up until Easter…I can not even imagine doing that, crazy Swede! After this the Smorgasbord begins…

Cheeses, Breads and Thuringer

A Smorgasbord is simply many small dishes that are eaten in a certain order, so that the flavors do not conflict with each other. I should say that this is how it is supposed to be eaten, most, in our world, seem to just pile it all on as if there will not be enough food, there are always left overs, many next year.

The matriarch of the family

Starting the meal, you should start with fish, cheeses and breads, and there are plenty of dishes to choose from.  Pickled herring (this year we made “vegan herring” for us, shockingly it was tasty), caviar, smoked herring pate.  Graddost, Jarslberg, Gouda, Gjetost (my favorite and I did eat some this year even though it’s not vegan) are the cheeses and breads like Vortlimpa and wheat and crackers Kackerbrod and crisp bread.  You can also add pototoes at this point if you would like.

The middle generation table, happily I get to sit here

After this plate is eaten you can return for other fish dishes, Glavlax and sometimes shrimp dishes, which we haven’t had in years.

Cousin and her beau adding more to their plates

Lastly, meat dishes.  Swedish meat balls, ham, liver pate, and thuringer.  This is also time to dive into the Jansson’s Tempation, a casserole made with Swedish anchoies, potaotes and onions.  Along with these meat dishes you should add the sweet and sour red cabbage, pickled beets, lingonberry jam, mustards and cucumber salad.

My finished plate

Now that you are over stuffed just from reading what we eat, I haven’t even gotten to the drinking. I mentioned above about Glogg, which is a mulled red wine, and delicious.  We drink this at the being of the party, it warms you up and gets your belly ready for the rest of the alcohol consumption.  While the women are setting up the Smorgasbord, the men are out side mixing the Mumma, which is what we drink while we are eating. Having never been to the mumma making table, I am not sure about the exact details, I just know it’s a mixture of different beers, ginger ale and 7up and is yummy.

Mumma mixing

So while we are eating this massive meal and drinking mumma there is another drink to be had (of course there is, you crazy Swedes!) AQUVIT! Oh boy this is where crazy goes to insane.  Picture it, 25 adults sitting eating there meals, chatting (the level of loud is off the charts), drinking mumma and then out comes the freezing cold, 120 proof Aquvit. Shots are poured. And the singing begins.

Another round of Aquvit

First, my favorite, Helan Gar.

Helan går
Sjung hopp faderallan lallan lej
Helan går
Sjung hopp faderallan lej
Och den som inte helan tar*
Han heller inte halvan får
Helan går
Sjung hopp faderallan lej

Basically this means if you don’t drink the whole you won’t get a half either. This is followed by a half round singing “Havlan gar” and then “Hej, Tomtegubbar.” Sometimes there are more rounds, but at this point I have had two and a half shots of Aquvit and so the evening gets a bit blurry.

The evening always ends with gifts for the kiddos, Swedish cookies (that is if you can even think about adding any more to your belly) and cooking wood with singing from the talented Uncle and cousins.

The very talented cousin and uncle

Our Jul celebration is crazy fun and it takes a few days to recover from.  I love every minute of it. It’s a tradition that we cherish and I am happy to be passing it down to our kiddo and sharing it with you.

God Jul!

Traditions: Marzipan & a theme

Every year, for our Jul Celebration, we have a theme.  Yes, we, my mom and I are known as “Martha-want-to-be’s” by some.  I will accept that title! I see nothing wrong with Martha.  Yes she occasionally goes way over board, does some crazy stuff and leaves an ingredient or steps out of her recipes, but I still like her.  Okay back to the themes…

Every year we like to set the tables to a theme.  We have had snowmen, penguins, 1950’s, angels, Vikings, candy canes, candy, gingerbread houses, the sea, hearts, woodland (aka moss, branches, little red capped mushrooms & elf’s) it goes on and on.  We make marzipan candy’s in a shape to go along with the theme.  This year, it’s A B C’s.

We make our own marzipan (your thinking “of couse you do Martha”) because it’s so easy, cheaper and the end product is far yummier.  The recipe is below that we use, although this is a guide line, it really comes down to taste testing and adjusting.


  • a half a pound of blanched almonds
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • maybe a splash of water

Toss the almonds in the food processor and whirl until almonds are finely ground, they will start to naturally form a dough, add powdered sugar while continuing to whirl.  If needed add a splash of water to help create a dough the consistance of play-dough. Form into what ever shape you want.  One super yummy thing to do with the left overs is to form into log shape (2″ x “6-ish) and dip in dark chocolate. To serve, slice into 1/4 pieces. 🙂

Marzipan after being chilled
Marzipan after being chilled
Stamped out letter "blocks"  (Cookie cutters are from
Stamped out letter “blocks” (Cookie cutters are from Cost Plus World Market, Fred Letterpress Cookie Set)
Chillin in Chocolate
Chillin in Chocolate
The final table setting
The final table setting with a wonky napkin (notice the three drink glasses… I will share that tomorrow)
The Elder Table, this year we had only 34 people, so only 3 tables.

Everyone loved the theme this year, it was simple, cute and sparkly… Tomorrow I will share the craziness of our Jul Celebration, I know you can’t wait.

Keeping up traditions, part 1

We have many traditions, especially when it comes to Christmas, or God Jul.  My mom’s family is from Sweden, she is the first generation in the Untied States, so many of our traditions are Swedish.  I love them all, the insane and the fun, and I will do all I can to keep them going, really it’s not that hard.

Yesterday we made Coffee Bread, Vetebrod, for Christmas morning.  My mom, with my “help,” has been making them since 1989.  I know this because the recipe has the number of times she doubled the recipe each year.  She makes a loaf for each family that comes to our Jul Celebration, we have made more than 20 loafs at a time, yesterday “only” 14.  And it was kiddo’s turn to start learning.

Vetebord recipe with years of notes
Vetebord recipe with years of notes

This Jul Coffee Bread is full of cardamon, cinnamon, butter, and sugar.  What could be better.  When we make 14 loaves, it’s an all day event.  Every year, we chat about the upcoming Smorgasbord preparations (more to come on this), who is coming (only 35 this year) and other funny random mom and daughter discussions. My mom says “This is why I don’t like baking, it takes so long.”  And I reply with “If you only made one, it would not take forever, but we are making 14” (or whatever the years number is).  With kiddo helping out this year, it was funny for sure.  “I want to make a pumpkin shaped Vetebrod for halloween, Nanny.”  “The sugar tastes glittery.” and my favorite “You can’t buy houses, they are too heavy to carry home!” HA!

Back to the bread, after the dough rises and has been kneaded, again, it’s time for the rolling and folding.

Rolling out the bread dough
Spreading the butter, sugar & cinnamon mixture
After rolling the dough, you snip, snip, snip
Then fold, fold, fold
Second rise while waiting for the oven
Done, and the house smells amazing!

Now these are in no way shape or form vegan, nor gluten free, but it’s one of those traditions that I will ignore my “food rules” for.  We all look forward to Christmas morning, a bit hung over from the Jul Celebration, with a strong cup of coffee and a slice or two or three of the Vetebrod while watching the kiddo’s open there stocking gifts. I can taste it already, God Jul!