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!