If you happen to be in Sweden for the Christmas season, you might want to impress your friends by learning how to greet them in Swedish. Although majority of Swedes are fluent in English, it would be a pleasant surprise to share your holiday wishes in their native tongue, wouldn’t it?
It sure would, and for that we’ll learn today how to say Merry Christmas in Swedish, but also how to wish someone a Happy New Year in Swedish, plus other winter-related words and greetings.
How do you say Merry Christmas in Swedish?
It’s quite simple: “God Jul”
Phonetically, it is pronounced /ɡuː(d) jʉːl/ sounding more like “good-yul” when enunciated. In English, it means (what else?) Merry Christmas!
But to be more specific, “god” in Swedish means happy/good/merry while “Yul” is the word for Christmas. You might notice it is quite similar to Christmas greetings in the Nordic region with only slight pronunciation differences.
Swedes are very open-minded and not easily offended. But if you want a general greeting for the holidays, you can always use either:
Varma lyckönskningar – Warm wishes
Trevlig helg – Happy holidays
It can be quite a mouthful, though so many newbies tend to stick to “God Jul.”
How do you say Happy New Year in Swedish?
Gott Nytt År!
Don’t be overwhelmed – it is pronounced similar to how it is written and it sounds like “Gut-Nittar.” Remember not to drawl out the vowels -almost not clearly enunciating the “a” in the last syllable so it comes out “Nit-r”.
Now that you are familiar with the holiday pleasantries, here are some useful Christmas and winter related words in Swedish to add to your Christmas vocabulary.
Snö – Snow
Snöflinga – Snowflake
Snögubbe – Snowman
Juldagen – Christmas Day
Jultomten – Santa Claus
Pepparkakshus – Gingerbread House
Mistel – Mistletoe
Tomtenisse – Elf
Fyrverkerier – Fireworks
Nyårslöften – Resolutions
Nyårsdagen – New Year’s Day
Nyårsafton – New Year’s Eve
And just so you know, a present or gift in Swedish is also called “Present!”
Celebrating the Winter Holidays in Sweden is a unique experience since it begins as early as late November and ends on the 13th of January – exactly 20 days Christmas Day. So, what can you expect in these extended festivities?
Like many countries in the region, the Yuletide season begins with Advent. But Swedes push the envelope by gathering at the end of November.
There will be lighting of the Advent candles each Sunday until Christmas Day with families and communities gathering to observe this tradition.
On the 13th of December, you might witness St. Lucia’s Day. There will be numerous portrayals of the life of the young Christian all over but a “national” St. Lucia will be chosen.
She will be garbed in a white dress with a red sash around her waist. A crown of evergreen Lingonberry with candles will adorn her hair.
This is being true to how the young St. Lucia placed candles in her hair so that her hands would be free to carry food into the catacombs where persecuted Christians hid. On this day, young boys and girls also dress up for the occasion.
Many Swedes participate in Första Advent or “The First Day of Advent” and decorate a window in their home with a four-candle setup placed in an evergreen wreath, the first one lighted on Första Advent and the other three on the succeeding Sundays.
The main event starts on Christmas Eve. People wait for the sunset then presents are exchanged.
It helps that the sun sets early in the afternoon for Swedish winters (around 2 – 3 in the afternoon!!).
Don’t be surprised when many Swedes stop at 3pm on Christmas Eve to watch the Disney special “From All of Us to All of You” or in Swedish it’s “Kalle Anka och hans vänner önskar God Jul” This means “Donald Duck and his friends wish you a Merry Christmas.”
It’s a Swedish tradition since 1959 so don’t ask and just channel your inner child to enjoy the show.
You might find goats made out of straw in front of the Swedish Christmas trees with men and women dressing up as goats playing pranks and singing songs. This is a tradition known as “Julebukking”.
On Christmas morning, people traditionally attend the Christmas church services. Then there’s the “Julbord” – the much-awaited buffet where you will find a gallery of cold fish dishes from cured and smoked salmon and herring prepared in a multitude of ways.
You will also find generous spreads of cold meats with the “Jukskinka” or Christmas Ham as the star. There endless spreads and sides that are traditionally Swedish plus of course, fruits and vegetables to make the balance.
The feast isn’t complete without some hearty Glogg or mulled wine to wash it down and ending it with a hefty serving of Swedish pastries like pepparkakor (Gingerbread) biscuits!
Ringing in the New Year in Sweden traditionally starts a few minutes before midnight with a poetry reading of “Nyårsklockan” or “Ring Out, Wild Bells.”
The bell tolls the moment the old year turns to new and fireworks light the sky. Of course, the feasts continue onwards!
If you think it’s over, you need to wait until “Tjugondag Knut” (Twentieth Day Knut) which is on January 13.
This is when the Christmas Trees are finally taken down signifying the end of the Yuletide season.
Your New Year’s resolutions of going on a diet will have to wait until the next day as it is tradition for all leftover holiday sweets and treats to be consumed on this day.
Now that you’ve learned the essentials for celebrating the Swedish winter festivities, it’s appropriate to wish you
Ha en bra vinterledighet ! (Have a great winter vacation!)