God Jul

The Christmas season in Sweden begins on 13 December - St Lucia Day. It is the tradition on this day for the eldest daughter to serve coffee and pastries to her parents in bed in the morning, whilst dressed in white and wearing a wreath of seven lit candles (usually battery powered these days!) on her head.

In the run up to Christmas, most houses will have Advent stars and candles in their windows and Christmas trees inside.

Christmas itself is celebrated on 24 December - Julafton (Christmas Eve) -with Julbord, a special Christmas meal consisting of a variety of dishes including Julskinka (ham), meat balls and fish such as herring and salmon. This is followed by Julgrot (rice pudding) which has an almond hidden in it. It is said that whoever gets the almond will be married within the year. The meal is washed down with Glogg (mulled wine).

On Julafton, presents are exchanged - those for children are delivered by Jultomten, one of Santa's elves, with the help of Julbock, a straw goat. He puts them under the tree and they are opened during the evening.

Christmas Day is mainly a religious day and many people attend early church services before going to visit friends and family.

Twelfth Night (Epiphany) is celebrated on 6 January and in many villages people will dress up as Biblical characters and go from house to house singing hymns.

The Christmas season in Sweden doesn't officially end until St Knut's Day on 13 January. This is because King Knut (who ruled Sweden from 1080 - 1086) decreed that Christmas should be celebrated for twenty days. Christmas trees are taken down on this day to signify the end of festivities.