My Swedish Christmas: Meet Whyte
Whyte is a care worker who lives in Lewes, however he spent many of his childhood Christmases in Sweden. We caught up with him to find out how the experience of the festive period compares across the two countries.
“I moved over from England to Sweden in 1995 and moved back here in 2000, so my first Christmas in England would have been when I was a kid, but the first one I remember was when I returned in December 2000 to a little village about five miles away from Lewes.
“Christmas in England was a day later than usual, which was weird. We open our presents on the 24th in Sweden. Santa comes and knocks on the door and delivers them in the middle of Christmas Eve. So it’ll be about 11 o’clock and your dad will go out to get a newspaper or some wood and Santa will knock on the door in full Santa clothing and everything.
“I remember coming to England and eating turkey instead of ham and meatballs, which was kind of odd. In Sweden we have Salmon on flatbread in the morning with a berry sauce. We would also always go out and cut down a tree ourselves, bring it home and put it up.
“On December 25 my older brother used to go out and see his mates in the village and my parents would stay in and rest after drinking too much the day before. The remainder of the Christmas period is spent trying to see as many people as you can and fit in as many other big meals as possible. The 25th is a quiet day but then you have a whole period of visiting many people, so that’s pretty cool.
“Julmust is the thing I miss most from a Swedish Christmas. Its a root beer you can’t buy over here. It’s a really nice, malty, fizzy, non-alcoholic drink that outsells Coca-Cola in Sweden every December.
“The one thing I don’t miss is the lack of sunlight. Where I grew up in Norbottenlans near Kiruna you do get twilight for a couple of hours a day, but from December 15 through to the middle of January there’s no sun whatsoever. For all of the celebrations out there people start walking around with candles at night. It’s St. Lucy’s day on the 13th December and candle lit processions usher in the beginning of the darkness. There are fires constantly burning to keep everyone going.
“My message to the world is: ‘gottjuo!’. In English, it simply means ‘merry Christmas’.”