Tomte, the Swedish Christmas Elf, lives part time at the American Swedish Institute! Visit him for story time at ASI’s Julmarknad (Christmas Market) on Saturday, Dec. 6.
Guest Post by Laura Cederberg from the American Swedish Institute.
Christmas is a magical time in Sweden and the Nordic region. There’s no place on earth that’s more of a winter wonderland and the darkest months are filled with light and joy thanks to many special traditions.
In Sweden, the holiday characters are a little bit different than we might find in the U.S. First off, there’s a goat, yes, a Christmas Goat. Called the julbock (one word) Jul Bock, it has the important job of making sure each home is ready for Christmas. All across Sweden during the winter time, towns even build their own large julbock in the town square.
The second major difference comes on Christmas Eve. Tomte (a Swedish elf or gnome), delivers a sack full of presents to each family’s doorstep. (In the summertime, Tomte lives under the floorboards of a family’s house or barn and cares for their livestock and crops.) We have it on good authority that Tomte also has a place here in the Twin Cities and lives in the third floor of the historic Turnblad Mansion!
Like Minnesota, Sweden has very short and cold winter days. To bring light and magic to the dark winter months, Sweden celebrates the tradition of Sankta Lucia. Young girls wake their parents early in the morning with coffee and luciabullar (Lucia Buns) made with (no cardamom) and saffron. Whether at school, home or church, choirs of boys and girls of all ages, led by Lucia and her attendants, Star Boys and Gingerbread men, sing traditional songs, and a national concert is aired throughout the country on the evening of December 13.
To experience these traditions and the holiday customs of the Nordic region, take a family trip to the American Swedish Institute this winter! Our historic Turnblad Mansion, Minneapolis’ only castle, is decked out with julbock, Tomte (if you find him, you win a prize!), and the iconic ASI Christmas Rooms – a Minnesota holiday tradition in their own right – celebrating how contemporary design influences holiday traditions in the five Nordic countries (Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Finland) and Minnesota.
For more information on the American Swedish Institute, including hours and special family activities, visit ASImn.org.