I celebrate Christmas in two very different ways in two very different places.
In Sweden the celebration takes place on Christmas Eve, whereas in South Africa it takes place on the day itself.
Christmas Eve is very important in Sweden. This is when the main meal (well really a feast!) is eaten.
This is often a ‘julbord’ which is a buffet, eaten at lunchtime. Cold fish is important on the julbord. There is often herring (served in many different ways), gravlax (salmon which has been cured in sugar, salt and dill) and smoked salmon.
Other dishes on the julbord might include cold meats including turkey, roast beef and ‘julskinka’ (a Christmas ham); cheeses, liver pate, salads, pickles and different types of bread and butter (or mayonnaise). There will also be warm savoury foods including meatballs, ‘prinskorv’ (sausages), ‘kåldolmar’ (meat stuffed cabbage rolls), jellied pigs’ feet, lutfisk (a dried cod served with a thick white sauce) and ‘revbenspjäll’ (oven-roasted pork ribs). Vegetables such as potatoes and red cabbage will also be served. Another potato dish is ‘Janssons Frestelse’ (matchstick potatoes layered with cream, onion and anchovies that is baked to a golden brown). There’s also ‘dopp i grytan’ which is bread that is dipped in the broth and juices that are left over after boiling the ham.
The desert of the julbord might be a selection of sweet pastries, some more pepparkakor biscuits and some home made sweets!
Another popular food at Christmas in Sweden is ‘risgrynsgröt’ (rice porridge that’s eaten with ‘hallonsylt’ [raspberry jam] or sprinkled with some cinnamon). It’s often eaten during the evening after people have exchanged their presents.
If there is any risgrynsgröt left over, when it’s cold it can be mixed with whipped cream and eaten with a warm fruit sauce. This is called ‘Ris a la malta’ and sounds rather yummy!
Presents are normally exchanged on Christmas Eve. People often go to Church early on Christmas morning.
Another popular and important that many Swedes do on Christmas Eve afternoon is to watch Donald Duck! Every year, since 1959, at 3.00pm on Christmas Eve, the TV station TV1 shows the Disney special “From All of Us to All of You” or in Swedish it’s “Kalle Anka och hans vänner önskar God Jul” meaning “Donald Duck and his friends wish you a Merry Christmas.” About 40 to 50% of the Swedish population stop to watch it!
Because South Africa is in the Southern Hemisphere, Christmas comes in the summer. So there’s lots of sun and beautiful flowers in full bloom.
The schools are closed for the Christmas holidays and some people like to go camping. Going carol singing, on Christmas Eve, is very popular in towns and cities. Carols by Candlelight services are also popular on Christmas Eve. And many people go to midnight mass, or Christmas morning Church Service.
Traditional ‘fir’ Christmas trees are popular and children leave a stocking out for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve.
The Christmas meal is either turkey, roast beef, mince pies or suckling pig with yellow rice & raisins and vegetables, followed by Christmas Pudding or a traditional South African desert called Malva Pudding (sometimes also called Lekker Pudding) – get the recipe. People also like to pull Christmas Crackers! The meal is often eaten outside in the summer sun! If it’s really hot they might even have a barbecue or ‘braai’.
South Africa also has several other UK Christmas traditions, because of its history with the UK.
On Christmas day afternoon, people visit family and friends or might go for a trip into the country side to play games or have a swim.
Boxing Day is also a public holiday in South Africa and again people like to be ‘out and about’ having a good time!
In Afrikaans (one the languages spoken in South Africa) Happy/Merry Christmas is ‘Geseënde Kersfees’; in Zulu it’s ‘UKhisimusi omuhle’, in Sesotho it’s ‘Le be le keresemese e monate’ and in Xhosa it’s ‘Krismesi emnandi’.
Both the above come from this very interesting site.
In my family in South Africa though, we tend to stick to cold meats and salads as we are usually at the seaside and very hot. Cold cuts of chicken, roast beef, polony, ham are accompanied by mixed salad, potato salad, rice salad (curry, raisins, peaches, and rice – yum), beetroot salad, sliced pineapple rings, grated carrot salad, coleslaw and cold stuffing. For dessert we have trifle – nothing as delicious as that!
You can see in the photos below that the curtains are drawn to keep out the worst of the heat and sun in the middle of the way.