A traditional Christmas in Sweden is not complete without the traditional julbord, a holiday variation of the quintessential Smörgåsbord buffet-style meal in the Scandinavian country. Smörgåsbord is a large feast that includes multiple staples of Swedish cuisine served on the table; julbord, literally translating into “Christmas table,” is that but with a Yuletide twist. The actual Christmas season in Sweden usually begins with the St. Lucia ceremony, around the 13th of December, and leads all the way to Christmas day; the julbord is often had on the penultimate night, Julafton (Christmas Eve).
Julbord is a dear tradition for many Swedes, and many may have altered the exact customs to suit their family’s needs; even so, the feast has several staples which are quite common no matter the family celebrating it. The meal is typically served in three courses (and a dessert course if it can be handled), each with foods that pair well with each other, as well as being separated by temperature and protein. Below are some of the foods that may be associated with each course (click on each thumbnail for full caption & explanation):
Course 1: Fish & Co.
The first course typically revolves around fish, particularly the ubiquitous pickled herring and raw, spiced salmon (gravad lax, or gravlax), accompanied by strong spirits that are often spiced. Many of these items are served as a canapé or hors d’œuvre, in small, bite-sized chunks.
Course 2: Cold Meats
The second course is typically cold, sliced meats, particularly the julskinka, or Christmas ham. These meats are often paired with cheeses and crispbreads.
Course 3: Warm, Hearty Dishes
The first two courses are seemingly but appetizers when one finally comes to the third course, which traditionally consists of warm dishes of larger portions. Heated meat dishes, such as the quintessential Swedish meatballs, are paired here with heavier sides such as potatoes and casseroles.
Course 4: Dessert
The last bit, if there’s room for it, is dessert. One typical dessert is lutfisk, made of stockfish and lye; another, more contemporary dessert staple is rice pudding.
Photos used are taken by Per-Erik Berglund, Helena Wahlman, Mona Loose, Magnus Skoglöf, Tina Stafrén, and Jakob Fridholm for imagebank.sweden.se.