top view of a family praying before christmas dinner

A Scandinavian Christmas Eve Dinner

Scandinavians’ take their Christmases very, very seriously. Home cooks begin cooking and baking a month in advance with everything culminating in a massive feast on Christmas eve. The five Scandinavian (or Nordic) countries of Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Iceland all share a harsh climate, long winters, and strong traditions, especially around Christmas foods

My Hungry Traveler got together for Christmas in 2022 with friends and family and cooked up a Scandinavian feast. Here is a guide on how to through a Nordic feast, either for Christmas or any special occasion:

Swedish Christmas Smorgasbord (Julbord) – The typical Swedish Christmas feast includes a variety of dishes, served in a buffet known as julbord. Held on Christmas Eve, these dinners are filled with traditional Swedish dishes, including warm dishes like meatballs in cream gravy, potato-anchovy casserole, salmon, pickled herring, cheese, and cold cuts. Danish rye bread open face sandwiches (smorrebrod), and a few Finnish starters like beetroot salad, creamed salmon soup, and Karelian pies served alongside Scandinavian schnapps, Aquavit, and mulled wine called Glogg. This is the beginnings of a true Scandinavian Christmas feast.

Danish Main Course – After standing around stuffing oneself, it’s time to sit down at the table to a nice warm soup and to begin the serious eating! The two most common types of meat served at a Danish Christmas dinner are pork roast (flæskesteg) and roast duck (andesteg). Sides almost alway include sweet and sour red cabbage and caramelized potatoes. A gravy made from pan drippings and red currant jelly round out the plate.

Scandinavian Christmas Desserts – Baking is a fine art year-round in Scandinavia. But come late November, the serious Christmas baking begins. Danish and Norwegian home cooks bake at least seven different kinds of cookies — a carryover from the 19th century when the number reflected a family’s wealth and status. Scandinavians’ especially love the ritual of gathering around the living room coffee table to enjoy after-dinner coffee and a dazzling array of cookies, cakes, and rice pudding with whipped cream and cherry sauce.

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