The Swedish Community
of Jefferson County, Iowa
Christmas In New Sweden
Confirmation Sunday was an important day in the church year but Christmas was the special event of the year and the time when Swedish customs and traditions were honored. Housewives spent weeks sewing new clothes for the family, making candles, cleaning house and preparing traditional Swedish food. Homes and also the church were decorated with evergreen boughs and candles. Christmas trees may not have been used in the earliest years but they certainly were later. There was no Santa Claus or Santa Lucia with her crown of candles in New Sweden, but animals were given extra food and a sheaf of grain was tied to a pole for the birds before the family gathered for the traditional Christmas Eve meal. Then the candles on the tree were lit and simple presents exchanged. After prayers everyone went to bed early as no one wanted to miss "Julotta" - the Swedish Christmas matins which in early years was held at four o'clock Christmas morning, then at five and finally at six o'clock. The church was filled when the service started and all joined in singing that best loved of all Christmas hymns, "Var Halsad Skana Morgonstund" (All Hail to Thee, Oh Blessed Morn). A second service was held later on Christmas Day and another on the following day. Then began the round of traditional visiting and feasting, with a prayer and religious message by the pastor or a deacon. On the thirteenth day after Christmas a children's program or another religious service at the church ended the Christmas festival.
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