Christmas Traditions of a Scandinavian in Seattle

Christmas Traditions of a Scandinavian Family in Seattle

It’s so close, yet so far. I eat a little chocolate from my Advent calendar every morning as the days get closer and closer to Christmas. However, secretly I’m not counting the days until December 25. I’m waiting for something  that will happen sooner, or so the calendar says. Time goes by at a very strange pace when you’re stuck in what seems like a chamber of hell for hours drinking endless cups of Starbucks seasonal coffee drinks while “studying” for final exams. Finals are like the biggest grinch of the holiday season. Every morning when I enjoy my daily advent chocolate, I am really counting down the days until the end-of-semester stress is finally over and when I’ll be reunited with my family and friends in Seattle. This is when it truly begins to feel like Christmas.

                                                              Photo from Flickr

When Perry Como sang “Oh there’s no place like home for the holidays”, I felt that. In my family, every Christmas is a “jul” (Swedish word for Christmas, you’ve probably seen it at IKEA). “Jul” encompasses a potpourri of different holiday traditions that make this time of year so special for me. In an effort to share some of these traditions while simultaneously giving myself an extra push of motivation to get through this next week, here is an advent calendar of some of my favorite holiday traditions. One tradition for every day in December until Christmas!

                                                              Photo from Pinterest 

  1. The mission to find the perfect Christmas tree. My family has quite a selection of mini fake trees, however our main Christmas tree every year is a real pine or noble fir tree that we choose and cut down from a local Christmas tree farm. The whole process of choosing the perfect tree is an adventure. The tree farm we usually go to also has a beautiful boutique selling different Christmas decorations and giving out free hot cocoa and Christmas cookies!
  2. Yulefest at the Nordic Heritage Museum. A Scandinavian Christmas celebration selling an abundance of traditional goods from local Nordic artisans, with food decorations and live music.
  3. Decorating the entire house and everything else in sight. It really is not “we need a little Christmas, right this very minute” it’s more like we need a LOT of Christmas every minute.
  4. Clam lights walk. One of the parks along lake Washington has a display of lights, most notably lights in the shape of walking clams. My family and I love to go for walks here periodically during the holiday season.                                                              Me in Leavenworth! 
  5. Leavenworth. A German themed town in the mountains which is SO ANGELICALLY BEAUTIFUL at Christmas. Sometimes I go here with my family and other relatives and rent a cabin near the town for a couple of nights. It’s a festive   
  6. Sons of Norway dinner. An annual Scandinavian meal in a cute venue decorated in traditional Scandinavian Christmas decorations. Sounds like my family tbh.
  7. Country village. An entire outdoor complex of cute shops, locally owned boutiques and fun cafés that becomes EPIC this time of year.                                                                Christmas ship in Seattle! Photo from Red Tricycle 
  8. The Argossy Christmas Ship festival. It’s basically like a lit boat (in both ways)! A boat that stops at several locations in the Seattle area each night, it is fully decked out in Christmas decorations and has a choir on board performing Christmas carols at every stop. Santa is always a passenger!
  9. Gingerbread village. A free display of huge gingerbread houses in a fancy hotel downtown that all follow a certain theme. Past themes have been the Harry Potter movies and the Star Wars Films. Did I mention it was free?
  10. Cross country skiing in the mountains. It is snow much fun!
  11. Baking Christmas cookies and Scandinavian goodies. We don’t just bake cookies, we bake everything- breads, lefse, pastries- you name it! Bring on the calories!  
  12. The Nutcracker at McCaw Hall. The Pacific Northwest Ballet does a great job at keeping this tradition alive. I love dressing up and going to the show!                                                              Photo from Magical Europe in Christmas 
  13. Santa Lucia day! This is a Scandinavian holiday on December 13, celebrating light in the winter. My family usually attends a Santa Lucia event during the holiday season to celebrate our roots.
  14. Lights at Stanwood- a HUGE display of Christmas lights in various forms and in all colors. It’s LIT.
  15. Walk around Greenlake “luminary” lights. This is how we work off the calories we’ve been eating. The walk around Greenlake is 2.5 miles long, on every second Saturday in December there are (fake) candles lit up all around the lake in little bags, there are also decorated boat parades on the lake as well. Groups of carolers and choirs are stationed at different spots along the lake, as well as vendors selling hot chocolate and other goodies.
  16. Candy cane lane! We have one of those too!!                                                                Photo from the rockbury 
  17. All the movies! The Polar Express, both Home Alones,  Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, the list goes on and on.. I love getting all cozy snuggled all up with warm blankets while watching these festive films. My family loves to also watch this movie about Christmas all over Europe and how it is celebrated in different countries. Fun fact: I’ve only watched Elf twice – both times being on an airplane.
  18. Bellevue Botanical Garden lights. Lights in the shape of flowers and plants and other nature-related objects.
  19. Christmas concerts: I played the violin for 8 years which meant 8 big years of Christmas concerts and recitals. My uncle and my cousin are also both talented musicians and we typically end up attending a concert or two every Christmas.
  20. Winterfest at the Seattle Center: ice skating, Christmas displays, lots of lights, food and music. Sounds like a party to me.                                                                Photo by me! 5th Avenue in Seattle on Christmas!
  21. Christmas shopping downtown, the city lights, Christmas trees, displays on the windows, Pike place market all dolled up for the holidays… It is the only time of year I don’t mind being outside in the cold for long hours. Seattle is even more gorgeous this time of year!
  22. Snowflake lane in Bellevue. Fake snow and a nightly parade make an appearance at one of the most chic places to be in Washington.
  23. Catching up with friends- getting coffee, maybe doing other activities on this list. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas if I didn’t get to surround myself with incredible people 24/7.
  24. Candlelight Christmas eve service- one of the only times per year you’ll find my entire family at Church                                                              Smorgasbord on Christmas, we call it "Julbord". Photo from Commore 
  25. Annual Christmas Smorgasbords- a 4 course meal consisting of: a beverage course, a cold course, a hot course, and my favorite course; desserts! This is a Swedish holiday tradition that dates back centuries.

Of course, I always love making new Christmas traditions and being festive in any way possible. While being in college does mean that I sometimes will miss out on some of these traditions, I have also had a fun time trying new festive things in California! I have the perfect combination of being in Seattle and California! And getting to experience the holiday in more than one place is something I’m very grateful for.

                                                              Photo from Swansons

[singing] “ Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the waaayyy, oh what fun it is to procrastinate from studying all day, hey!”

Happy Holidays and best of luck with finals to all!