Christmas and New Year’s day – Scandinavian style

In Sweden, Christmas begins with the Saint Lucia day. The Saint Lucia ceremony takes place on December 13. Did you know that Swedish Christmas home decorations include red tulips? Christmas Eve is known as Julafton in Swedish. After the festive Christmas Eve dinner, someone dresses up as Tomte (Christmas gnome) who is believed to live under floorboards.

Be careful! In Denmark, the mischievous Danish elf Nisse plays pranks on people during Christmastime. On Christmas Eve, many Danish families leave some rice pudding or porridge for him so that he is nice to them. Children are not allowed to see the Christmas tree until dinner time on Christmas Eve (known as Juleaften) and parents decorate it secretly with home-made baubles.

Norway also has an elf called Nisse, but with the features of a goat (Julebukk in Norwegian.) The idea of Julebukk is a very old one and was probably known by the Vikings. There is a special Norwegian holiday cookie called Sand Kager. In the afternoons, children go from door to door to ask for treats and goodies.

When you spend Christmas in Finland, you will see that Finland shares some of its Scandinavian Christmas traditions with its neighbor Sweden - but then there are Christmas traditions in Finland that you'd never guess! A tip: Finnish sauna, anyone?

Iceland has many old traditions during Christmastime. Expect no fewer than 13 Icelandic Santa Clauses! The origin of these "Santas" is centuries old, and each has its own name, character and role. A special custom for Icelandic children is to put a shoe in the window from December 12 until Christmas Eve. If they have been good, one of Iceland's "Santas" leaves a gift - bad children

While geographically not a part of Scandinavia per se, Greenland is a Danish territory and shares many Christmas traditions with the other Scandinavian countries. Did you know that Greenland has to import all Christmas trees?