Thursday, December 22, 2011

Yule, Smorgasbord and Christmas

Yule is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. For many around the world it is a contemplative day about the death of one year passing and the renewal of another year of growth. The yule log afire and subsequently the yule log cake have become symbols of the season for many.

Here's some things about Yule traditions and beliefs you might not have known:

If you refuse mincemeat pie on Christmas Day, you will have bad luck all year.

Eat an apple at midnight on Christmas Eve.

If Christmas Eve night is clear and starry, summer harvest will be abundant.

It is bad luck to bring holly into our home before Christmas Eve and triple bad luck if you take it down before January 6.

My father was from Norway and he had us practice Smorgasbord on Christmas Eve. We spread out on the tables all the foods of his homeland and invited a wide range of friends and relatives to partake. It was what us kids came to call the "thank you for moving to America" night when we all gave thanks that we didn't daily eat those foods. I learned to soak Lutefisk (fish soaked in lye) with vinegar. We had wonderful cheeses on hard breads that were cracker-like and pickled herring. Things were often pickled and dried to make it through rough winters. Lingonberries with Swedish meatballs were the favorite item. If someone found the almond in the rice pudding, they got a marzipan pig.

Here's my favorite recipe from Smorgasbord:

"Smoked Salmon Spread"

1 lg can pink or red salmon (no bones)
8 oz cream cheese soft
2 tsp horseradish
2 tsp grated onion
2 tsp liquid smoke
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt

Drain salmon in bowl. Soften cream cheese and add with all other ingredients, except salmon. Now add salmon and mix well. Chill and shape into a log. Roll in parsley. Serve with flatbread.

We also opened our gifts on Christmas Eve night. It kind of sucked as a kid because you had to go to bed after opening your gifts. Only Santa brought gifts on the morning of Christmas and they were unwrapped. Us five kids would sleep in one room together to be sure no one sneaked out. We also had live candles on our real Christmas Tree. I don't know how we survived it.

As an adult, I changed some traditions for my son. I find myself contemplating doing a Smorgasbord next year for my friends to see how many are brave enough for a sardine eating contest. It's easier with lots of Aquavit liquor.

I'd be curious to hear about your traditions for the holiday season.


  1. That smoked salmon spread sounds soooo delicious!

  2. A Very Merry Solstice to you! I like to whip out my HPLHS holiday CDS: A Very Scary Solstice and An Even Scarier Solstice. H.P. Lovecraft and the holidays...what could be more perfect? :D

    Oh, Brigid Ashwood just shared his awesome printable Zombies vs. Gingers Village/Battle set on her site and I immediately thought of you.

    It's wickedly cute! Happy Holidays!

  3. I'm going to rush over and check that out! Thanks so much. I hope your solstice is harmonious and totally blissful.