Scandinavian Christmas

My father came to America from Norway in the 1920s. They changed their last name from Thorvaldsen to Day to be more "American." But, my father kept his fond memories of the homeland and the traditions his father from Norway and mother from Sweden passed on. We had Scandinavian Christmas celebrations every year with a large Smorgasbord spread, live candles on the tree, and opening gifts on Christmas Eve night. To this day, the look of Christmas for me is purely Northern -

Some elements of Scandinavian Christmas decor include - Reindeer, snowflakes, nature objects like pine cones, birch bark, burlap, straw ornaments and paper woven ornaments, bare tree branches, fur, antlers, and evergreens.You might see symbols such as stars, snowflakes, Santa, goats, reindeer, and gnomes. 

It is a very dark season for the Northern latitudes. Light colors, white, sunshine in windows, crystals and glass beads hung in windows to catch light, candles, fires are all part of the brightening of the holiday season. 

We  had all the traditional foods on our Smorgasbord including  Yule Log, but one of my personal favorites was mom's smoked salmon spread - 

*1 lg can pink or red salmon (remove any bones) 
8 oz cream cheese soft
2 tsp horseradish 
2 tsp grated onion
2 tsp liquid smoke
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt
optional: capers

*My favorite way to do this is to remove the liquid smoke and canned salmon in the recipe and use a package of smoked salmon.

Use mixer or food processor to mix. Shape it into a log and then roll it in some diced fresh dill. We served it with Flatbrod (Finn Crisp and other flatbreads can be found on the cracker aisle).

 Stacks of firewood, birch branches and birch bark candles, glass containers with candles, antlers turned into candle holders.... 

Dala Horse
Swedish symbol for a red-orange horse raised in a village.

woven Danish basket 

This variety of Scandinavian favorites makes a great mingling party and nibble fest.. As a child, we sometimes dared each other to eat things we never imagined like fish treated in lye. Modern Scandinavian cuisine is one of the most sought after palate pleasers in the world. Taking the exceedingly healthy elements of the northern diet and creating new presentations, Scandinavia has now become a sought after destination for gourmands. 
Some of the items we had on our table - 
pickled herring, Swedish meatballs with lingonberry sauce (for our friends who were not so adventurous), cheeses like jarlsburg and gjetsost, flat bread, pickles, beet salad, ham, dill sauce, smoked salmon, ginger cookies, glogg, saffron cake, and rice pudding.
If you have an Ikea near you, they have a fantastic Scandinavian market inside for the foods. Another source is Willy's Products.

When I was growing up in Fairfax, Virginia, we five kids would hike into the woods surrounding our estate and argue over what tree would be our Christmas tree. We had clip-on candle holders on the limbs and used live candles that we really only lit on Smorgasbord (Christmas Eve) night. I'm surprised we survived it. Today, you can get electric ones with a beautiful effect - 

The Swedish Goat
The Norse God, Thor, had a flying chariot guided by two goats. Then, Christianity came along and the symbol of the Julbock became something dark for those who weren't deserving of Christmas and representing the devil. 
The symbol, usually made of straw, is still a Scandinavian precious familiar character.