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Julgransplundring

Food in massive quantities
My humble rulltårta and cookies came next!
Julgransplundring!
Tomte Nisse - world's oldest?
The kids are a blur - candy!
Hi, the other day the kids and I relived the old Swedish tradition of throwing out the Christmas Tree, and relieving it of its goodies in the process.  The Christmas trees in Sweden are usually covered in candy and nuts and before casting it aside they like to "dance out the tree" and eat the treats.  We went to the Birka Group's annual "Julgransplundring" where we danced, ate, heard a story and plundered the tree.  The event was great except for one thing, not many children showed up.  Granted the tradition is a little rusty, in Sweden and I guess America, and there was snow on the ground but not too much -- I mean we are Vikings right?  But the kids turned it quickly around to a positive note - more candy for them!  Tomte Nisse (Santa Claus) even handed out little presents.  He was so cute.  So, here are some photos from our event and another pic from Nordiska Museet (Nordic Museum) where there are so many dancers they are literally a blur.  Also, for you history nerds out there (like me) I have copied some information found on "Nordstjernan" about the origin of this tradition which has way more to do with just getting the tree out before its dried up needles are everywhere, including even grave visitations and sacrifice.  Intrigued now? Read on Vikings...

And in Stockholm...
JNordiska Museet, Stockholm. Photo: Peter Segemark, ©Nordiska museet
'Julgransplundring'
Tjugondag Knut, January 13, is traditionally the day when Christmas is 'thrown out' ..literally, since you usually want to throw out a Christmas tree that is shedding needles badly...
The tradition in Sweden and in Finland to plunder the Christmas tree is on Tjugondag Knut or St. Knut’s Day on January 13. This is the day when Christmas is 'thrown out.' It is literally the case these days as this is the date when you usually throw out a Christmas tree that is shedding needles badly and seems to have done its part to enhance the Christmas season. Costumes, ghosts, and wild parties. No, it’s not a description of Halloween but rather Epiphany celebrations in the old days. Today, Trettondagen or Epiphany in English, is a fairly tame holiday in Sweden, but it wasn’t always like that – in the old days, January 6th was celebrated with great hullabaloo. Still a holiday in Sweden most people also take the previous day, the Twelfth Night (Trettondagsafton) off from work. 

“That was the day when the Three Wise men visited baby Jesus in Bethlehem and gave their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh,” says Lena Kättström Höök, superintendent at Nordiska museet. According to Swedish folklore, the dead came visiting from their graves for Christmas and had to return on the 6th of January. Most of these traditions went to their graves during the 19th century, too. Today the only one remaining is, perhaps, the so-called julgransplundring (a children’s party at which the Christmas tree was stripped of its decorations, which in the old days consisted of apples, candy and other edibles). 


“But on the island of Möja, it’s just like old times. They sing medieval songs and walk around with a great, shining star,” Kättström Höök explains. Stjärnsångare, Singers to the star, on Möja dress up similar to the star boys of Lucia or the lussegubbar of west Sweden of olden times Lesser known about Lucia celebrations


According to the Bible Epiphany actually marks two events in Jesus Christ’s life. The first event was when the three wise men, or kings, visited infant Jesus. The second event was when St John the Baptist baptized Jesus. 

In many countries, Twelfth Night leading into Epiphany marks the absolute end of Christmas celebrations. But the Swedes and Finns, and some parts of Norway, feel it's a pity to finish that early, and stretch Christmas another week. That gives the final date of January 13th, which in Sweden is the name day of Knut, hence the expression tjugondedag Knut ("twentieth day Knut). 

According to renowned folklore professor Jan-Öjvind Swahn it's not clear why Swedes stretch the Christmas celebration so far into January. However, there's a lot to suggest that the notorious Midwinter Sacrifice (Midvinterblot) of the Viking era, with its human sacrifices and great feastings, took place on January 13. It is believed that the early Christian Church in the Nordic countries sought to exterminate the abomination by bringing the Midwinter celebration into the fold of Christmas. 
For more info on the celebration of Trettondagen, see Trettondedag Jul and Tjugondedag Knut 

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