Swedish holidays, especially birthdays, make our U.S. holidays pale in comparison.
In Sweden, it's tradition that one's birthday starts with the family getting up early to prepare a nice breakfast. The family awakes the birthday girl or boy by singing the Happy Birthday song and serving breakfast in bed. In some families, the recipient opens birthday presents in bed too. Yes, this tradition is geared more toward children, but it's an awesome one!
As Birthday celebrators get a little older, breakfast in bed may dwindle but birthdays are still a big deal. Adults usually bring cake to work and/or have a birthday open house in their home. Friends and families bring beautifully wrapped gifts in celebration.
The Swedish flag and country colors are normally included in the birthday party decor.
To get the inside scoop on other Swedish gift giving standards, etiquette and tradition, we talked to Alexandra Lindberg who runs a blog called My Life in Sweden and she had so much information to give us!
Gift Wrap and Presentation: Unlike many eastern cultures, there isn't symbolism in the colors of gift wrap. However gifts are usually wrapped beautifully with patterned wrapping paper and almost always finished off with colorful string or a bow.
Lindberg added, “traditionally in Sweden rhymes were also written to each Christmas gift to give a clue of what was in the gift, but not many people write rhymes with their Christmas gifts today.”
Etiquette: Gifts are opened upon receiving in front of the giver.
Go to Gifts: Liquor is one of the most foolproof gifts because it's so expensive in Sweden.
Business Gift Giving Standards: Business gifts aren't common practice between companies. When doing business with Sweden, it's recommended that you don't bring gifts those who you are doing business with.
Swedish employers do sometimes give their employees gifts. Alexandra told us that “It is also common that companies treat their employees to a traditional “Swedish Julbord” in December, either at a restaurant or in the office.”
“Julbord” translates to “Christmas table” in English and appears to be a Christmas buffet to an outsider. However, it's one of Sweden's most beloved traditions. Though there are variations, a Julbord consists of the same dishes across the board consumed in three courses. Some of the many dishes may include pickled meats and veggies, cheeses, breads, and warm meat and cabbage entree dishes.
Historical Gift Giving: Ikea.
Gift Giving Occasions: Swedish gift giving occasions are very similar to occasions in the states with some added gifting events as well.
*Hostess Gift: Chocolates and flowers are the most popular hostess gifts. Something else to keep in mind is that Sweden is known as being the most “child centered” country and gifts are usually brought to the children of the household as well-usually candies or small toys.
* Birthday: Celebrations are elaborate and gifts are always given.
* Weddings: An old Swedish tradition that is that the bride's mother gives her a gold coin to put in her right shoe and the bride's father gives her a silver coin to put in her left shoe. The coins symbolize the parent's assurance that the bride will never go without.
Like in the states, guests give the newlywed couple gifts for the home.
*All Saints Day: Occurs at the end of October or the beginning of November and is a day in which gifts are given to the dead. Wreaths and chrysanthemums are the standard gifts that decorate grave sites.
*Thank You: Thank you gifts usually come in the form of a card.
*Housewarming: Housewarming gifts are very common and include things for the home, desserts or wine.
*Baby Gifts: When asked if the Swedish give baby gifts, Lindberg said “yes, but we don't have Baby Showers like they do in USA. Baby gifts are usually given after the baby is born.”
*Valentine's Day: Valentine's Day is a newer holiday and gift giving occasion in Sweden. It wasn't promoted until the 1960s by the flower companies who took a page out of America's book. Now the holiday is as popular as it is here in the states and the typical chocolates, flowers and jewelry are given.
*Saint Lucia Day: On Dec. 13 girls dress up as Saint Lucia and wear candle filled wreaths on their heads and give coffee and Saint Lucia buns to their family members.
*Christmas: As in the states, Christmas is celebrated lavishly and is full of gift giving. Unlike the states, presents are primarily opened on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day.
Lindberg said, “lottery tickets of different kinds are common to give as a Christmas gifts. Another typical Swedish gift to give around Christmas–as a host/hostess gift for example–is either the chocolate box called “Paradis” or “Aladdin,” in English “Paradise” and “Aladdin.”
Around this season commercials with these specific chocolate boxes always run on TV and stores buy them in huge numbers and advertise them with discounts. I am not sure how this started, but if you are going to visit a Swedish household in December one of these boxes will most likely show up with the coffee.”
*Boxing Day: A public holiday that occurs on Dec. 26 in which boxes of gifts are given to charities and poor families all over the country. Usually the gifts are necessities such as food and clothing.
*Enjoy this article? Click here to learn about gift giving in other parts of the world.