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Christmas Around the World: Sweden

An assembly from the Culham St Gabriel archive

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)

Aims

To consider how Christmas is celebrated in Sweden.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a map or globe so that you can show the children where Sweden is.

  • You will also need a battery-powered tea light or candle.

  • Optional: you may wish to use four readers for the ‘Assembly’, Step 3.

  • Optional: you may wish to use the Bible story about the wise men travelling by the light of a star to see Jesus, which is in Matthew 2.1-2 and 7-12.

Assembly

  1. Ask the children to describe the Christmas traditions that happen in their homes. Ask them which parts of Christmas they enjoy most.

  2. Explain that, although Christmas is celebrated all over the world, different countries have different traditions connected with it.

  3. Explain that you (or the readers) are going to share some of the Christmas traditions that happen in Sweden.

    Show the map of the world or the globe to the children.

    Ask them if they can point out the location of Sweden.

    Reader 1: In Sweden, Christmas traditionally starts with St Lucia’s Day on 13 December. St Lucia was a young Christian who was killed for her faith in 304. The most common story told about St Lucia is that she would secretly bring food to Christians who lived in fear in the catacombs of Rome. So, on 13 December every year, the eldest girl in a family will rise early, put on a white robe with a red sash and have a crown of electric candles placed on her head. Traditionally, she will serve St Lucia’s buns to her friends and family. Many schools, towns and villages also hold a procession on St Lucia’s Day, when a girl dressed as St Lucia and other children dressed as her handmaidens and star boys process together while singing carols.

    Show the children the battery-powered tea light or candle.

    Reader 2: Christmas trees are often placed in Swedish homes two days before Christmas and are traditionally decorated with candles, apples, Swedish flags, small gnomes and straw ornaments. Straw is sometimes used to make decorations to remind people that Jesus was placed in a manger when he was born.

    Reader 3: After the Christmas Eve dinner, someone dresses up as a ‘tomte’, or Christmas gnome, and gives presents to the children. Traditionally, the tomte lives under the floorboards and rides a straw goat. Many of the presents have a funny rhyme on them that gives a clue as to their contents.

    Reader 4: In Sweden, Christmas officially ends on 13 January, which is known as St Knut’s Day (‘Tjugondag Knut’ in Swedish) and is named after a Danish prince called Canute Lavard. On this day, the Christmas trees are taken down and the leftover food and sweets are eaten.

  4. The celebration of St Lucia’s Day is a very important Christmas tradition in Sweden. Just as people light candles during this celebration, so people all over the world light candles at Christmas. These candles are symbolic of light shining in the darkness, bringing warmth and goodwill.

Time for reflection

The comfort of light in the darkness is common to all humans. However, at Christmas, Christians all over the world particularly remember Jesus as the Light of the World, who they believe can bring comfort and hope to all.

Prayer
As Jesus brought peace, turn us into peacemakers.
As Jesus brought hope, make us messengers of hope.
As Jesus brought love, rekindle love in us
So that the birth of the baby in Bethlehem
May bring a new beginning to our own lives.
Amen.

Song/music

Any Christmas song.

Publication date: December 2016   (Vol.18 No.12)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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