Christmas in Sweden has a unique flavor, with unique traditions. The best way to experience it, short of flying to Scandinaviia, is to travel to Lindsborg, Kansas in December.
The History of Lindsborg, Kansas
In 1868, a pioneer and schoolteacher named C.R. Carlson, who came from the province of Varmland in Sweden settled in what was to become the town of Lindsborg. The following year his closest friend, Dr. Olof Olsson, who had been a pastor at one of the State Churches in Varmland joined him, along with 110 other Swedes who formed the Swedish Agricultural Company. This group purchased 13,000 acres of this praire land on the edge of the Smoky Valley. Say where exactly
The town was given the name Lindsborg because several of the original landowners of the town had last names that began with “Lind.” One of the first structures to be built was the Swedish Lutheran church, followed by the school in 1873.
The town has retained its ties to Swedish ancestry and continues to celebrate the old traditions and crafts to this day, especially during the celebration of Christmas. A walk down Main Street reveals many displays of twinkling white Christmas lights and banners on every lamppost that say “God Jul” (Merry Christmas in Swedish). Hidden on rooftops all over town are JulTomtes, or Christmas elves, that peek out at passersby.
The Lucia Fest
In Sweden, Christmas (Jul) begins on December 13th, which is known as Lucia Day. Early in the morning the family is waken up by a “Lucia,” who is usually the oldest daughter dressed in a traditional white robe with a red sash and a crown with lighted candles. She serves coffee and special saffron buns or ginger cookies and sings the old Sicilian song, “Santa Lucia.” This festival has been celebrated in the province of Varmland, Sweden since the Middle Ages and is said to have originated in the island of Syracuse in Sicily.
The Lucia is meant to symbolize light and hope to mankind. This is why she is said to come at the Winter Solstice, the darkest day of the year.
In Lindsborg, the traditional festival is celebrated on the second Saturday of December. A girl is crowned as the Lucia each year. There is caroling, Swedish folk dancing, art exhibits, storytelling, Swedish baked goods and other activities.
Heritage Christmas Weekends
During the Heritage Christmas weekends (held in December), there are a number of activities throughout the town, including parades, visits to Santa, donkey cart rides and caroling.
The McPherson Old Mill Museum and Heritage Square is a complex of historic buildings, including a restored roller mill, a one-room schoolhouse, and the Swedish Pavilion from the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, which is now on the Register of Historic Places. Many of the Heritage weekend events take place here. There are crafts for children, storytelling by a JulTomte (dressed up in a red stocking cap, knickers, clogs and a white beard), and refreshments. In the Swedish Pavilion there is a constant stream of music such as brass bands and Sweet Adeline groups.
Other Christmas Events in Lindsborg, Kansas
The holiday season begins around Thanksgiving, when there is a formal lighting ceremony for the Heritage Christmas Tree. Descendants of the first families who settled in this area bring an ornament to place on the tree.
Throughout the rest of the holiday season there is caroling, the Holiday Home Tour, which features visits to several area homes, and the Jul-Tide Celebration presented by the Bethany Chapel Choir, which includes a sing-a-long for the audience. The town is rich in art galleries and these hold special events during the holidays.
Then there is the annual Lutefisk Eating Contest, which is not to be missed. Lutefisk a traditional Christmas fish food, involves lengthy preparation time, and although Swedes disagree on whether it tastes good or not, everyone enjoys other people trying to eat as much of it as possible!
Visiting “Little Sweden”, or Lindsborg, Kansas, as it is more formally known, in a traditional holiday experience that will definitely not be traditional for anyone who has not yet experienced it. This quaint and lovely town is worth a visit.