Traditions are meant to be kept – or?

Christmas is drawing near. And so is the Christmas smorgasbord – perhaps the most tradition-bound dinner a Swede eat in a year. But something happens. What was a must a few years ago, isn’t so obvious anymore, and new dishes are popping up among the traditional ones. In this column, Frida Westergård is reshuffle the dishes on the Christmas smorgasbord.

13 December 2019 •

Christmas is coming. All I want is to let myself be lulled into Christmas spirit. In my mind, I see myself baking saffron buns, making toffee, lighting candles, and finally learning my parents’ recipe for cured salmon. But a new age is coming.

The rushing time

The ambitions for Christmas are high. Then something happens. December is coming and the Advent Sunday. Oh, the freezer should be full of saffron buns, but there are only peas, and the mushrooms I picked last year.

Second Sunday in Advent. Glögg-fika. Christmas party.

Third Sunday in Advent. It gets urgent to fix the buns.

Fourth Sunday in Advent. Forgot buying saffron.

Christmas Eve. There are no buns this year either.

The disappointment could have been total, but I just feel relief.

The (not so anymore) traditional food feast

For many, Christmas is the most tradition-bound food feast. So also in my home. There should be the potato dish Jansson’s Temptation, a dozen different sorts of pickled herring, and of course, my parents’ cured salmon. At a quick glance, one would think that nothing has changed during my lifetime – that is with the Christmas smorgasbord.

But even in my home, in our family with strong Christmas traditions, there has been a shift. It started when dad popping a green salad between the potato and the meatballs. The following year, another fresh salad (tip: kale, orange and pomegranate) would fit on the overcrowded table. And so it has continued.

Who really eats the sausage prinskorv? Get rid of it! And yet another salad (cabbage again) pushed out two sorts of pickled herrings.

Greener and more quality

In some ways, it feels right to re-lay the Christmas table. Apparently, we are not alone.

According to a study by The Swedish Food Federation, more and more Swedes are reshaping their Christmas smorgasbord: Younger ones want to eat greenstuff. Most want to eat less meat. And if the traditional baked Christmas ham stays, it must be of good quality.

The Christmas smorgasbord is becoming a nice mix of tradition and renewal. One adds and subtracts, so everyone gets what they want.

That’s why I am relieved when I realize that I have no saffron buns to offer. Me – who love Christmas! I’m involved in creating a new Christmas smorgasbord. And no dry saffron buns are needed on it.

The winds of change

I am glad that the winds of change are allowed to blow all the way into the kitchen on the Christmas Eve itself. Why would Christmas be protected when nothing else escapes the paradigm shift taking place in the food world.

We Swedes are a candy-loving people, who eat 15 kilos of chocolate and candy per person and year. But even Christmas sweets are starting to change. And that is a good thing in several ways.

What is really important? Should Christmas traditions be upheld ad absurdum? Or should everything old be thrown out for the new and hot? If you ask me, I say you should both uphold and change traditions. There are no musts, but keep what makes you happy. And who says that the new and the old cannot go hand in hand?

The experience is what counts

The serenity of Christmas is primarily not about what you do, but more so about what you experience. And obviously, it’s not only me who has such longing. A study made by MasterCard shows that the Christmas present of the year is an experience. People want to socialize, enjoy time together and indulge themselves.

We create new traditions, and we redo old ones. The new dishes we, in my family, put on the table are timely.

How about the saffron buns? Well, they may show up on next year’s Christmas smorgasbord. As an experience – new and old at the same time.

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