söndag 4 januari 2009


Christmas card by Jenny Nyström
Twelfth Night and Knut

Twelfth Night or Epiphany, the 6th-7th of January, is cele­brated in many homes as an extension of the Christmas festivities, in terms of food at any rate. Children are still on holiday from school, and many parents take a holiday up until this day, too. In olden days it was customary to put on a Twelfth Night pageant, telling the Christmas story, or for groups of white-clad boys (as described under "Lucia") to go the rounds of the village. These traditions live on in only a very few communities today.

One week after Twelfth Night the Swedish calendar cele­brates the name Knut. Prior to a seventeenth century calen­dar reform Knut was celebrated on Twelfth Night and marked the end of the holiday season. As a result of the reform Knut was moved forward one week, and since Swedes were accustomed to ending their Christmas holidays on Knut's day, they simply continued celebrating an extra week.

This is the day people finally part with their Christmas trees — if they haven't already done so. All the decorations are first removed, and the act is often the occasion for a final party — this one especially for the children. Friends and classmates are invited over to eat cakes and candies, play games and "plunder" the tree. All the small trinkets are carefully removed and stored away, while edible ornaments — ginger biscuits, caramels, and the like — are gobbled up.

Finally, the group pick up the tree and literally toss it out of the house or flat, singing a song that, in translation, goes something like this:

Christmas has come to an end,
And the tree must go.
But next year once again
We shall see our dear old friend,
For he has promised us so.
In the past Knut was also an occasion for masquerading. Men and boys dressed up as "Old Knut" would prowl about, playing practical jokes and doing mischief. In some parts of the country — particularly where immigrant Wal­loons settled in the seventeenth century — Knut is the occa­sion for regular carnivals, especially in the province of Uppland just north of Stockholm.
Author: Ingemar Liman
Translation: Charly Hultén

My small town, in the west part of Sweden, is one of the few places where the Knut tradition still is very much alive. People, not only men and boys, dress up and goes from house to house begging for sweets — pretty much like trick or treating.

7 kommentarer:

  1. What wonderful traditions you still have in Sweden, unlike here in the UK where everything seems over-commercialised (and has been since I was a child in the 1950s - I should know as my parents had a shop and Christmas stock arrived soon after children returned to school after the long summer holidays!) Happy New Year to you!
    Margaret Powling

  2. Margaret,
    It is pretty bad here too - everything that can be commercialised is commercialised - and that is about everything in life. One reason we still remember the old traditions is probably because of the food - and drink. And most people treasure to get time off from work even if they don't celebrate the holiday.

  3. We always celebrate Twelfth Night or Epiphany in a special way. It is much more of an intimate family affair than Christmas. I'll see if I can find any photographs of years when the children were small and write a special post on RD.

  4. I wish that the Christmas season never had to end. It is always so much fun and so many memories are made.

  5. monix,
    I hope you find your photos - I'm looking forward to read your post!

    I'm quite happy to get back to a more normal everyday kind of life now. I like Christmas to be something very different - something to long for.

  6. I never knew how twelfth night was celebrated - sounds like a wonderful time - and such a nice way to say goodbye to the Christmas tree.

  7. One of the many things I like with blogs is that you always learn something new by reading them. (Isn't that a wonderful excuse when you end up reading blogs instead of cooking and cleaning?)