Maybe you put your Christmas tree away a long time ago? If you want to do it according to Swedish tradition, January 13 is the time to get rid of all the Christmas decorations. Since the 17th century, the Swedes have celebrated the end of the Christmas season 20 days after Christmas. January 13 is tjugondedag jul or tjugondag Knut – also known as Knutsdagen.
Since the 19th century, Knutsdagen has been the time when the Christmas tree is taken down again. They dance around the Christmas tree, play games, remove the decorations from the Christmas tree, the children can open the smällkaramäller, caramel candies and pepparkakor that were hung as decoration and finally the Christmas tree is also disposed of. In Nordiska Museet in Stockholm you can attend such a Julgransplundring.
Where does the name Knutsdagen come from? The Danish Duke Knut Lavard was murdered on January 7, 1131, coincidentally the day after the thirteenth day after Christmas – at the time when the Christmas period ended. He was later canonized. And as happens with saints, he got his own day on his death day. Knutsdagen has been celebrated in Sweden for almost 400 years with carnival-like festivities.
At the end of the 17th century, the Christmas period was extended by a week and Knutsdagen also moved up by a week. The reason was that every major church feast had an after-party eight days later, a so-called octave.
Knutsdagen is also celebrated in Finland and parts of Norway in addition to Sweden. The Swedish saying goes: “Knut driver julen ut” . Over the years, variants have also been invented, such as “Knut kastas granen ut“.
One of the nicest advent calendars I know of is Gamla Stan’s real live advent calendar. Levande julkalender is a lively advent calendar where a shutter opens every evening at one of the houses in Gamla Stan in Stockholm.
The spectators are treated to 15 minutes of culture. Poems are recited, stories read aloud, music is played and sung and there sometimes is some dancing. The stories and performances always have a link with Christmas and / or with Gamla Stan. It is quite small-scale, although the last times I went there I found that more and more people attended it.
Good to know: it’s all in Swedish. Yet you can to drop by to soak up the atmosphere if you don’t understand Swedish. The first time I attended Levande julkalendern it was in a courtyard. There was a choir that sang Tänd ett ljus and they (exceptionally) also handed out glögg and pepparkakor. A very nice moment that even my company then, who doesn’t understand Swedish still speaks about!
Levande julkalender practical information
Levande julkalender will go digital in 2020. This year they collected pieces from the archive from 2005 to 2019.
During the Advent from December 1 to December 24 every day at 6:15 pm somewhere in Gamla Stan, a shutter, window or door will open on a square or in one of the many narrow alleys. You can find the exact location on the Mäster Olofsgården site. Please note: On December 24, the shutter will open in the morning.
Tip: just before you go to the advent calendar, get a pepparkakslatte at Bröd & Salt to make it extra cozy and to keep you warm.
When I’m in Stockholm in December (or early January), I always try to the exhibition Pepparkakshus or gingerbread houses in ArkDes (Swedish Center for Architecture and Design), next to/in Moderna Museet on Skeppsholmen. It is really amazing what ingenious constructions they can make with pepparkakor as a base (and other sweets).
There is a real competition attached to the Pepparkakshus exhibition in ArkDes. There are different categories ranging from children to professional bakers. About 100 to 200 gingerbread houses are sent in every year.
Exhibition Pepparkakshus 2016
In 2016 the theme was “Hemligheter” or “Secrets”.
Exhibition Pepparkakshus 2019
The theme in 2019 was “Hot”. You saw many allusions to global warming with a Greta Thunberg as the showpiece. The fire in Notre-Dame in Paris was also given a gingerbread version. Personally, I was also very fond of the fire truck, especially when you know that the designer was younger than 12! And I also really liked the kakelugn (if I ever buy a house in Sweden, it must be one with such a tiled stove).
Pepparkakshus exhibition practical information
The gingerbread houses exhibition is accessible free of charge. Pepparkakshus normally runs from the beginning of Advent to the end of the Christmas holidays. ArkDes is closed on Mondays.
ArkDes is located on Skeppsholmen. You can take the bus. There is a stop close to Moderna Museet. I usually walk over there. The bridges to Skeppsholmen offer a beautiful view of Gamla Stan on one side and Östermalm / Djurgården on the other. It is a 5-minute walk from Kungsträdgården.
Address: Exercisplan 4, Skeppsholmen, Stockholm
Digital exhibition 2020
This year Pepparkakshus is celebrating its 30th birthday. Unfortunately one without a big party. Like many things in 2020, the gingerbread house exhibition could not take place live in ArkDes this year, but they have found a solution. Until January 10 you can admire the gingerbread houses in 3D on the ArkDes site. This year’s theme is, how appropriate, Avstånd or Distance.
Pin for later
Save this article to Pinterest for easy reference later!
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.