Ringing in the New Year

Craige Moore

Home Life, Food & Drink

Ringing in the New Year

On the heels of an old-fashioned Christmas with immediate family, most Swedes like to ring in the Nytt År with close friends and modern customs.

A Lavish Affair

The custom in Sweden today is to prepare an ostentatious three-course dinner at home for close friends. The dinner has a continental flair; no expense is spared as local delicatessens see a run on lobsters, oysters and other shellfish. There are some interesting traditional foods, however, that are eaten for luck:

  • Rice pudding is served with a single almond hidden within. Whoever gets the almond is assured to see great fortune and luck throughout the coming year.
  • Pigs are said to symbolize progress as their high fat content signifies wealth. Many countries eat pork for New Year’s and Sweden is no exception.

Dinner is spent discussing the past year and the year ahead. Resolutions are made at midnight and (as is the tradition in America) broken after a few weeks.

There is no escaping the Television

Sveriges Television airs the 1963 comedy sketch Dinner for One every New Year’s Eve. The most popular contemporary films also are shown along with customary end-of-the-year highlight shows.

At midnight a live broadcast of chiming bells and a reading of Lord Alfred Tennyson’s Ring Out Wild Bells is broadcast from the Skansen open-air museum in Stockholm. The tone is serious, and the custom dates to 1897, when Anders de Whal, a young actor, was called on to recite the poem at a New Year’s Eve party at Skansen.

There also is a grand fireworks show at midnight, as the loudness of the explosions is said to scare away evil spirits. Some Swedes watch this from home, while sipping champagne; others opt to view the show out in the frigid night air (while sipping champagne).

A Magical Time

A countryside covered in glistening snow and a dark winter sky, New Year’s Eve in Sweden is considered to be a magical time. For this reason, it also is considered to be an ideal night for predicting the future by using these traditional methods:

  • Metal (usually lead) is melted on the stove top and then combined with cold water. The shape the metal takes on after it is cooled is then interpreted (usually by the person with the best imagination). If the metal completely breaks up, however, it is a sure sign of bad luck.
  • Shoes are tossed, and if the toe should land pointing toward the front door, it means you may move away – or perhaps die – in the coming year.
  • A very old Swedish custom is to stand in the frozen fields in the dark of night, listening. It was said that what you heard was meant as an insight to the coming year. For example, a faint sound of grass being cut could indicate a good harvest.

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