Scandinavian new year traditions
If you're looking for the most Scandinavian way to celebrate New Year's Eve, be sure to try out these traditional dishes. Be warned, though! Once you've tried them all—not just once a year but every year—you may never go back to your old traditions again.
In Finland, Finland
In Finland, it's customary to eat a cinnamon bun on New Year's Eve. The Finnish word for cinnamon bun is "vuosikakku," which translates as "the year cake."
Pigs are the traditional New Year's Eve meal in Finland. They symbolize prosperity and good luck.
They light bonfires.
Bonfires are a fantastic way to celebrate the new year.
The tradition of lighting bonfires is thought to have originated in Pagan times, when people would light fires at the end of one year and into the next. The fire symbolized purification and renewal, as well as helping people see in the dark after winter's long nights. Today, many countries around the world still light bonfires on New Year's Eve or Day: Scotland has its Hogmanay celebration; Germany has its "Feuerzangenbowle" (fire-drinking punch); and Italy has its Coppa del Fuego ("Cup of Fire").
They make Vorspannkakku.
A traditional Finnish cake, the word Vorspannkakku means "forerunner cake." It's made with cinnamon, sugar and cardamom. This is a very popular Christmas treat, but it's also eaten on New Year's Eve because it symbolizes good luck for the coming year.
With cinnamon buns.
The first day of the year is a time for celebration and family, so it's not surprising that there are specific traditions associated with it. One such tradition is eating cinnamon buns, which come in different forms throughout Scandinavia. The most common form is a half-moon shaped pastry made with cinnamon and sugar, and sometimes filled with raisins or fruit preserves. They can be served warm or cold (and are often served in restaurants on New Year's Day), and they're delicious either way!
They make New Year's Eve a family affair.
The Scandinavian New Year's Eve is a family affair. It's not uncommon for kids to wait up all night for Julemanden, the archetypal Santa Claus figure from Danish and Norwegian folklore.
In Norway, many families still celebrate together on New Year's Eve, but it can be tricky to find ways to pass the time when you're with your relatives as opposed to friends or co-workers. The traditional way of keeping yourself entertained during this time is by playing games—often card games like bridge or Skat (similar to bridge).
In Norway, Norway
In Norway, the New Year is celebrated with champagne and cod. Instead of eating a pig, Norwegians eat cod—a white fish that is also known as "lutefisk." The tradition dates back to the 9th century when King Håkon IV Haakonsson declared December 12 – January 1 as national holidays. In addition to celebrating Christmas on December 24 (Juleaften), many Norwegians observe Christmas Eve by eating lutefisk stew with potatoes and lefse breads alongside a large Norwegian flag.
To celebrate New Year's Eve in Norway, people exchange gifts of dollars to children on December 31st (and they call it januarvandringen). It's believed this tradition began during World War II when parents wanted their children to have enough money for passage across Sweden into neutral Sweden in case Germany invaded Norway again - or worse yet invaded Sweden itself! Children would put their dollar bills into a bag at nightfall on December 31st then pick one out each morning during January 1st looking for their lucky number which could grant them access into heaven after death!
Norwegians drink champagne in the New Year, too.
Norwegians also drink champagne in the New Year, but not at midnight. Rather, they drink it at 11:30 pm and with fish. Fish is important because Norway has a lot of them and they are delicious—not to mention that fishing is the second-largest source of income in Norway!
Okay, so maybe you don’t want to eat fish when you’re celebrating with champagne. That’s fine! You can also serve other Norwegian foods like lutefisk (a traditional dish made from dried cod), pinnekjøtt (lamb meat cured for several months), and raspeballer (an orb-shaped cookie made from butter, flour, sugar and egg yolk). For more information on these dishes and others check out this list from Wikipedia: [NORWAY FOOD].
But they eat cod instead of pig.
The tradition of eating cod on New Year's Eve is another Scandinavian tradition. In Norway and Denmark, the fish is a common dish thanks to its abundance in both countries. In Norway, it's called "lutefisk," which means "lye fish." The lye part refers to how the fish is preserved in salt and lye solution (a base made from ashes). Lutefisk can be eaten cold or hot, but many Norwegians enjoy it as part of a traditional smorgasbord with other dishes like mashed potatoes and pickled herring.
They give kids dollar bills as presents.
In Norway, it's a tradition for kids to receive dollar bills instead of presents on their birthdays.
The tradition stems from a law that was passed in 1684 prohibiting the use of money as gifts to children under the age of 12 (so they wouldn't have too much spending power). The law was later changed in 1909 and now only applies to coins, but some people still keep this old custom alive by giving kids dollar bills instead.
Instead of singing "Auld Lang Syne," they sing "Happy New Year."
It's a common misconception that the song "Auld Lang Syne" comes from Scotland. In fact, it was written by Robert Burns—a Scot—but it's actually used by Swedes and Norwegians to celebrate New Year's Eve.
Danes have their own particular way of saying goodbye to the old year: they sing "Godt Nytår," which means "Happy New Year."
The celebration lasts all night in some Norwegian towns.
The celebration lasts all night in some Norwegian towns.
The celebration lasts all night in some Danish towns.
The celebration lasts all night in some Swedish towns.
The celebration lasts all night in some Finnish towns.
In Denmark, Denmark
The Danes are big on candy canes. They eat them, give them as gifts and hang them up with other holiday decorations. Juleaften (Christmas Eve) is a very important day on the Danish calendar, as it is when most people get together with friends and family to celebrate the holiday. Nytårsaften (New Year's Eve) is also an important day for many Danes, who will often spend their night at home eating traditional food like pickled herring and drinking aquavit or champagne while they watch fireworks light up the sky in celebration of a new year.
Danish children get their presents from Julemanden, not Santa Claus.
If you thought Santa Claus was a Scandinavian creation, think again. Julemanden—the Danish version of Santa Claus—is the man responsible for bringing children's presents on Christmas Eve. Unlike his American counterpart, though, Julemanden doesn't live at the North Pole; he lives in a cabin in the woods (called a "Julenisse") and visits homes via chimney instead of sliding down it. He's also accompanied by a helper elf named Julenisse who helps him distribute gifts to children throughout Denmark and other countries with similar traditions to Scandinavia's own Christmas traditions
The Danes are big on candy canes.
Danes love candy canes. They like to eat them with hot chocolate, give them as gifts and use them to decorate the Christmas tree.
At New Year's, Danish children are often given a bag of candy canes by their parents or grandparents. The little ones will then share these with their friends and classmates at school in order to wish everyone a happy New Year.
Cinnamon buns and New Year's Eve make for a winning combination across the Scandinavian countries!
Another Scandinavian New Year's Eve tradition is to eat cinnamon buns. These are a type of pastry that comes in many shapes, sizes and flavors. While they may sound like the perfect treat for celebrating with family and friends, they can also be eaten alone in your home as you watch television or read a book before bedtime.
When it comes to celebrating the new year, there are some general similarities across all four countries: it starts at midnight local time on December 31st; everyone gets together with their families; there's always an abundance of food (cinnamon buns for sure); and people often gather around bonfires outside!
It’s no wonder why Scandinavians celebrate the New Year with such gusto. After all, we have so much to be grateful for! We live in some truly beautiful countries, with a rich history and tradition that has influenced modern life as we know it today. And don't forget about all those delicious cinnamon buns!