Dauntless JaunterExplore • Educate • Experience • Enlighten

Julbord – The Traditional Swedish “Christmas Table” Meal


A traditional Swedish Christmas is not complete without julbord, a holiday variation of the quintessential Smörgåsbord buffet-style meal in Sweden.

Smorgasbord Julbord Sweden Christmas Dinner

A traditional Christmas in Sweden is not complete without the traditional julbord, a holiday variation of the quintessential Smörgåsbord buffet-style meal in the Scandinavian country.

Smörgåsbord is a large feast that includes multiple staples of Swedish cuisine served on the table; julbord, literally translating into “Christmas table,” is that but with a Yuletide twist. The actual Christmas season in Sweden usually begins with the St. Lucia ceremony, around the 13th of December, and leads all the way to Christmas day; the julbord is often had on the penultimate night, Julafton (Christmas Eve).

Julbord is a dear tradition for many Swedes, and many may have altered the exact customs to suit their family’s needs; even so, the feast has several staples which are quite common no matter the family celebrating it. The meal is typically served in three courses (and a dessert course if it can be handled), each with foods that pair well with each other, as well as being separated by temperature and protein.

Below are some of the foods that may be associated with each course (click on each thumbnail for full caption & explanation):

Related Read: Swedish Holidays: Important Events & Days Off for Sweden

Julbord Christmas Course 1: Fish & Co.

The first course typically revolves around fish, particularly the ubiquitous pickled herring and raw, spiced salmon (gravad lax, or gravlax), accompanied by strong spirits that are often spiced. Many of these items are served as a canapé or hors d’œuvre, in small, bite-sized chunks.

Related Read: Sweden History: A Quick Timeline of Swedish Historical Events

Julbord Christmas Course 2: Cold Meats

The second julbord course is typically cold, sliced meats, particularly the julskinka, or Christmas ham. These meats are often paired with cheeses and crispbreads.

Related Read: 5+ Things to Do in Sweden: Best Places to Go, Sites to See & Morec

Julbord Christmas Course 3: Warm, Hearty Dishes

The first two courses of julbord are seemingly but appetizers when one finally comes to the third course, which traditionally consists of warm dishes of larger portions. Heated meat dishes, such as the quintessential Swedish meatballs, are paired here with heavier sides such as potatoes and casseroles.

Related Read: Christmas Tree History: Where Did the Tradition of Christmas Trees Originate?

Julbord Christmas Course 4: Dessert

The last bit, if there’s room for it, is dessert. One typical dessert is lutfisk, made of stockfish and lye; another, more contemporary dessert staple is rice pudding.

Related Read: Orthodox Christmas: When It’s Celebrated, History, and Holiday Traditions

Photos used are taken by Per-Erik Berglund, Helena Wahlman, Mona Loose, Magnus Skoglöf, Tina Stafrén, and Jakob Fridholm for imagebank.sweden.se.

For more like this, check out our page on Swedish cuisine, as well as our post on the greatest Christmas markets in the world.

Christian Eilers
Written by
Christian Eilers
Join the discussion

Dauntless Jaunter