Swedish Traditions: St. Knut's Day
A Brief History of this Celebration;
St. Knut’s Day means it’s time to Have a Party and Throw out your Christmas tree!
St. Knut’s Day is a holiday celebrated in Sweden, Finland and Norway, on January 13th. The day is called Tjugondag Knut in Sweden, which means 20th day Knut. In Norway it’s called Tyvendedagen, which I believe, is 20th day.
On St. Knut’s Day, they say they “plunder” the Christmas tree. If there are edible ornaments on the tree, they eat them. If there weren’t any on the tree, sometimes they’ll put them there for the kids to take off and eat. It’s an incentive to take off all the other decorations and get rid of the tree. Then kids dance around the tree singing.
In Sweden they sing…
Tjugondag Knut dansas julen ut. (Swedish)
Knut’s 20th day (St. Knut’s Day) dances Christmas away. (English)
Sometimes it’ll be longer…
På Tjugondag Knut dansas julen ut och då plundras och kasseras granen. (Swedish)
At St. Knut’s day, dance Christmas away and then plunder and scrap the spruce tree. (English)
After which, they either throw out the tree, or chop it up and use it as fire wood.
In Norway, they say a similar rhyme…
Sante Knut og jaga jula ut. (Norwegian)
St. Knut chases Christmas away. (English)
Sometimes there are also carnivals for St. Knut’s day.
A little history behind the holiday…
King Canute (circa 994 – 1035) was a Viking who was also known as Knut and Knud. He was king of England, Denmark, and for a while Norway and part of Sweden.
Early on, when he took over England, he was merciless to prisoners; he cut off their noses, ears and hands. Later, he repented for what he had done. To make up for his cruelty, he joined the church and tried to create peace and justice in his land. Under his rule, there was peace for 18 years. (Although, he may have been responsible for some political murders.)
One of the laws he made, while he was king, was that the Christmas season would last 20 days, and that no one should fast during that time. Thus the holiday season would end on January 13th. That’s the day that’s come to be known as St. Knut’s Day.
There is one song that is sung on Knut:
Nu är glada julen slut,slut,slut.
Julegranen bäres ut ,ut,ut.
Men till nästa jul igen,
kommer han vår gamle vän,
för det har han lovat.
Now is the merry Christmas over, over, over
The Christmas tree is carried out, out, out
But for next Christmas again
he is coming our old friend
because he has promised that.
Knut was/is a rather festive day. At least up until 50 years ago. Children liked it a lot as the tree was often decorated with candy (candy canes, sugar decorations and smällkarameller/crackers with hidden bits of candy). All Christmas they had to look at these sweets without eating it, but on Knut all decorations was taken down and the candy could be eaten. That is called Julgransplundring (Christmas tree looting).
As we no longer have much candy in the trees and few people want to eat old candy, it’s not as big as it used to be. Some still see it as a festive day and invite kids over for a kids party were they hand out candy. There are also some different local traditions.
Information found at http://www.mamalisa.com/blog/?cat=245