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Why we eat “Christmas smorgasbord” in Sweden


The history and tradition, as well as our best tips in Stockholm

Now that the restrictions are finally lifted this fall and we can gather again, a high demand for Christmas buffets are expected. But where does the tradition really come from? The answer can be found on the Swedish railways where Christmas buffets originate from the tradition of eating smorgasbord. In this blog post, you get to know more about the history and tradition of the Christmas smorgasbord and take part in Stromma's top 3 tips on Christmas buffets in Stockholm. At the bottom of this post, you’ll find a map with all our tips.

The history and tradition of the Christmas smorgasbord

Through popular programs such as "History Eaters" we have learned that the dishes on the Swedish smorgasbord were developed from brandy buffets. On older smorgasbord, bread, fish, meat, cheese, and butter as well as brandy dominated, but gradually vegetables in mayonnaise, lukewarm meat dishes and cold cuts were added.

However, the smorgasbord is as much a concept as specific dishes. Why do we form a queue to go and get the food, in a certain order and with so many small dishes at one and the same time?

Different railway history
This comes from the time when the railway was a new concept and before the trains had special restaurant carriages. Passengers then only had the opportunity to have a piece of food at the stations' restaurants before or after their journey, or when the trains made a quick stop to refill coal and water.

Time was tight so the staff in the restaurant rarely had time for all the orders. The smorgasbord therefore became very popular. It was a quick way to pick up food for those who had to adapt after the next time for departure.

Since foreign travellers also travelled by train, they took the tradition of Swedish smorgasbord outside the country's borders. Our Swedish specialty therefore has the railway to thank to some extent for its launch and success both nationally and internationally.

The smorgasbord became the Christmas smorgasbord
At Christmas, the smorgasbord became a Christmas smorgasbord with specialties of the finer variety. This has now become a tradition that most Swedes enjoy at least once a year. What we today consider to be a classic Swedish Christmas smorgasbord is however not quite as old as many people think. It’s in fact only 60 years since the cooking legend Tore Wretman revived the Swedish smorgasbord at “Operakällaren” in Stockholm.

Tips on Christmas buffets in Stockholm

Gathering up after an autumn filled with hard work around a tasty Christmas buffet has become a way for many companies and organizations to show appreciation to their employees before Christmas. It’s often eaten at a restaurant, on a ship or at a conference facility - but rarely on trains nowadays. Here are Stromma's top 3 tips:

  • Christmas dining cruise in the archipelago – from 695 SEK per person
    Enjoy the Christmas atmosphere and an archipelago in all its winter splendour on board one of Strömma Kanalbolaget's archipelago vessels. Classic Christmas buffets with traditional and modern flavours at M/S Waxholm III, S/S Stockholm or M/S Gustafsberg VII. Choose between lunch or dinner cruise.

  • Christmas in beautiful vaults at Vaxholm Kastell – from SEK 465 SEK per person
    In a cosy and atmospherically lit brick vault at Vaxholm Kastell, a traditional Christmas smorgasbord buffet is served. All dishes related to Christmas are presented here - many kinds of herring, pickled salmon, smoked fish, cold cuts, meatballs, Christmas desserts and Christmas sweets. Take the boat from central Stockholm and enjoy beautiful views along the way. Choose between the afternoon or dinner session.

  • Viking Christmas at Birka – from 1350 SEK per person
    An entire evening at Birka with a Viking-inspired Christmas smorgasbord, guided torchlight procession, fire show and jesters who entertain. The Christmas buffet is divided in to two servings - herring and cold cuts are served on the ship to Birka and the hot dishes as well as desserts are served in Restaurant Särimner on Birka.

Tip - Book in advance as Viking Christmas at Birka is only offered on selected dates in December.

Map – Stromma’s best tips on Christmas smorgasbord in Stockholm

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