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Artsy Crafty Library: Scandinavian Christmas crafts

Christmas is a brilliant time in Scandinavia with its traditions, handmade decorations, lights and food. God Jul, pronounced as Good Yule and sending wishes for a Merry Christmas! Read on to explore Scandinavian handmade decorations. I hope you will be inspired to include some of the traditions of Norway and Sweden in your holiday.

How Scandinavians celebrate

Heart baskets, straw ornaments and ribbon stars with Jule Nissen. Photo by KR Hughes

Jul is a period that lasts several weeks and is made of up 5 periods: advent, julaften, romjul, nyttår and epiphany. Julaften is Christmas Eve when families have their main celebration often in formal dress or bunads. Romjul is usually the week between Christmas and New Year. After Nyttår or New Year's Day Scandinavians celebrate Epiphany on January 6. Epiphany is a special date for many Christians as it's when people celebrate how a star led the Magi – also known as the Three kings or the Wise Men – to visit the baby Jesus.

The most loved symbol of Christmas is not Santa, but in Norway the Julenisse or the Tomte in Sweden. These bearded benevolent characters bring abundance to livestock and crops and gifts and treats to children on Christmas Eve.

Handmade decorations

Red and white hearts are another icon of the season. Handcrafted, woven heart baskets or julehjerter in all sizes filled with goodies adorn the mantle, evergreen boughs and Christmas trees. Use this printable PDF to make paper Norwegian Heart Baskets (I translated the details from Lottrup Knudsen's 1978 book Julehjerter). This includes patterns and visual instructions to make these part of your holiday using red, white, green, or gold paper and ribbon. There are also demo videos online to see how to cut and weave the pieces.

Scandinavians often make ornaments from straw: angels, crosses and stars. People also make the julebock or Christmas buck from straw. Some people make it small like the one the nisse is pictured holding above or as big as 3 feet tall to stand by the hearth. Christmas ribbon or paper stars are delightful hanging or in arrangements, and one type is featured in Creativebug's video Woven Paper Star. Remember, you have free access to all the amazing artsy crafty video classes on Creativebug with your library card.

Lights and Gift for the birdsOutdoors Scandinavians use all kinds of lights and bright natural ornamentations because the days are short in December, often only light from about 10 am to 3 pm. A wonderful tradition you can incorporate is a julenek. To make one tie a large sheaf of wheat or oats with a bow and hang it outside to thank the birds.

May these ideas and traditions add spice and joy for a very God Jul!

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