Holiday Traditions Get a Swedish Twist in Lindsborg—Here's How to Celebrate
Christmas dawns early in the Swedish community of Lindsborg, Kansas. At 5:45 a.m., from the soaring bell tower of 152-year-old Bethany Lutheran Church, a brass ensemble trumpets its heavenly wake-up call.The 6 a.m. Julotta (Christmas morn) service is about to begin.
"It's absolutely beautiful," says local resident Caroline Beckman, "and such a memorable way to start Christmas Day."
In the late 19th century, 125 Swedish immigrants settled in central Kansas, about 70 miles north of Wichita. Today, the population numbers around 3,700. "Those early Swedes held onto rich traditions that kept them from feeling homesick," says Holly Lofton, director of the Lindsborg Convention and Visitors Bureau. "They've passed them on to the rest of us, and we've just embraced them."
Julotta caps a season of celebrations that begins in mid-November, when downtown trees, shops, windows and the historic Välkommen Bridge switch on their white lights for the Holiday Open House. Festivities run through the Annandag Jul (another day of Christmas) church service on December 26.
Weekends bring more merriment and quirks, like the Snowflake Parade and its lineup of goats, elves and ugly sweaters. Nyckelharpa (a Swedish string instrument) and other orchestral high school musicians accompany the Lindsborg Swedish Folk Dancers at the season's feature attraction, the St. Lucia Festival. Fifty girls and boys in colorful aprons, vests and breeches partner up for fancy footwork on the brick streets prior to the crowning of St. Lucia. The emblem of light, she wears a wreath of flickering candles. (Try the ginger cookies at the ceremony, but be sure to make a wish first.)
Beckman, who has lived in Lindsborg her entire life, cherishes the lore—even though her ancestors are German. "I grew up loving all the little Swedish trolls and Tomtes. I thought that was part of Christmas everywhere," she says, laughing. "Regardless of your heritage, you love embracing all these traditions and recognizing the sacrifices that people made to make a life here. There's nowhere else quite like it."
The Nice List
Hemslöjd (handicraft) sells folk art and imported goods. Buy a souvenir wooden dalahorse, a symbol of good luck, carved in the on-site workshop. Check out galleries like National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson's Small World Gallery. Or find works by dozens of Kansas and regional artists at the Sandzén Holiday Gift Show (November 7–January 2).
Wake up with a bold roasted Swedish coffee and homemade cinnamon roll at Blacksmith Coffee Shop & Roastery, in an 1874 blacksmith shop.
Treat yourself to Swedish pancakes at Crown and Rye restaurant, or kringler, tea rings and ginger cookies at 350 Degrees bakery. White's Foodliner grocery sells imported goodies like pickled herring, rye bread and potato sausage.
Holiday Open House
On November 13, downtown lights up, and shops unveil their themed windows.
Kids love this silly morning parade on December 4. You can also check out the Artists' Studio OpenHouse, held the same day.
St. Lucia Festival
A processional of stjärngossen (star boys) and girls—all dressed in white and carrying candles—leads the crowd to Bethany Lutheran Church on December 11. After St. Lucia is crowned, she serves everyone cookies and coffee.
Shepherds tell the Christmas story at the lantern-lit Lindsborg Old Mill and Swedish Heritage Museum on December 11.