If you ever get invited to a Swedish New Year’s Eve celebration, go. But make sure you take plenty of paracetamol to deal with the hangover the next day!
I met the lovely Isabelle 4 years ago in Bali, where we had both just touched down for a month of solo travelling, so we decided to team up and we had the time of our lives for 4 weeks. We have since seen each other a couple of times when she’s visited me in the UK and we crossed over in Barcelona, but when I was at a loose end for what to do for New Year, I thought I’d see if she was free.
It all worked out, and me and the equally lovely Tiff got extremely cheap flights from London Stansted to Stockholm and then a train to Karlstad, where we were welcomed to her picture perfect Swedish house that was covered with a fresh blanket of snow.
Little did we know that, whereas we Brits tend to have house parties on new year that are alcohol-centered and inevitably disappointing, the Swedish have full-on dinner parties. Isabelle and her brother had never thrown one before, but they could’ve fooled me. On the 31st, whilst me and Tiff went out for a snowy walk guided by Isabelle’s friend Linn and enjoyed the sauna they made the house beautiful and set up the dinner party in the out-house. Anthony’s friends were wonderfully charming in their bow-ties and we sat down for a roast (complete with veggie option for me).
At intervals during the meal we stopped eating to sing a song from our song sheets. This seems to be completely standard practice in Sweden and is especially popular among students. I don’t know if it’s just their friends or if everyone in Sweden is musically talented, but every song, be it a drinking song or a carol, in English or Swedish, was sung in harmony! After each song we drank shots of ‘aquavit’, which is lethal if you’re not used to it, as we later found out. I would recommend only taking small sips each time rather than drinking the whole shot if you wish to remain standing.
After dinner (which was eaten nice and slowly due to all the singing- excellent for digestion), we played some traditional party games (charades, taboo- all in English amazingly) and some less traditional ones, like how many marshmallows people could fit in their mouths. I have never been so happy to be a vegetarian! I have to admit I also played the vegetarian card to get out of ‘bean-boozle’, where you have to choose between two identical beans that could be, say, chocolate pudding flavour or canned dog food flavour. I’m pretty sure jelly beans don’t have gelatine in them, but they didn’t need to know that… sorry guys!
Midnight was marked with fireworks in the garden and more harmonizing in the snow. Us Brits were put to shame as we couldn’t even remember the words to Auld Lang Syne.
On New Year’s Day we were feeling a little delicate, but there’s nothing like a snowman building session to cure a hangover. We built a whole snowman family, complete with dog! We did such a good job that even if I achieve nothing else this year, 2016 will still have been a complete success, purely on the basis of the amazingness of our snowmen.
The next day we were up early in the bitter cold headed for Stockholm, were we had an Airbnb for 2 nights.
As we pulled into Central Station the goose-feather snowflakes began to fall and they didn’t stop for the whole 48 hours we were there. Stockholm must be stunning in the summer, but go during the festive season for beautiful Christmas lights artfully hung in the already picture-perfect streets, candles and stars glowing in every window and cosy cafes with hot chocolate and glogg (Swedish mulled wine) to warm up in.
Gamla Stan, the old town, was the perfect place to wind away 2 days in the Swedish capital, with photo opportunities around every corner. Stockholm is a collection of islands so after you’ve finished exploring the hidden gems of the old town, hop on a few ferries and see the city from the water.
My main top tip, for carnivores and vegetarians alike, is the vegetarian restaurant Hermans. It’s an all you can eat buffet with an incredible selection, but the best thing about it is the panoramic view of the city. We went for a late lunch and watched the winter sunset bathing the city in an orange glow before the light disappeared and the city started to sparkle. And all the while it was snowing. Anyone that knows me will know that between a vegetarian buffet, a glass of cider, the view, the sunset and the snow I was in paradise.
Have you been to Stockholm? Have you got any tips to share? Have you ever been to a Swedish dinner party? I’d love to swap notes!