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Winter in Scandinavia

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Scandinavia, or more properly the Nordic countries, include Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. As these countries are near the Arctic, they attract travellers who want to experience winter activities.

Weather and calendar[edit]

Scandinavian summer (late May to early September) is mild with long daylight, and could be the first choice for a one-time visit. The winter, however, can give a completely different experience, with snow and ice.

The northern half of Scandinavia, with the exception of coastal Norway, is a safe bet for snow from December to April. In the populated southern areas, the winters are very different from each other, with either knee-deep snow, slush or bare ground.

Daylight is very short in winter. At 60 degrees north (around Oslo, Stockholm and Helsinki) the sun is up for 6 hours a day at the Winter Solstice on December 21-22. At the Arctic Circle, it is below the horizon for several days.

Northern Lights in Finnish Lapland


Christmas, called jul in Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, jól in Icelandic, and joulu in Finnish, is the biggest holiday of the year.

The main Christmas holiday is Christmas Eve, Danish juleaften, Norwegian julaften, Swedish julafton, December 24, as families gather. Most establishments are closed on Christmas Eve.

December 25th is not as burdened by tradition as in Anglo-Saxon countries. The Church of Sweden holds a julotta, a nativity mass in the morning, with high attendance in an otherwise secular country. In Sweden, the evening of Christmas Day is usually dedicated for nightlife in small towns, as the young adult emigrants celebrate homecoming.

December 26th is an official holiday, and the day for many sport events.

Other holidays and events[edit]

  • December 6th: Finland's Independence Day.
  • December 10th: Nobel Day in Stockholm and Oslo.
  • December 13th: Sweden celebrates Luciadagen, S:t Lucy's day.
  • December 31st: New Years' Eve. People either celebrate New Year with family, with friends or in a restaurant. Only a few restaurants are open, and most of them require advance booking. Fireworks are in practice unregulated, so the view and sound in big cities can be impressive.

Schools are closed one week during February or March (vinterferie or sportlov), with children and teenagers crowding local venues instead. The date varies between provinces.

Easter, Swedish påsk, Danish/Norwegian påske, Finnish pääsiäinen, is also a major holiday, with crowded resorts.

Get in[edit]

Traffic is heavy around Christmas. Winter weather may slow down road and railroad traffic. Take this in consideration when planning the trip inside Finland

See[edit][add listing]

Northern lights and snowy sceneries.

Do[edit][add listing]

Skiing in Kvitfjell, Norway

Nordic skiing and alpine skiing. At sub-zero temperatures, some ski resorts use artificial snow.

In the northern resorts, the winter sports season keeps on well into May. With warmer air, longer daylight and piles of snow, the late season might be more gratifying than December or January.

Buy[edit][add listing]

Many Scandinavian towns have Christmas fairs. As in other Western countries, there are big sales on the days past Christmas.

Eat[edit][add listing]

Christmas food is the most traditional part of Scandinavian cuisine. The Swedish julbord is the Christmas variant of the well-known smörgåsbord.

Stay safe[edit]

See travelling in cold weather (In the Northern Hemisphere, several homeless people die from hypothermia every winter) and driving in Sweden.

Scandinavians are heavy holiday drinkers. Stay out of drunken brawls.

There are no serious threats in Nordic countries. Prepare for weather and be careful as always while traveling (look after your belongings) and you will be fine.