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Winter in Scandinavia

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Winter in Scandinavia

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    This article is a travel topic
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

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.


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

  • 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

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


Northern lights and snowy sceneries.


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.

Sauna is tradition to Finns all year round. Anyone visiting Finland should try it. During summer combine it with a swim in a lake. During winter it is easy to cool down after Sauna by rolling in the snow or ice swimming. Ask from locals to achieve best possible Sauna experience


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

Finland is relatively expensive country but all goods are high quality. Iittala and Marimekko products can be found from most Super markets and special gift or outlet stores. Finnish design is great souvenir for everyone.


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

Traditional Finnish food is hunted, not grown on farm. Known one is Finnish version of Sautéed reindeer.

Stay safe

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.