Christmas spirit in Belfast – the Swedish way

Hello everybody!

We are continuing our renovation projects here in Belfast, and since the batteries will be shipped from Sweden in the end of next week, we will stay here for Christmas and then continue. While waiting for the batteries the days are filled with renovation work and we have got to know our neighbours a bit more sharing dinner or a drink. As Christmas is approaching, we are both enjoying the traditions here (Jens loves the Mince pies) and finding small ways to incorporate our favourite parts of Swedish Christmas. We have got a lot of questions on how Christmas is celebrated in Sweden, and where the traditions come from. Sometimes we don´t even know the details ourselves, but we have done some research 🙂 Here´s a short video explaining our viking heritage which still influence our traditions.

There is one other celebration coming up, that might seem peculiar to other countries – involving an Italian saint and the darkest day of the year – “Sankta Lucia”. It is celebrated early morning the 13th of December every year in Sweden, as a procession of women in white gowns sing traditional songs and light up the dark with their candles. Before the 13th, it´s a tradition in Sweden to make a specific type of saffron buns, that are enjoyed around lucia and Christmas time together with some mulled wine.

Sankta Lucia, the saint of light celebrated with traditional songs (photo credit:

In the last post, I hinted that I was looking for an oven to bake some Swedish christmas treats. We were invited to our neighbour boat Shadowmere to use their oven so that I could bake some saffron buns (recipe here), but also something even more important – gingerbread cookies!

Preparing the gingerbreads for the oven onboard Shardowmere

Fortunately, I had brought some of the ingredients from home because everything is not so easy to find here. The cookie dough was made with the same recipe as always, inherited from my grandma Maj. It has a little bit more mild and buttery flavour than many other Swedish gingerbreads, and it will always stay my favourite! As Ian and Shirley was kind to let us use their oven for many hours to make both of these treats, we made sure to give them the true Lucia experience – Saffron buns, gingerbread cookies and mulled wine. Jens played the “Sankta Lucia” song on the recorder and I sang along. The funny thing was that they actually had heard the song before, it is apparently played in the movie “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin”. The baking and “fika” took all night as we shared stories, experiences and discussed the changes happening around the world. Thanks a lot for a wonderful night!


Since then we have shared some gingerbread cookies with our neighbours here, and since the Christmas spirit is all about the joy of giving I wanted to share this family recipe with you. So here it comes, possibly the worlds best gingerbread recipe! 😉


Grandma Maj´s Gingerbread

250 g butter
200 g sugar
1 table spoon dark syrup
1 egg
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground dried cloves
1 tablespoon bicarbonate of soda
500 g flour

Stir the butter and sugar in a bowl until mixed. Add syrup, spices and egg to the mixture. Dissolve the bicarbonate in a tablespoon of water and pour into to the bowl. Stir everything together. Add flour until you get a “porridge” texture, then pour it out on a table with flour and knead in the rest of the flour. Make a roll of the dough and let it chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes (the dough can be stored in the fridge at least a week).

When the dough have rested, take about half the dough roll it out until it is a couple of mm thick and cut out the figures you want. Heat the oven until about 220 C (gas mark 5) and bake the cookies 8-10 minutes on greased baking sheets. Enjoy!

Hope you all have a wonderful day!

– Petra


Author: sailingforharmony

Cruising the oceans, exploring the world

2 thoughts on “Christmas spirit in Belfast – the Swedish way”

  1. Ni verkar ju ha det riktigt mysigt!
    Själv är jag och prompt gänget på väg till Amsterdam för att utbyta erfarenheter!
    Kram och God jul!!!


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