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How the Swedes eat their way through Christmas

In Sweden, Christmas food is not only an affair for the last days of December, reports Erik Bergin, as he embark on a cruise full with delicacies.

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STOCKHOLM — Bound by long time traditions, the Swedes usually start their feast a month or so before Christmas, indulging in intense orgies around smorgasbords heavy with all kinds of traditional Swedish food.

Food traditions differ somewhat from north to south, but some items must be on the table for it to qualify as an official Christmas table with any self respect: At least two, three kinds of salmon, eggs with caviar, a number of different pickled herrings, small sausages, meatballs and a sort of potato gratin called Janssons Frestelse (Jansson’s Temptation – it’s unclear who this Jansson character was).

These are the basics. From there, all kinds of additions – ranging from spareribs to lobster, various patés and pies – can be found. During these feasts, often four or five plates of food are downed with beer, a local sweet drink called Julmust and the occasional Snaps.

A Christmas table in Sweden is often taken in with good friends or with colleagues. As the actual Christmas draws near, the procedure is done all over again, this time in the company of family members and relatives, much like in other countries.

The Traveling Reporter went on a Christmas food cruise in the Swedish archipelago just outside of Stockholm, the capital. Some years this time in December, snow may already have covered islands, streets and rooftops, creating an extraordinarily beautiful setting by which to enjoy the food.

RELATED GUIDE: 5 Best Islands in Stockholm’s Archipelago

The vessel, the Waxholm III, was build 1903 and is operated by the shipping company Strömma Kanalbolag. As most of Stockholm’s ferry operations into its world unique archipelago, the vessel departs from the Nybrokajen jetty in downtown Stockholm. Then, for three hours, it cruises the waters around the inlet to Stockholm while its passengers feasts on the many tasteful food items onboard.

After the ferry has made port again, a number of replete and satisfied Swedes, and one or two foreigners, are seen staggering off the boat, slowly disappearing into the night. But before you know it, they are likely to take a seat at another Christmas table, perhaps as soon as the next day.

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The editor of the Traveling Reporter works as a business news editor, and is a frequent traveler. When not doing any of that, he spends time on his boat and tries to figure out where to travel next. Two of his top destinations are the Philippines and San Francisco. Email Erik! Follow the Traveling Reporter at Stumbleupon, Tumblr, Chime In, Pinterest, Google+, Weibo, Storify, Facebook, Traveldudes, Myspace.