One of the lesser known Swedish holiday traditions (in the U.S.) that hasn’t caught on as strongly as some of us Swedish Americans would have hoped — though we do our best to promulgate it — is celebrated with: glögg. And pepparkakor and candles, of course — on the first Sunday of Advent, just like they do in Sweden as they usher in the holiday season.
In Sweden, Advent 1 (Första Advent) unofficially marks the first day of the holiday season. And though average Swedes don’t identify themselves as devoutly Christian, if they’re Christian at all, they are certainly religious about Swedish traditions.
Read here for more information on celebrating Första Advent.

Music plays an important part in everyone’s traditions, and Sweden is also responsible for one of Christianty’s favorite Advent carols: “Prepare the Royal Highway.” Franz Michael Franzén, who was born in Finland in 1772, became a priest in Stockholm and was ultimately consecrated as a bishop in 1841; he died in Härnösand, Sweden in 1847 after a life of prolific poetry and hymn writing. His Advent text put to the 1697 Swenska Psalmboken’s tune of “Bereden väg för herran” (Prepare the way for the king, or prepare the royal highway) created the beloved carol as we now sing it. It has been published in hymnals all over the Christian world and has been performed by countless choirs and instrumental groups of all kinds.
The English text — not a direct translation of the seven Swedish verses but of the same scripture from the Gospel of Luke — was adapted by a Swedish immigrant in 1958. Augustus Nelson came to Minnesota as a 20-year-old in 1883, where he eventually attended Augustana Seminary and was ordained as a Lutheran minister in 1898.


(Verse 1)
Bereden väg för herran / Prepare the royal highway (or: Prepare the way, O Zion)
Berg, sjunken, djup, stån opp / The King of kings is near! (or: your Christ is drawing near!)
Han kommer, han som fjärran / Let ev’ry hill and valley
var sedd av fädrens hopp / A level road appear!
Rättfärdighetens förste / Then greet the King of Glory
av Davids hus den störste / Foretold in sacred story
Välsignad vare han / Hosanna to the Lord, (or: O blest is Christ that came)
som kom i Herrens namn. / For He fulfills God’s Word! (in God's most holy name.)

The familiar English version here:
A popular arrangement from Dalarna here:

The Swedes also so loved a Christmas hymn of German origin that many people think it is a Swedish carol: “When Christmas Morn is Dawning” (“När Juldagsmorgen glimmer”). It is typically sung at julotta, the pre-dawn church service that takes place on Christmas Day all over Sweden and Swedish America.
Another well-known carol of Scandinavian origin, composed by Norwegians Peder Knudsen and Marie Wexelsen, is “I am so glad each Christmas Eve” (“Jeg er saa glad hver julekveld”), in 1859.
And of course no account of familiar hymns with Swedish origins would be complete without mentioning the perennial favorites “Children of the Heavenly Father” (“Tryggare kan ingen vare”) by Lina Sandel Berg (1832-1903) and “How Great Thou Art” (“O store Gud”) by Carl Boberg (1850-1940). Many, many Swedes and Swedish Americas alike have memories of loved ones singing these, in Swedish or English, at all times of the year.

Amanda Olson Robison