Nordic Christmas: Julbord

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This post is part of our series exploring Nordic Christmas traditions. To see the entire collection, visit the Nordic Christmas home page.

Julbord, the Christmas feast, was the first thing I planned to do when I conceptualized Nordic Christmas. I knew IKEA hosted a Julbord every year and I thought that looked like a lot of fun. Unfortunately I missed the date of the Julbord at our local IKEA! Instead I copied their menu, but with half the food options. (I eliminated anything I was certain my family wouldn’t eat or I thought I couldn’t easily source.)

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Believe it or not, this is my abbreviated menu!

As it happens my husband’s aunt and uncle happened to be passing through and we were able to include them as well as my inlaws. After all, a Julbord is more than just the food, it’s also the company.

With a date on the calendar and a menu organized, it was time to get working. I only had two days!

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The desserts were an easy thing to do the day before. And actually the Julbord desserts were not specified on the IKEA menu (nor was the Glogg, more on that later.) I looked for a variety of flavors while still keeping everything in the finger foods category. Our desserts were Peppernotter (Scandinavian Christmas Cookies), Norwegian Butter Cookies, and Swedish Cardamom Cake. I also made the potato salad the night before because I like the flavours in my potato salad to marry together with time. The cucumber salad can be made ahead, but not too far in advance so I made it in the morning of the big day.

In the interim before it was time to cook the hot stuff, I set the table.

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Even though I had just barely started setting the table I couldn’t resist snapping a quick picture. Good thing, too, as it turns out I didn’t take photos later.

Finally, in the last hours, we did the rest. I used IKEA’s meatballs, lingonberry sauce, and gravy sauce, made my own mashed potatoes, set out the cheeses, and assigned my husband to poach the salmon. The cheeses and crispbread I had procured from Trader Joe’s, and set them out at the final minute because I like to keep cheese fresh and cold.

At long last it was time to eat! Our guests arrived and we promptly sat down to eat. Since not everything fit on our table I set a small serving table in the corner to hold dishes that wouldn’t fit on the table. The food was all delicious, and even though I made a lot of food, we didn’t have much for leftovers.

I served Glögg with the dessert not for any reason other than logistics. It was just easier to serve it then. (And in the meantime it filled my home with such a heavenly aroma!) It was very sweet and a novel addition to our meal. None of us had had it before. 

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With candles glowing, conversation flowing,  and food a-plenty, I forgot to take a picture of the table full of food before we began. No matter. The whole night was so delightful. We will all remember it for a long, long time. And I have photos in my mind, including one of my teenager truly laughing at whatever his grandfather said to him at the other end of the table. Those bonding moments are precious, friends. This is what it’s all about.

To cap off the evening, we drove through the neighbourhood looking at some light displays and then went up to my inlaws’ home for some music. My boys played their instruments, I played the piano, my husband and his mother sang, and then Paul’s uncle treated us to some cello pieces. He’s a retired professional cellist so that was such a gift!

The whole night was just perfection. We all fell filled, body and soul. 

This was my first Julbord. It will definitely not be the last. As I was driving home after keeping the kids out too late on a school night, but having no regrets about any of it, I had two strong impressions. The first was that putting together this whole Julbord reminded me of Babette’s Feast, which, incidentally, is a Danish movie. The second thought was even more simple: All I want for Christmas I already have.

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