My Swedish Christmas in Harlem

12/12/2011 09:50 am ET | Updated Feb 11, 2012

The holidays are my favorite time of year! Christmas was always one of the biggest celebrations in Sweden and I look forward to the festivities each year. Even though I celebrate Christmas every year in Harlem now, I still brought with me my traditions and I try to incorporate my Swedish Christmas customs to wherever I'm celebrating this great holiday.

The Swedish Christmas is definitely unique, even throughout Scandinavia. Like Christmas everywhere, it's a very family-centered holiday. Immediate and extended families gather to celebrate together in night full of eating, drinking, and laughter. Unlike the US, we celebrate Christmas primarily on Christmas Eve instead of the 25th. Interestingly enough, one of our traditions is somewhat American, when at 3pm on Christmas Eve, what seems like the entire country stops to watch the Disney special "From All Of Us To All Of You." All the festivities like dinner and presents must sometimes wait until after Kalle Anka (Donald Duck). This funny tradition has existed for what seems like as long as TV has existed in Sweden!

The program is followed by Christmas dinner, giving of gifts, singing of carols and dancing around the Christmas tree. But clearly, my favorite Christmas tradition is the dinner when Swedes gather to enjoy a traditional Julbord. The Julbord is an extended Smorgasbord of traditional Christmas foods like Swedish Meatballs, Braised Red Cabbage, Jansson's Temptation (a traditional potato casserole with sweet anchovies), Lutfisk, and most importantly the Swedish Ham. Our Christmas ham has a different preparation to that of the US. First we cure the ham with salt and sugar, it is boiled or baked, and then glazed with Swedish mustard (sweeter and les spicy that regular mustard). If the ham is boiled, then we conserve the liquid it was boiled in and dip Swedish rye bread (Vört) in it. For dessert we also enjoy Lucia buns which are saffron buns, also mainly eaten on December 13, St. Lucia's Day. Of course, I can't forget our beloved Glögg, warm mulled wine with fruit and nuts, which is drunk throughout the holiday.

This year, I wanted Harlem to know how a traditional Swedish Christmas tastes. So I created a special Christmas prix fixe menu, Helga's Christmas Plate (named after my grandmother, my favorite Christmas cook), which includes all of these Swedish favorites like Helga's meatballs, Swedish ham, braised red cabbage, Jansson's Temptation, Lucia buns, and Glögg. Our Swedish Christmas menu will be offered on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, as well as a Brunch and Dinner buffet on Christmas Day that also offers some of these Swedish dishes. This is my way of bringing my own heritage to the culturally-diverse neighborhood of Harlem.

After Christmas, we'll also be honoring one of Harlem's most celebrated holidays, Kwanzaa, with its own special prix fixe menu followed by a grand New Year's menu and gala. This year at the Rooster is not to be missed! So join me in celebrating all of our heritages and traditions at Red Rooster Harlem this holiday season. I hope to see you all there! God Jul (Merry Christmas)!

Join us Uptown and celebrate at Red Rooster Harlem. Be sure to make your reservation soon by calling Red Rooster Harlem at (212) 792-9001. A credit card will be needed to hold a reservation.

Visit my website here for more details of our Swedish Christmas at Red Rooster. For more information about all of our holiday menus, click here.

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