In Sweden, Knut is considered the final day of the Christmas season. Knut was a Danish prince who was murdered on 7 January 1131 by his cousin. In 1169, thanks to his influential relatives, he was canonized by the Pope. By the end of the 1600s the name day of Knut was changed from the Epiphany on 7 January to 13 January (the 20th day after Christmas) and the popular rhyme “tjugondag Knut kör julen ut” (twentieth day Knut drives Christmas out) followed shortly.
In the past, Knut traditions varied across the country, and across the centuries with society balls, or children dancing, singing, and dressing up as little old ladies and going door to door carrying a basket for candy, or small town carnivals. A bit more foreboding, it was also jokingly time to “körde ut” (drive out) the house guests in addition to Christmas. The oldest recorded account of this involves the master of the house entering the guest quarters, and throwing an ax down into the floor. This was supposed to be in jest, but I’m pretty sure it would make me want to go home.
Perhaps the most unified action on Knut is that many people throw out their Christmas trees. Knut is not a red day (official holiday), and families seem to have fashioned their own traditions around the last day of Christmas. In my husband’s family it was the traditional day to smash up the gingerbread houses and eat them. That is what we will be doing this Sunday. And going to Disney on Ice for the third year in a row. At least this year I am reminding myself that the characters will be speaking Swedish, so it won’t come as a shock (again). I do love watching my children’s faces at Disney on Ice, but that aside, I have a feeling I will get much more enjoyment out of smashing the gingerbread houses when we get home.