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.

Tags: , , , ,

Categories: holidays & customs, Sweden+


I moved to Sweden in 2008. This blog is for people who would like to learn more about Swedish food and culture.


Subscribe to our RSS feed and social profiles to receive updates.

14 Comments on “Knut”

  1. January 12, 2013 at 10:35 pm #

    Enjoy. Perhaps I will mark the day by building that gingerbread house from the kit that’s been sitting on the counter since första advent.

    Enjoy Disney. I still have trouble hearing Cinderella’s name. Took me years of swedish disney books in the US, and finally moving here and learning the language to realize it wasn’t as-kungen. For the life of me, couldn’t figure out why a princess would have king as part of her name.

    • January 12, 2013 at 10:44 pm #

      That’s funny. To me, ASS-kungen just doesn’t sound particularly princessy. I guess it’s all what you are used to. Good luck with your ginger bread house! 🙂

  2. Kimberly O
    January 12, 2013 at 11:48 pm #

    Haha, this is good to know as it seems as though Christmas is still going here in Sweden! We have been wondering what on earth we should do with our Christmas tree since we haven’t seen anyone else’s yet…does everyone throw it away this week…and where do they throw it!??

    I sure wish I had a gingerbread house to smash. That looks like fun 🙂

  3. nancy nordwall
    January 13, 2013 at 12:05 am #

    I love your blog. Learning about my heritage. Date: Sat, 12 Jan 2013 21:22:18 +0000 To:

    • January 13, 2013 at 8:32 am #

      Thanks Nancy! I appreciate that. I’m learning about mine too. 🙂

  4. January 13, 2013 at 3:15 am #

    I love hearing about different cultures and traditions, especially the historical bits. Happy Knut!

    • January 13, 2013 at 8:26 am #

      Thanks. Glad you enjoyed the post.

  5. Terry Standen
    January 13, 2013 at 7:01 am #

    I really enjoy your blog. My daughter moved to Malmo 2 years ago and it’s nice to ‘see’ both the town and Sweden through other eyes, it gives me a more rounded picture.

    • January 13, 2013 at 9:06 am #

      Thanks Terry. I hope your daughter is enjoying Malmö. I certainy do.

  6. January 13, 2013 at 11:44 pm #

    Today I destroyed my gingerbread house. I didn’t eat it, as I saw one of my cats licking it the other day, but there was smashing involved! How perfect that I managed to Knut without evening knowing it…

    • January 14, 2013 at 9:08 am #

      Are you sure you aren’t part Swedish? We actually forgot to smash ours. I think my husband and I were too overwhelmed to remember it after being visually assaulted at Disney on Ice.

  7. Gaviota
    July 30, 2013 at 9:51 pm #

    Thanks for showing me another Swedish tradition I didn’t know about. Love your blog! Keep it up!

  8. Gaviota
    July 30, 2013 at 9:52 pm #

    Reblogged this on Skandinaviskspråk.

  9. Linda Smith
    April 14, 2014 at 3:18 am #

    I never heard of Knut, but for years, I wouldn’t take the tree down until around the 20th of January. Kids and husband thought I was just lazy…now I know it was my inner Swede telling me to keep the tree up. Love it! I will be looking for more Swedish tidbits here. My Swedish family is from near Malmo.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: