Christmas in Lund at the Kulturen Museum

Kulturen is an open-air museum in Lund that features the buildings, furniture and clothes of southern Sweden. It was opened in 1892 by George Karlin, who wanted to preserve the old farming society of the area. My cousin Johanna is going to university in Lund, and so she gave us a tour of the town and this wonderful museum.

I’ll do a longer post with more items from the museum, and there were lots! For this post, I’m going to focus on the parts of the museum that were decorated festively for Christmas. I took lots of pictures of some of the homes I’ve profiled, more than I wanted to include here, and so I’ll go over these homes again with more pictures and detail in the next post. (It’s Christmas Eve eve, I’m cutting myself some slack).

All the information I have about the homes below I obtained from information signs that the museum had.

This is The Worker’s Home. It was built in 1849. This house actually remains in the spot where it was originally built! (A lot of the houses have been moved to the grounds of Kulturen). There were two flats on the ground floor and three rooms upstairs. At most (!) there would have been 16 people living here when it was rented out to workers. However, the house is currently set up to look as it would have in the 1930s, when Nils Anderrson lived there with his family (no more workers’ flats).

Christmas at The Worker’s Home, 1930. “The house painter Nils Andersson and his wife Siri have prepared for a cosy Christmas. The gingerbread biscuits in the kitchen and the apples hung up on the poker to roast in front of the tiled stove spread the smell of Christmas.”

Us upon seeing this display: is that real gingerbread? Yes. Is it fresh? Not the stuff on the kitchen counter, but in the living room, yes. (Don’t ask Neil how he found this out for us).

This table held fresh gingerbread.

“The table is laid and the food is served. The house is decorated for Christmas with paper hangings and embroidered Christmas cloths with red edges. Ninne is playing on the floor while waiting for the Christmas presents to be opened. Modern life has arrived in the form of electric lights in the Christmas tree and the radio broadcasting Christmas programmes for the whole family.”

I liked all the Swedish flags on this Christmas tree!

I loved the adorable needlework on this tablecloth.

Note the hyacinth bulb on the table below.

This is the Bosmåla Croft, a cottage that comes from the croft of Bosmåla in Urshult, Småland, and dates from the 1850s. “It is built entirely of wood with low walls to save expensive timber. It was built for poor people. The roof is thatched with birch-bark and turf. When it was moved to Kulturen in 1924 it was rebuilt to show how tenement soldiers lived. Today, the cottage looks as it did when Kulturen bought it. There is a reconstruction of Kristina Nicklasson’s home around 1900.”

“The year is 1904 and Christmas is drawing near in the cottage in Bosmåla in southern Småland. The only visible sign of the approach of the festival is the “Christmas tree” standing on the table – actually a candlestick decorated with apples. For Mother Kristina it is a great joy to bring out the Christmas tree, a beautiful comfort in the middle of their poverty. The children Maria, Anna, Klas, and Knut come home for Christmas in Bosmåla. Kristina has baked bread, but they cannot afford to buy meat. Yet they will not go hungry this Christmas evening, for the neighbours have come by with “tasters” from their slaughter. This year, Kristina is also going to treat the family to something sweet. She is going to bake gorån, a wafer spiced with cardamom and baked on a special iron placed in the open fire.”

There are two beds in the kitchen because, with the fireplace, it would have been the warmest room in the cottage. It looks like the gorån is on the table with the Christmas candlestick.

I think the baskets in the picture below are meant to represent the tasters that the neighbours have brought over. The room is wallpapered with newsprint, probably to help with insulation.

The cottage was very dark when I visited it. Here are some better pictures of the inside taken from the Kulturen’s website.

“Christmas bowl in the Bosmålator. The candlestick with apples was the only decoration in the poor village.”

A fire burning in the kitchen.

Below is the Blekinge Farmhouse. “The farmhouse comes from Nybygden in Jämshög, Blekinge, and was built in the mid-eighteenth century. The dwelling house is one of the best-preserved examples of the South Götaland house type, which was common in Blekinge, northern Skåne, southern Småland, and Halland. There were several buildings, but only the dwelling house and the stable were brought to the museum. The builders used the characteristic technique of fir logs cut in half, to save timber.”

The house currently illustrates how the farmer Carl Olsson lived there with his family from 1815 to 1835.

I liked how some places in Sweden use evergreen branches at the front door for people to clean off their footwear.

“The year is 1815, and in the Blekinge farmouse the table is laid for Christmas. The big fireplace gives generous heat. The room has had a good Christmas cleaning, the only time of the year when the soot is thoroughly removed. The walls, ceiling, and floors have been scrubbed. The floor is strewn with chopped juniper twigs. It smells good and it looks decorative. For Christmas the room is decked with woven and painted hangings. On the table just inside the door the Christmas dinner is being prepared. The table is laid for all the people on the farm. Every Christmas the children and servants each receive a “Christmas heap”, consisting of bread, apples, and a cheese.”

I really liked this farmhouse. It comes from the same area where my paternal great-grandmother lived, before meeting my great-grandfather and immigrating to Canada. This would have been a rich farmsteader’s house, though, so it was probably nicer than what my great-grandmother would have experienced (I’m not sure what their economic situation was like).

A Christmas heap.

These Christmas goats/reindeer made out of evergreen branches were pretty cute. Good thing they’re chained up, or they might run away!

The Thomander House, shown below, was “built in 1814 in Paradisgatan in Lund for the professor of botany, Carl Adolf Agardh. The street façade is the one with the doorway. The house is a typical example of nineteenth-century classism, built of timber framing with a plastered façade. The colour scheme of the house is also typical of the time.

The house takes its name from Professor Johan Henrik Thomander, who lived here from 1833-1851. It was then the residence of various Lund families. Between 1905 and 1912 it was a home for nurses receiving their training in Lund. The University then bought the building and in 1925 it was moved to Kulturen, donated by the professor’s daughter, Ida Thomander Warholm. In the house there is a reconstruction of Thomander’s home with furniture and objects that belonged to the family.”

“It is Christmas Eve 1849 in the home of Professor Johan Henrik Thomander, his wife Emilie, Grandmother Thomander, and the daughters Ida, Emma, Fredrika and Natalia. In the dining room the table is laid with veal in aspic, lutefish, roast goose with creamed prunes, boiled ham with red cabbage, and for dessert rice pudding and sugar rosettes. Upstairs is the most modern thing imaginable at this time – a big, decorated Christmas tree! It is on show only on Christmas Eve; it is plundered of its sweets immediately and then thrown out.”

(Unfortunately the ground floor of the Thomander House was closed for renovations, so the dining room and the kitchen weren’t available for viewing at the time. But the Christmas tree was!).

I liked the little wax candles that were attached to the tree.

And the golden apples.

Here is a picture from the Kulturen’s website of the “Thomanders” decorating the tree.

The Västra Vrams Vicarage is shown below. “In 1757 a new vicarage was built in Västra Vram outside Kristianstad, Skåne. It was originally a square-built farmstead around a courtyard. The dwelling house was built by Dean Johan Bolmstedt according to state directives from 1734 which described what vicarages should look like. This was the first of that type in Skåne. The directive states that the house should have six rooms, but the dean added two more. A bedroom for the curate was appointed in the attic.

The house is timber-framed and was initially painted with red paint from Falun. It 1806 it was plastered with clay and whitewashed in keeping with the new style. It served as a vicarage until 1925. It was moved to Kulturen in 1927.”

Look, another evergreen floor mat! The red sign reads: “Here, in the Scanian vicarage, the table is laid for a Småland Christmas, as it was celebrated at the vicarage of Vislanda in the 1820s. Lutheran customs, mixed with older elements from Catholic and pagan times. The little Christmas tree with its wax candles and cookies is the start of a new custom. Ceiling cloths, lingonberry wreaths, edifying woodcuts, and hovering doves adorn the house. Linen cloths cover the nicely laid tables, one for the vicar’s family, one for the servants, who dine together on this one evening in the year. The food is simple, as are the Christmas presents for the children, the maid, and the servant boy. During Christmas, all visitors were given some food to take home.”

Don’t worry, the food is all fake, including the hog’s head.

The family’s table.

The servant’s table.

The beautiful ceiling cloth.

The tree, featuring apples and cookies!

There is a section in one of the big buildings of Kulturen that features the interiors of a few different farmhouses. Below is a recreation of the Mäsinge Cottage. It is from Mäsinge in West Karup, Bjäre district, from north western Skåne, and dates to the 18th century. It is a south Götaland house style, a low-dwelling open inside to the rafters and flanked by two high storehouses.

A model of what the farmhouse would have looked like (the one with the green thatched room, the buildings with brown thatched rooves are other farm buildings in the same yard). The living area is the central portion of the house, and it is flanked by two store houses.

The style of furniture dates back to medieval times, and features built-in twin beds, a fixed transom seat (which could also be converted into a bed at night), and shelves as well as a big table. (Sorry for the poor quality pictures, it was really dark in there).

“The year is 1850. In the Scanian peasant home the table is laid for Christmas with an abundance of food. The meat dish is loaded with pork, sausages, and other meats, flanked by the Christmas cheese, the butter cone, and the beer. The porridge is made from barley, cooked with milk instead of the usual water. The Christmas cookies are almond mussels and crullers. The “Christmas heaps” with bread and apples were gifts to the children and servants in the house.

After having our Christmas Eve eve dinner tonight, I now recognize what is being served in the middle dish: lutefisk! A traditional Nordic dish.

The transom seats are the ones that are built into the walls, located underneath the window and behind the table. I read in a museum a couple of weeks ago that furniture in medieval houses was usually kept to the sides of the room because then you wouldn’t trip over it while moving around with pre-electricity lighting conditions. There may be a single chair or stool, but those were very valuable and expensive – often a status symbol. Moveable furniture is a very modern invention.

A Christmas wreath featuring some straw goats and stars.

A close-up view of the transom seat behind the table with it’s corner cupboard (made in 1820) and some textiles.

All right, our tour of the old houses is done! Now I have some pictures from the gift shop.

A candlestick featuring apples and horses.

A candlestick to the right. St. Lucia figures to the left.

I wish I had picked up a couple of these ornaments! They were super cute, especially the knitted ones.

Below are the hats that are worn on Saint Lucia’s Day (December 13). Boys wear the white hats with stars, girls wear a crown of candles. These days, Lucia hats are either just the ones made of cloth shown below or have electric candles on them. But they used to wear crowns with lit candles! I’ll do a post on Lucia with some more pictures and details soon.


Some traditional-style candlesticks.

We also saw these candlesticks in another part of the museum, where children had been encouraged to decorate them (see below).

A planter of heather located outside the gift shop.

An electric candelabra.

Advent stars in shop windows.

God Jul! Christmas Eve (tomorrow) is the big day in Sweden, when presents are opened and a big dinner is enjoyed with family. I don’t think I’ll be posting for a few days so, until then, I hope you have a lovely time wherever you are and with whomever you are with!

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2 Replies to “Christmas in Lund at the Kulturen Museum”

  1. Gladys Grey says:

    Thank you for sharing these wonderful pics . Enjoy your weekend and hope Santa is good to you .

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