History of Christmas Gifts | Sweden & Denmark (1873)

[(an excerpt from Harper’s Magazine (1873)]

In Sweden and Denmark the Julklapp, or Christmas-box, enclosed in innumerable wrappers, and labeled with the name of the person for whom it is intended, is suddenly thrown into the room by some unseen, mysterious messenger, who accompanies it with a loud rap upon the door.

No little ingenuity is frequently exhibited in the selection of the envelope enclosing the present. Sometimes an elegant vase is enclosed in a monster bale, or a costly brooch in a great straw boot, or some valuable ornament in an earthenware hen.

During the evening all sorts of messengers, in all possible and impossible disguises, some in masks, some in female attire, some as cripples on crutches, others as postilions on horseback, hurry hither and thither, and deliver the presents in the most unexpected and mysterious manner.

The Yule-klapp is not infrequently accompanied by a biting epigram or satirical allusion, like the valentine. Thus, a lady extravagantly fond of dress is liable to be presented with a ridiculously dressed doll, or a newly married couple who are rather demonstrative in their billing and cooing with a pair of young, turtle-doves.

In the larger towns and cities, as in Stockholm, they hold a great fair. The shops are richly decorated and splendidly illuminated. There are family reunions, where children receive their presents and adults their Yulklapps, while in the midst of the festive scene rises a Christmas-tree with its rich burden of flowers, fruits, and sweetmeats, and brilliant with burning wax-lights.

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