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Sweden is the largest of the four Scandinavian countries. Scandinavia consists of Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Iceland. Part of "norden" or "the Nordic countries" is the neighbouring country of Finland and also Greenland, Aland Island and Faeroes. The five largest of the Nordic countries has a total population of approximately 25 million inhabitants. The food in Scandinavia and Sweden is often hearty and rustic. Traditional dishes as meatballs with potatoes, gravy and lingonberry-jam is even today very common and popular. Of course the globalisation has brought many different flavours from around the world. For instance pizza, pasta, kebab and hamburgers are very much everyday food for many Swedes and Scandinavians.
Scandinavia is situated around the Baltic Sea, which always have provided for a large amount of seafood in the traditional cooking. One of the most famous dishes are "lax" which is the Swedish name for salmon. The salmon is for instance served "gravad" which means cured. It's also often smoked, grilled or fried. Traditional serving of the cured "gravlax" is together with boiled potatoes and "hovmästarsås, hovmastarsas" which is a sweet and sour, mustardy sauce served cold.
When it comes to drinks, Sweden is famous for its vodka, brought forward by the internationally known Absolut Vodka, the third largest spirit brand in the world. Another known Swede, is the aquavit which also is a Scandinavian restaurant in New York. Aquavit is a liquor seasoned with dill, star aniseed and citrus. Aquavit is often consumed together with crayfish at the annual "kräftskiva" or loosely translated crayfish-party.
This event usually occurs in the end of August, when evenings are darker but there's still summer-temperatures. The "kräftskiva" is often held outdoors, and people usually sit at long tables eating crayfish, pies, bread and various side dishes together with drinking mostly schnapps and beer.
Another time for festivities is the swedish "midsommar", or midsummer which is celebrated in late June. "Midsommar" is the day which has the most daylight-hours in a year, and from then it starts to get darker again. The Aquavit is a popular drink also at midsummer, aswell as the beer. The food is often "inlagd sill", or cured herring. The "sill" is served with potatoes boiled in dill, sour cream (some prefer un-whipped double-cream), and crisp-bread. Often a buffet, or a "smörgåsbord" is served as well, which usually consists of meatballs, salmon, prinskorv (small fried sausages), potato-salad, vegetables, bread and perhaps a "västerbottenpaj", which is a cheese pie made of Swedish västerbotten-cheese.
Like in many countries, Christmas is a big thing in Sweden. In early December, Swedes start to celebrate the advent, which are divided into first advent, second, third and fourth advent. For every advent, (Sundays in December), Swedes light a candle. A very popular thing is to celebrate the "advent", with an "adventsfika". Fika is a very big thing, and is in general to have a cup of coffee and perhaps a bun, or some other type of sweet. The "adventsfika" is a christmasified version of the ordinary fika, and instead of coffee and buns, glögg (hot wine punch) and "lussebullar", buns with saffron, raisins and marzipan is served.
When all four lights are lit, Christmas Eve is closing in. The standard Swedish "julbord" or Christmas-menu contains meatballs, "prinskorv" (the small sausages), "julskinka" (a large baked ham flavoured with mustard), red cabbage, "lutfisk" (dried cod in a white sauce), gravy, boiled peas, potatoes and many other side dishes which of course varies from one family to another.