Monday, January 2, 2017

Winter Traditions and Holidays Part 31 - St. Knut's Day

St. Knut's Day - Sweden, Finland, Estonia
  • Tjugondag jul ("Twentieth Day Yule"), or Saint Knut's Day, is a traditional festival celebrated in Sweden and Finland on 13 January.
  • This is the day when Christmas trees and the candies and cookies that decorated the tree are eaten.
  • In Sweden, the feast held during this event is called a Knut's party (Julgransplundring, literally: "Christmas tree plundering").
  • Canute Lavard (Knut Levard in Swedish) was a Danish duke who was assassinated by his cousin and rival Magnus Nilsson on 7 January 1131 so he could usurp the Danish throne. In the aftermath of his death there was a civil war, which led to Knut being later declared a saint, and 7 January became Knut's Day.
  • As his name day roughly coincided with Epiphany (the "thirteenth day of Christmas"), Knut's Day and Epiphany were conflated to some degree.
  • On Nuutinpäivä, there has been a tradition somewhat analogous to modern Santa Claus, where young men dressed as a goat (Finnish: Nuuttipukki) would visit houses. Usually the dress was an inverted fur jacket, a leather or birch bark mask, and horns. Unlike Santa Claus, Nuuttipukki was a scary character (cf. Krampus).
  • The men dressed as Nuuttipukki wandered from house to house, came in, and typically demanded food from the household and especially leftover alcoholic beverages
  • Dialectical proverb from Noormarkku says: Hyvä Tuomas joulun tua, paha Knuuti poijes viä or "Good [St.] Thomas brings the Christmas, evil Knut takes [it] away."
  • In Sweden St. Knut's Day marks the end of the Christmas and holiday season and is celebrated with taking out the Christmas tree, dancing around it. In modern days, the feast is mainly for children.

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