Smörgåsbord: Perfect for the 2020 Holiday Season

This year – and I know you know this as well – the holiday season will be nothing like it used to be. A few weeks ago, I thought I’d throw together a Christmas meal of meatballs and lefse and that would be it as far as my efforts would go. But then I changed my mind. While cleaning out some old papers, I found an old cooking magazine from the 1990s with an article focused on smörgåsbord caught my eye.

Of course! Smörgåsbord.

I would cook something every day, or nearly every day, a sort of Advent calendar for the kitchen, counting down to the big day.

Throughout Scandinavia, the custom of serving food as a large buffet is common. Called smörgåsbord in Sweden, the practice is written as koldt bord in Danish and koldtbord in Norwegian. And the truly remarkable thing about smörgåsbord is that cooks make many of the items – in fact most – ahead of time. What better way to spend the days inside, not aimlessly flicking through Netflix or bemoaning the fact that travel is out of the question or sorrowing over the fact that seeing family members means a quick drive-by and a wave?

At Christmas time in Scandinavia, the festival of lights that drives away the darkness of the season’s long polar night brings another special culinary treat: Julbord, or Christmas table, cousin to smörgåsbord.

I decided to do my own version of Julbord.

With seven types of cookie dough in my refrigerator ready to be baked, I am now committed. My plan is to box and share these with family members living close by, as well as friends who are willing to accept them, given the uncertainties about COVID-19 spread and surfaces.

As with many traditional food customs, there’s a certain etiquette, or sequence, to the presentation of a holiday smörgåsbord. As many as five to seven platings take place with a Julbord:

I. Assorted Herring preparations

II. Cold Fish Dishes

III. Hot Fish Dishes

IV. Cold Meats, sliced

V. Warm/Hot Dishes

VI. Cheeses

V. Desserts

My julbord will include the following, listed in the order as the ideas came to me:

Meatballs and Lefse

Braised Red Cabbage

Cranberry Sauce

Smoked Salmon on Hardtack with Dill and Sour Cream

Mustard-Dill Sauce

Christmas Ham

Cucumbers in Sour Cream with Dill

Herring in Sour Cream


Smoked Fish

Blue Cheese



Rye Bread

Sugar-Browned Potatoes

Pork Sausage Patties

Potato Dumplings


Cookies: Sugar, Orange, Cappuccino Flats, Mexican Wedding Cakes, Kringla, Gingersnaps, Shortbread

Julekage (Christmas Cake)

I intend to serve this vast repast over a three-day period – Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and St. Stephen’s Day. And my freezer will earn its keep, that’s for sure!

Harbour of Bergan, Norway. Brightly lighted houses near port of Bergan during Christmas

I wish you all a very wonderful holiday season and a healthy/happy/safe New Year!

Until the New Year! May peace be with you all!

One thought on “Smörgåsbord: Perfect for the 2020 Holiday Season

  1. I miss window shopping at Christmas time to see what decorations are up. The three adults and one child in our ‘pod’ will have a very simplified Christmas meal this year..maybe just tacos! We went three years to fabulous casino buffets but can’t now. All that is left are memories of super seafood and carved meats and beautiful desserts. Oh well..sad..all those people have lost their jobs right now.

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