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Candle and julotta programme
Observed by Church of Sweden and other Christian denominations
Date 25 December
Next time 25 December 2018 (2018-12-25)
Frequency annual

A Julotta is a service within the Church of Sweden that celebrates the time of birth of Jesus Christ.[1] Jul means Christmas, otta is the time which is slightly before dawn. The service is held every 25 December early on Christmas morning; at 7 AM in most churches,[2] but in some churches it is celebrated at 10 AM, or as early as 4 AM. During previous decades, most Julottas were held at 4 AM. Traditionally, the service should end before, or at the time of, dawn: hence the word otta is the time just before dawn. Historically clergy was obliged not only to say the high mass but also mattins (ottesång) and evensong (aftonsång); today only the ottesång of Christmas remain but has been liturgically changed since and can now be the main service of Christmas Day, wherefore many parishes have no mid-morning high mass on Christmas Day.

It was the most popular service in the earlier days [3] but now the Midnight Mass on 24 December has become more popular. People who hardly visited the church regularly in the rest of the year often visited the Julotta [4] but they tend to go to the Midnight Mass or the service of Advent Sunday.

The decline of julotta in favour of midnight mass began in Sweden during the 1970s.[5]

In 1979 5.35% of the Church of Sweden members visited their parish church on Christmas Day, by 1988 the number had been reduced to 3.76%.[6]

Historical significance[edit]

Swedish immigrants spread the festivity[7] to different countries.[8] The earliest recorded history of Julotta service in the United States of America was held in Strombeck Church in Minnesota in 1883.[9] After Julotta, Swedish people race to get home first from the church. The winner is believed to harvest the most bountiful crops [10] for the year ahead.


  1. ^ Mats Laggar (22 December 2011). "Extremt tidig julotta lockar" (in Swedish). Dalarna tidning. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  2. ^ Christmas from the Official gateway to Sweden Retrieved 30 May 2013
  3. ^ Christmas service draws a shrinking congregation from Seattle Post Intelligence Retrieved 30 May 2013
  4. ^ Langford churches carries on early-morning Julotta tradition Retrieved 30 May 2013
  5. ^ Josefin Lilja (16 December 2011). "Midnattsmässa eller julotta" (in Swedish). Dagen. Retrieved 15 December 2011.
  6. ^ Martin Stugart (24 December 2004). "Julhelgens mässor" (in Swedish). Dagens nyheter. Retrieved 26 October 2015.
  7. ^ Christmas Eve a busy night for church performers at MPR News Retrieved 30 May 2013
  8. ^ Julotta: A cross cultural Christmas Tradition Archived 2013-06-29 at Archive.is Retrieved 30 May 2013
  9. ^ A Comparative Relationship Analysis of Swedish Traditions in the US Rural Midwest and Sweden by Barry Peterson Retrieved 30 May 2013
  10. ^ Christmas in Sweden from The Local: Sweden’s News in English Retrieved 30 May 2013

External links[edit]