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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Candle and julotta programme
Observed byChurch of Sweden and other Christian denominations
Date25 December
Next time25 December 2024 (2024-12-25)

A julotta (Jul: 'Yule; Christmas', otta: 'dawn') is a Swedish term for the matins on Christmas Day, 25 December, that celebrates the nativity of Jesus Christ.[1]


The service is held every 25 December early on Christmas morning – at 7 a.m. in most church buildings, but in some churches it is celebrated at 10 a.m., or as early as 4 a.m. During previous centuries, most julottas were held at 4 a.m. Traditionally, the service should end before, or at the time of, dawn: hence the word otta is the time just before dawn. After julotta, Swedish people race to get home first from the church. The winner is believed to harvest the most bountiful crops for the year ahead.[2][3]

Historically in the Church of Sweden the clergy was obliged not only to say the high mass but also matins (Swedish: ottesång) and evensong (Swedish: aftonsång); today only the evensong 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.


Julotta was traditionally the most popular service in the Church of Sweden but the Midnight Mass on 24 December has become more popular. People who hardly attended church regularly in the rest of the year often attended the julotta but they tend to go to the Midnight Mass or the Advent Sunday service.[clarification needed]

The decline of julotta in favour of the Midnight Mass began in Sweden during the 1970s.[4]

In 1979 5.35% of Church of Sweden members attended their parish church on Christmas Day, but by 1988, the number had decreased to 3.76%.[5]

Swedish immigrants spread the festivity to different countries.[6][7]


  1. ^ Laggar, Mats (22 December 2011). "Extremt tidig julotta lockar" (in Swedish). Dalarna tidning. Archived from the original on 16 December 2017.
  2. ^ Lilja, Agneta. "Christmas". Sweden.se. Archived from the original on 6 May 2013.
  3. ^ "Langford churches carries on early-morning Julotta tradition". American News. 14 December 2008. Archived from the original on 22 August 2016.
  4. ^ Josefin Lilja (16 December 2011). "Midnattsmässa eller julotta" (in Swedish). Dagen. Retrieved 15 December 2011.
  5. ^ Martin Stugart (24 December 2004). "Julhelgens mässor" (in Swedish). Dagens nyheter. Archived from the original on 10 March 2016.
  6. ^ Olsen, Dan (24 December 2009). "Christmas Eve a busy night for church performers". MPR News.
  7. ^ Tomlin, Gary (25 December 2011). "Julotta: A cross cultural Christmas tradition". Galesburg.com. Archived from the original on 29 June 2013.

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