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Candle and julotta programme
Observed byChurch of Sweden and other Christian denominations
Date25 December
Next time25 December 2022 (2022-12-25)

A Julotta ("Jul": Yule; Christmas, "otta": dawn) is a Swedish term for the matin 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,[2] 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. 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.


It was the most popular service in the Church of Sweden 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]

Swedish diaspora[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.today Retrieved 30 May 2013
  9. ^ Since 1850, the Augustana Lutheran Church in Andover, IL, has held a Julotta Service every Christmas morning. Originally it was held at 5 am; but, now is held at 6:30 am. The Andover congregation is the Mother Church of the Augustana Lutheran Church in America.(ref. jennylindchapel.com) 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]