IKEA Is Throwing A Festival In Honor Of This Scandinavian Christmas Feast

Back in pre-pandemic times, one of our favorite things about IKEA was the food festivals they'd throw multiple times per year. They welcomed in spring with an annual Påskbord (via PR Newswire), "Påsk" being the Swedish word for Easter. A few months later, it was time for the seafood-heavy Midsummer Smörgåsbord (per PR Newswire). Seafood, of course, was the star of the show at August's Crayfish Party, although the New Haven Register reported that many of these celebrations were canceled in 2018 due to a shortage of crayfish. And from what we can tell by the lack of press coverage, it seems as if 2019 may not have been a great year for IKEA crayfish either (at least not in America).

The biggest and best IKEA party of all, however, was the holiday Julbord (PR Newswire, yet again). This took place in mid-December and featured quite the spread, from ham and herring to those famous meatballs with lingonberry sauce. Well, needless to say, this celebration (and all of the ones previously mentioned) did not take place in 2020. This holiday season, however, comes at a time when nearly 60% of us are fully vaccinated, Becker's Hospital Review reports. While IKEA isn't ready to revive the holiday buffets of yore, a press release received by Mashed indicates that it will be hosting what it calls a Julbord Food Festival instead.

What is a true Swedish Julbord?

In Sweden, the main holiday meal with all of the extended family is eaten on Christmas Eve. "Julbord" translates to mean "Christmas table," and if the Swedes go all-out, it truly is a groaning board. According to SwedishFood.com, a Julbord typically includes five courses: pickled herring; other types of fish dishes like smoked salmon (yum!) or the dreaded lutefisk (not so yum); cold meat dishes including ham, reindeer, and wild boar terrine; hot dishes including meatballs, sausages, and sauteed cabbage; and desserts including tarts, cakes, and the traditional rice pudding.

The table is adorned with candles and still more edibles in the form of fruits, candies, cheese, and crackers. To wash it all down, everyone drinks copious amounts of the mulled wine known as glögg (although some prefer schnapps), others the dark, sweet beer known as julöl, and non-drinkers the non-alcoholic malt beverage known as julmust. As to what the Swedes eat for Christmas brunch and dinner, the answer is simple: leftovers. In fact, there may be enough leftovers from the Julbord to last them nearly into the new year.

IKEA's Julbord festival won't be quite the same this year

This year's Julbord Food Festival at IKEA takes place on two Saturdays, December 4 and 11. In the absence of the all-you-can-eat buffet offered in previous years, what constitutes such a festival? What IKEA is offering in lieu of the holiday meal is a range of somewhat food-related workshops and activities. For example, the IKEA in Brooklyn, New York, is offering a gingerbread decorating demonstration as well as workshops in building a charcuterie board, napkin-folding, and setting a winter-themed table.

While each of these workshops may include subtle product plugs, there's one more workshop that is practically an infomercial devoted to an IKEA product called the Raskog, which is a rolling cart. Yes, there is an entire workshop dedicated to showing you how to make the best use of this item for all your holiday decorating, entertaining, or gift-wrapping needs. Well, to be honest, we don't know the specific holiday-related purposes this workshop addresses, but if your local IKEA is one of the ones offering it, you can sign up to find out. (If you plan to use an off-brand cart instead of the Raskog, we'll never tell!)

One need-to-know note on all of the Julbord activities: You do need to be an IKEA Family member to participate. Joining IKEA Family is free, though, and it comes with perks like free coffee, free childcare while shopping, and a birthday gift.

Smaller market IKEAs might not get to participate

While the IKEA press release promises that these workshops and demos — as well as the even more exciting complimentary food samplings — will be available "at all IKEA U.S. stores across the country," don't get your hopes up just yet. Indeed, it seems that your experience may vary widely depending on where you live. For example, when it comes to those food samplings, at the time of writing, it seems that even the Brooklyn IKEA doesn't have them, nor do any of the other New York IKEA. Elizabeth, New Jersey is the closest location to New York that is handing out those freebies.

If you're in one of IKEA's more under-served markets, though — such as Oak Creek, Wisconsin or College Park, Maryland — your Julbord festivities may be limited to just one virtual workshop on holiday preparation on November 30. As a consolation prize, on December 4 and 5 and again on the 11 and 12, if you buy one meatball plate, you can get another one for 50% off. Okay, so it's not exactly a Christmas feast, but in the 2021 holiday season, we'll take what we can get.