Swedish landlubbers head to sea for Christmas of "Julbord"

To Swedes starved for the annual Christmas gluttony of "Julbord," all these tables overflowing with food must make this ship seem just like its name: "Paradise." The ritual of Julbord, which means Christmas Table, is a Scandinavian feast that stems back to farmers sharing the bounty of their autumn harvest. It's called Julebord in Norway, and Julefrokost in Denmark.

Nowadays, even Swedish landlubbers increasingly head off to sea aboard luxurious cruise ships like this 177-meter (580-foot) floating city for their belt-stretching Yuletide feast. The long-awaited delicacies of these smorgasbords somehow cause usually reserved and refined Scandinavians to throw etiquette overboard and dive for the grub. "It was interesting watching Swedish people who are normally so polite. You put the food out and they go crazy," said Steve Fox, a 34-year-old British primary school teacher at his first Julbord.

The Paradise, which plies the Baltic Sea for the Birka Cruise line, barely left its dock in downtown Stockholm in early December before hundreds of passengers had hastily tossed their bags into their cabins and stormed the Julbord. To stave off chaos, a sign at the self-service buffet says: "Start Here." That's easy. The hard part is knowing when to stop.

Kitchen personnel rush out to refill the seeming endless heaps of delicacies: shrimp, pickled herring, caviar, Swedish meatballs, ham, salads, deserts, beer, wine and schnapps. Head chef Owe Styrstrom said the Paradise's roughly 1,800 guests can choose from more than 50 different foods. "I definitely see more diners during Julbord season. It's a real juggling act for us in the kitchen," he said.

It's also good business. About 250,000 passengers a year devour more than 50,000 kilograms (110,000 pounds) of Christmas food aboard Swedish ships. For the passengers, the cruise ships also offer a brief respite from the cold, dark winter that is the downside of Christmas in Scandinavia, reports the AP. N.U.

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