A Smörgåsbord is a collection of hot and cold dishes, which can be combined to form a full meal. The Smörgåsbord is eaten during annual celebrations such as Christmas, Easter and Midsummer and it is a regular feature in restaurants.
It has existed in Sweden since the 16th century, and first spread in the higher social strata. During the 19th century more dishes were added and the name smörgåsbord was established. During the 20th century the content changed gradually and this spread. Bread, fish, meat, cheese, butter and brännvin (distilled alcohol) dominated smörgåsbords in the past. Since the nineteenth century, foods such as vegetables in mayonnaise, hot meat appetisers, cold meats and egg dishes have been added. The alcoholic beverages served with a smörgåsbord are brännvin and beer. For Christmas and Easter darker and stronger beers are often served. The tradition of toasting at the smörgåsbord follows a traditional pattern, but this depends on the occasion and the participants. One way of proposing a toast is by singing drinking songs, both traditional and newly written ones. The majority of Swedes know some drinking songs (snapsvisa), usually including "Helan går".
The knowledge of cooking the dishes is mainly transmitted from person to person and between the generations. This way there is a constant reinterpretation and development, for example, with dishes inspired by other cultures. In parallel, the knowledge of the preparation and cooking of the traditional smörgåsbord's dishes has decreased, and today many dishes can be purchased in different supermarkets. The knowledge of how to cook the older dishes and ingredients risks being lost as food housekeeping and food habits change. It is therefore important to both document the recipes before they disappear, and that there are people to carry the tradition who are able to cook these dishes to keep them alive. Some documentation is available in the county council's and cultural history's museums and archives.