In Sweden, the state-owned Systembolaget chain has a monopoly on over-the-counter sales of drinks with an alcohol content stronger than 3.5 percent.
This means that if you don’t manage to visit before it shuts for the festive season, you risk having to make your Christmas toasts with nothing stronger than Julmust.
This year (like most years!), the bigger Systembolaget stores stay open until 8pm on December 23rd, while smaller ones shut at 7pm (you can check the opening times of your local branch here).
They then open again between 10am and 7pm on December 27th, 28th, 29th and 30th.
On New Year’s Eve they are open from 10am until 3pm.
On New Year’s Day, which is a Sunday anyway this year, they are closed, and from January 2nd the monopoly returns to its ordinary opening times.
What can you do if you miss it?
If you live in Malmö or Helsingborg, you can always pop over to Denmark, where you can buy wine, spirits and strong beer in any supermarket which is open on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day (which most big ones are).
Otherwise, you can buy low- or no-alcohol beer at most supermarkets and small newsagents or corner shops, or you’ll just have to do without.
Is the alcohol monopoly here to stay?
Sweden’s Moderate Party a few years back voted at its party congress to deregulate the alcohol monopoly, opening it up to selling alcohol on Sundays (and perhaps even on public holidays).
“I think it is reasonable for people to decide for themselves when to buy alcohol during the week. That is our basic starting point,” Gunnar Strömmer, now Sweden’s justice minister, told Sweden’s state radio broadcaster SR at the time.
Now the Moderates lead the government, but there was no mention of this plan either in the Tidö Agreement or in Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson’s speech outlining the government’s plans.
Is there any chance they will spring a surprise on the nation and make this the last Christmas Eve where it is impossible to buy alcohol? It’s not impossible.