In my homeland of Sweden, Christmas traditionally begins on the first Sunday of Advent, and by mid-December all of Sweden is lit for Saint Lucia Day.
Known as the Festival of Lights, it is marked by homes decorated with tulips alongside red or white amaryllis.
We dress our Christmas trees with colourful trinkets, candles, Swedish flags, tasselled caps and straw ornaments. It is an incredibly magical time of year.
This Christmas, however, will be very different.
Why? Because Sweden's response to Covid, once hailed by some as progressive and dynamic, has now been exposed as a total failure.
This week Sweden hit the morbid milestone of more than 7400 Covid deaths.
This is despite repeated assurances from Sweden's Chief Epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, that his strategy of letting the virus spread was right, and the country was unlikely to experience a severe second wave.
He was wrong.
Worse, he has been forced to admit the death toll is going to continue to climb and the country should prepare for deaths to far exceed the worst-case scenario his Public Health Agency had planned for.
The problem is that, unlike most countries, Sweden never locked down to curb to virus' spread.
The Swedish strategy didn't advocate using facemasks and only outlined recommendations rather than restrictions.
People were simply told to act responsibly.
Sweden's strategy was founded on hope. Hope that enough healthy people would catch the virus and develop antibodies to slow the spread over time, with infection rates dropping after six to 12 months.
It seems paradoxical that the Public Health Agency and the Swedish Prime Minister denied the country was employing a strategy of herd immunity. It is hard to call it by any other name.
And those most vulnerable in the community paid the ultimate price.
In autumn, as the second wave of virus began to sweep across Europe, the Public Health Agency only made things worse by misjudging the situation and easing some of the limited recommendations that were in place.
Not only is Sweden now facing a serious second wave, but they have an exhausted healthcare workforce and an economy where unemployment is predicted north of 10 per cent by the end of this quarter.
Last week, the Swedish Public Health Agency made its biggest move since the start of the pandemic and banned visits in elderly care homes in 32 districts.
"A national disaster" is how Lars Calmfors, emeritus professor of economics at Stockholm University and researcher at the Institute for Business Research, described Sweden's high Covid death toll.
"As I see it, Sweden has clearly grossly failed with its careless strategy, which led to many deaths," he was quoted as saying at a seminar organised by the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce in late November. Careless indeed.
Being Swedish, I watched with trepidation. Given the gaping holes in strategy and communication, it was hard not to question the Government and the public health response.
But more concerning was how Swedish media reported the situation. Patriotic fever took hold, and at times it felt as though Sweden was in the middle of a soccer game instead of a global health emergency.
Swedish media became so fixated on supporting their "team", they ignored the disaster that was unfolding before them.
The primary philosophy of the Swedish "folkhem" (which translates to "welfare state") is to take good care of all citizens and give them basic security.
This concept was replaced by a Government cheerleading squad who spent their time pointing out the failings of their Scandinavian neighbours.
Sweden's neighbours did not fail. Deaths in Sweden are many times higher than in its Nordic neighbours – per capita deaths in Sweden are 20 times higher than they are in Norway and five times more than in Denmark.
To provide some perspective, if New Zealand had adopted the same approach as Sweden, we could expect over 3500 Kiwis not being here to celebrate Christmas.
Worse, Sweden's approach has achieved nothing.
No slowing of the virus has been observed. The virus is spreading so quickly through the country that in some areas the spread of infection is similar to Europe's worst affected countries. In fact, it is higher than in Britain, Germany and Spain.
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven was forced to admit the country got it wrong in recent weeks when he announced new restrictions.
"Don't go to the gym, don't go to the library, don't have dinner out, don't have parties – cancel!" was his blunt warning to Swedes.
Gatherings have been limited to eight people, and residents are also advised to avoid public transport and shops.
So, when people suggest we should follow the Swedish approach of herd immunity, they are wrong. Sweden failed and many people have died as a consequence.
Life in Sweden will not return to normal until large parts of the population are able to be vaccinated.
On this front, at least, some good news has emerged in recent weeks. But it will take many months for adequate numbers to be vaccinated to allow restrictions to be lifted.
Until then, Sweden and much of Europe face a very long and dark winter of discontent.
Compare this to New Zealand's approach, where going hard and going early will allow us to generally enjoy Christmas as normal, free of restrictions.
So, let's put to bed once and for all the myth of Sweden's successful herd immunity.
- Cecilia Robinson is co-founder and co-CEO of Tend, and founder and director of My Food Bag.