Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Sweden (Part 3): Sweden: Becoming a Child again at Christmas

      "We are better throughout the year for having in spirit, become a child again at Christmastime."  --Laura Ingalls Wilder

    "Christmas, my child, is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it's Christmas.   --Dale Evans

I am an unabashed lover of Christmas--the traditions, music, magic in children's eyes, sparkly lights, and coziness around a candle or firelight. Going to Sweden last year near Christmas was like a little child getting to go to the North Pole to see Santa. It seems all the splendor of Christmastime was months in the planning in Sweden--the beauty of the lights, music, traditions, food, and snowy walks by a lake. The child in me was filled every moment--being wide-eyed and anticipating every new tradition. In the last year, I have closed my eyes a few times to remember the special winter wonderland walks. 

I think it is good every Christmas to reflect on the traditions we want to give. Are they softening our hearts to become more like a child? Are we serving with no strings attached? Do we occasionally leave the coziness of electric lights and go outside to surround ourselves with the stars?

What makes you happy at Christmas? Here are some of the things the Swedes do:

  •                           Gathering Light

Being outside on the streets, markets, walking around the lake is the way the Swedes live. Snowstorms were meant to enjoy.

First of all, everywhere there is light gathered in--candles, stars in windows. No matter if there is not much light. Homes are lit up, and almost every house has windows with starts. Talk about being star-struck!

If there is not a star, a candle lights the way.... Seriously, candles are everywhere.... even on the streets, in the stores. On Christmas Eve, candles are everywhere

Lanterns outside under frosty-tipped trees. Christmas trees have to be real and as big as can be accommodated. Swedes usually collect their tree on the day before Christmas Eve. It is a serious matter. Family decorations are important of course, but soft white lights are greatly preferred, not colored ones.

Soft lights and boughs of real fir trees everywhere. 

The most beautiful and enticing windows where the lights almost gesture you to come inside....

An entire nation watching the same show together

Every morning during the advent since 1960, everyone gathers around to watch the Julkalender--an ongoing story that ends on Christmas Eve. I am watching it here in Stockholm at 7 am and it goes for half an hour. All the kids wake up to watch the advent story (a different one each year) before school. On Christmas Eve day, the entire country watches Donald Duck together at 3 pm. There is a lot of camaraderie in the country by knowing everyone is watching the same thing together. They all say, "I know it sounds strange, but that is what we all do."

Go outside!

I love this picture along the lake. There must have been 100 little boats on the edge of the lake, taking a rest from the summer swims. I love the way the Swedes take in every moment outside since there is so little winter light. There is a proud Viking spirit of strength and endurance that still lives on.... Soon this lake will be frozen enough for people to come and skate on. Hot chocolate is sold along the edge of the lake for skaters and walks who are passing by. Ice fishing and even jumping into icy waters brings lots of enthusiasts. 
There is a beautiful lake to the right. Kids run outside--just this time in different clothes. The Swedes say it is not about the weather, just about what clothes you wear.

Sunrise by the lake at about 9

Sharing winter moments outside together with loved ones

A winter land of white against Elias's red Santa suit

                The Julbord--A Scandinavian feast or
                banquet--like a smorgasbord

An entire blog could be written about the julbord alone; there are five courses! 1) pickled herring 2) Other fish 3) Cold meats, pates, and terrines 4) Hot food, and 5) Desserts There are tables upon tables of food--not just ordinary food, but of festive delicacies--both cold and hot dishes. It is customary to begin with the cold fishes dishes, which are various forms of herring, salmon, and eel, smoked and pickled fish, baked ham, Swedish meatballs, reindeer, pates, wild duck and boar, glazed ribs, boiled potatoes, cheeses, salad, relishes, beetroot, and different cabbages, snd then desserts. 

Most Swedes go out to restaurants for the julbords--with family and then with coworkers. 

A julbord offering....

A feast never to be forgotten. 
Some special drinks and foods of the season:

Julmust is a non-alcoholic drink made from water, sugar, hops, malt, and spices. Think of a really, really sweet root beer
This was my favorite Christmas dessert called Risgrynsgrot (rice pudding or sometimes called rice porridge) This tradition started in 1328. It is normally served with a dusting of cinnamon with an almond hidden in the pudding. Whoever gets the almond will get married soon (or maybe fall in love) or as to compose thanks in rhyme.  Recipe for Swedish Rice Pudding or Porridge
Glogg, mulled juice or wine with almonds and raisons in it. I just drink the juice one. Gingersnap cookies (called peppakakor) are usually accompanied with the glogg  Recipe for Swedish gingersnaps

Being with Loved Ones
My cousin are here at the local Home Depot store and they have glogg, almonds and gingersnaps out for the customers. Christmas is everywhere in Sweden!!!!
Making our own gingerbread houses--another family tradition....

Special Decorations

Gnomes are everywhere in Sweden....

The decorated windows could keep me entertained for hours

Going to church

Enjoying the peace of the Prince of Peace who we celebrate..... One of my favorite Swedish Christmas songs

The lights and music of Santa Lucia are hauntingly beautiful. I have to admit I had some tears listening to it. 

Sharing Ourselves
Sharing ourselves with loved ones and strangers... Elias, my son with autism, who is practicing some Swedish words on a train in Stockholm. This 82-year-old woman that favored us with stories in perfect English of World War2 memories.

Some other ideas from the Swedes:

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