Readers, I apologize for my lack in writing. I think I took the word “vacation” too literally this time and am paying for it now: motivation and work accomplishments have been at a minimal these past few weeks. But I am trying hard to get back on the wagon, or the horse, or whatever the saying is….
Anyways, there is much to tell, most importantly about my holidays and my first Swedish Christmas.
Yes, I have just returned from experiencing my first Swedish holidays and friends, I have to say, I’m hooked.
First off, the whole event of Christmas is completely and totally amplified in Europe in general: markets, ferris wheels and decorations galore. While I found Göteborg to not be so over-the-top with the street décor and such (with the exception of Liseberg which is a winter wonderland) the traditions definitely proved that Sweden can be the capital of Christmas (after all, Santa Claus does live there, or is it Finland? Or both?...)
Tradition is alive in everything: from the food you eat to the spontaneous singing and drinking during dinner, the annual Disney extravaganza and the exchanging of gifts.
So let me start from the beginning:
First, Christmas in Sweden is not really celebrated on December 25th, it is celebrated on our Christmas Eve, the 24th. It commences with a visit to church in the morning—a shorter version of the real thing, with a nativity scene and special presentation for the children. Afterwards it is back home for perhaps some fika time (coffee and chit chat) while dinner is prepared.
At 13h00 (1:00pm) dinner commences. It is a literal smörgåsbord of Swedish cuisine: sill, Christmas cheddar, julvort, köttbullar and beet sauce, pate, eggs and kalles kaviar, ribs, skinka, knäckebröd and shot after shot of snaps. Dinner goes in a pattern of: eat, drink, sing, repeat.
After dinner at 15h00 (3:00pm), Kalle Anka’s Christmas special is on. Kalle Anka (Donald Duck) is a necessity for a Swedish Christmas. It is pretty much a compilation of the most classic Disney cartoons and films all wrapped into one hour-long display. None of it has to do with Christmas at all, actually, but it was a great treat of nostalgia for me. A great article on it can be found here: http://gawker.com/5433951/if-you-lived-in-sweden-youd-be-watching-donald-duck-cartoons-right-now
At around 16h00 or 17h00 (4 or 6:00pm) Dad (Tage), steps out to “get the papers.” As Maude and Jonatan and I were sitting around the Christmas tree awaiting his return, we were surprised by a knock at the door. Immediately Jonatan and Maude shoot a glance in my direction, and my heart skips a beat. Could it be? Is it really him? Tomten???
I crept to the door, and as I cracked it open, low and behold, SANTA was there. “Hello. Merry Christmas. Are there any nice children here who are expecting presents?”
We of course welcomed him in and he then went to work distributing the gifts to everyone. Another tradition in Sweden is creating special rhymes and riddles as Christmas cards. Each present gets one and it is written to the receiver as a sort of “hint” as to what the gift is.
After all the presents were handed out Santa (Tomten) had to be on his way. So many other houses to visit that night! (It is my theory that Sweden celebrates Christmas a day earlier than the U.S. because Santa starts there (as he lives there) and then doesn’t get to America until later).
Tage returned shortly after. Darn it! He missed Santa again!
The present exchange was of course much fun. We all made away quite well with our loot. Perfumes, colognes, books and a shakti mat (the rage in Sweden now) http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/25/world/europe/25stockholm.html?_r=1&ref=world
That evening it was more Christmas television specials with Svensson, Svensson and then it was time for porridge. Another customary Christmas food, porridge is eaten in the evening at the end of all the festivities, and the lucky one who finds the almond inside gets to make the wish. Well of course I forgot about that part and scarfed down my whole bowl, thinking that crunchy part was perhaps some uncooked grain and I should just swallow it whole to be polite. Everyone stared at me as I licked the last part clean, wondering where the “wish” they had so carefully planted in my portion had gone. Yeah, I had done so well up until then! Drinking the snaps, singing the songs, eating all the fish! And then I freaking ate the almond. Oh well, I guess there will be next year :)
The rest of the holiday was just splendid. We spent a lot of it at Jonatan’s aunt’s house with his cousins, uncle and grandmother. I was able to hit some of the after Christmas sales at Torp with Linnea and Josefine, and even practiced my Swedish a bit. I am able to understand more and more now, and was even able to talk with Jonatan’s grandmother a bit! (ok for like 1 minute…)
Anyways, my stomach and soul is overflowing with julmust and glogg now. Pepparkakor are coming out my ears and I have gained at least 8 kilos. No joke.
I am incredibly homesick for Sweden yet again, but it is less than a month now until my next visit.
Coming up in the Life of Liana: more France, a trip to Bruges and PARIS!!!
New Years in Gothenburg