Tuesday, December 16, 2008

No Meatballs Here!

Sorry Ikea fans. On this trip to Sweden there are no meatballs or furniture with funny names. Man I love Ikea! No, this time it's just your traditional Swedish Christmas. But prepare yourself because I am pretty sure you are about to encounter some traditions that very few of you have ever heard of much less experienced!

Christmas in Sweden begins with the lighting of the first Advent candle. The first widely held celebration though is on December 13th for the celebration of Santa Lucia. Lucia was a Christian martyr who legend tells took food to persecuted Christians in Rome. She wore a wreath with candles on her head so that she would be hands free to deliver and serve. In her honor the eldest daughter of the home will dress in a white gown with a red sash, wear an evergreen wreath complete with lit tall tapered candles, and will serve her parents a breakfast of coffee and Lucia buns. She is accompanied by the other children of the house who also dress in white; the girls with glitter and the boys with pointed starry hats. {Side note - when I pictured the Orangutan in said outfit I had a moment but that's just me!}

The Christmas tree is not brought into the home until the two days before Christmas. It is decorated with candles, apples, Swedish flags, and small gnome figures. many of the decorations may be made of straw. The decorations made of straw are meant to serve as a reminder of the birthplace of Jesus in the manger. The homes are decorated with red tulips and the smell of gingerbread biscuits called Pepparkakor lingers through the home.

You are familiar with the term smorgasbord right? Well welcome to its origin. The buffet with is served on Christmas Eve is complete with fish dishes such as lutfisk (dried, lye soaked codfish) herrings and salmon dishes, turkey, Christmas ham, pickled pigs feet, and many other meat dishes. The finisher to the meal is the Risgryngrot - a special holiday rice pudding that contains one whole almond. It is told that the person who finds the almond in their pudding will marry in the coming year.

After the meal there is a visit from Tomte - a gnome that lives under the floorboards of the home or the barn and cares for the family and livestock throughout the year. Some legends tell that if one takes very good care of the livestock during the year Tomte appreciates the help and provides a gift accordingly! (I think I just heard mothers around the blogosphere suddenly adopting Tomte!)

Christmas Day begins with a service at church and is followed by a day of family and rest. But the holiday season does not end until January 14th or Knut's Day. On Knut's Day the children may dress up as Knut and play practical jokes while they snack on the edible ornaments from the tree. Then the trees are returned to nature to rejoin their fellows.

I can't even begin to tell you how many times I had to close my mouth as I read about these traditions. Maybe I am revealing my closed mindedness but I had no idea just how many very different versions of Christmas there really were. There is one thread that I have found in all of the traditions and customs that we have come across. There is always a time set aside for rememberance and family.

I know we have crossed over into the dreaded ten day countdown to Christmas and I know that there are probably some stress levels climbing even as I say that. But please take this moment and this reminder to look at who and what is around you. Remember the Reason for the Season and make sure to take time today, tomorrow and every day to show those you are fussing over and for what they mean to you. The paper will be gone in two weeks. The presents will be mixed in before the month is out. Take time for family!

God Jul! (Good Yule!)


jennifer said...

You would mention Swedish meatballs when I'm over here starving! LOL The thing I love about all these other Christmas traditions is the lack of focus on gifts. Kids might get one or two, not piles and piles like we do here. I personally am stuck between feeling guilty for all the gifts we bought for the girls and feeling guilty that if they were older and had to compare they probably didn't get as much as other kids. How crazy is that?

Mrs. Schmitty said...

Both of my maternal grandparents were from Sweden. I make Pepparkakor every year. It's delish!

My grandmother made the best Swedish meatballs in the world, unfortunately she never wrote down her recipes and took them with her to heaven. We've tried to recreate many, but they just aren't the same without her making them!

Haasiegirl said...

did you ever notice that sweden looks like a penis? I didnt until i saw that picture you put up. LOL!


sandy said...

That Trisha's mind is always in the gutter. She is right though;0)