Friday, December 12, 2014

How-To Christmas Like a Swede

"Merry Christmas" in Swedish
It is Christmastime here in Sweden, officially greeted by the first advent: November 30th. The stores are filled with lights and decorations, many similar to those found in the States, but others fairly unique.

Tomten, aka Santa Claus, is absolutely adorable, resembling more of a gnome than the Coca-Cola drinking man to which Americans are more accustomed. These little guys are mostly round balls with full-length beards and giant hats. Julbocken or Yule Goat is a goat made from straw. Swedish legends claim that the Julbocken brings presents for children on Christmas Eve, as does Tomten. Swedish people often put Julbocken under their Christmas trees and even hang them on the walls for good luck.
Julbocken in Gävle
Varmljus (candles) are highly traditional, lit every Sunday during advent to countdown the days until Christmas. With the sun barely rising above the horizon during the winter months, Swedes illuminate their homes with candles to help keep the dark away. Similarly, many decorate with the julstärna, literally translated into English as "Christmas star". These origami-type lamps are arguably the most Swedish holiday decoration.

Advent candles in our home
The Lucia celebration represent one of the foremost cultural traditions in Sweden, with their clear reference to life in the peasant communities of old: darkness and light, cold and warmth. Tradition has it that Lucia is to wear ‘light in her hair’, which in practice means a crown of electric candles in a wreath on her head. Each of her handmaidens carries a candle. The star boys, who like the handmaidens are dressed in white gowns, carry stars on sticks and have tall paper cones on their heads. The gingerbread men and bakers bring up the rear, carrying small lanterns. The Lucia celebrations also include ginger snaps and sweet, saffron-flavoured buns (lussekatter) shaped like curled-up cats and with raisin eyes. You eat them with glögg or coffee.
Lucia program at Sörgårdskolan in Gislaved

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