Wednesday, April 11, 2012

J is for Jul (Christmas)

Theme ~ Swedish Rhapsody

Those who follow my blog have probably heard enough about Swedish Christmas traditions. I have Christmas posts from both 2010 and 2011, so let me see if I can challenge myself to make a short post about a Swedish Christmas. This would be as it was in my childhood in the 1940s. I'm inserting some of the Christmas tree decorations and the goat that comes with Santa to deliver presents, represented by a straw goat that stands under the tree, keeping an eye on the presents.

Anticipation was the most outstanding emotion. It began when the first of four candles in the Advent candle holder was lit on the first Sunday in Advent. We may have already opened the first window in the Advent calendar by then and our parents would have hung the large paper star with a light bulb inside in our window for all to see. Such stars were hung in most windows in Stockholm and were a part of bringing the light into the dark winter evenings.

No black Fridays back then, instead we would go to the Great Square in Old Town Stockholm where there was a Jul marknad or Christmas market. There you could buy decorations, food, gingerbread cookies, candies, and everything else related to Christmas. On the day before Christmas Eve we decorated our tree. 

We celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve, Julafton. It begins with the dipping in the pot. What's in the pot is the juice from  the ham that has been cooked earlier. What you dip is, I believe a nice soft rye bread. It is delicious. This is lunch. The glogg is on the stove, its wonderful aroma spreading through the house. Then the smorgasbord is prepared, the ham is ready, and so is the lutfisk, or lyefish, that is also a Christmas tradition. This is the dried cod that is soaked in lye and eaten only that one time in a year. 


Finally, the rice pudding is placed on the table for dessert. It contains one almond and it is said that if an unmarried person gets the almond, he/she will marry in the year to come. If the almond goes to someone already married that person will have good luck in the coming year. The dinner is finished with coffee and punch an old-fashioned drink. 

During all this, we could barely contain themselves because once all the eating and drinking was over, the presents would be distributed. When we were small, our grandfather would be Santa Claus, jultomten, and come trudging through the snow, knocking on the front door and asking: "Are there any good children living here?" We would all say, "Yes!" and then we would get our presents. On each present there was a rhyme, composed usually by our dad or his dad. Both were terrific with these Christmas rhymes. And the presents would be closed with a red seal. Very elaborate, all of it, and a wonderful way to create memories for your children. I see now that it was not only about the presents, it was about the spirit of the holiday, family gathering, taking time, being together. The memories I have are of a spiritual time, a loving time with my family.

After Christmas, some would go to Julottan, the early morning service in church. Christmas began on Christmas Eve and went for 20 days. After that, the plundering of the trees began and we children would be invited to Christmas tree plundering parties, where the tree would be full of fresh candies, cookies, and gifts. We would take all that off the tree, which then would be thrown outside by the grownups. Another fond memory of good times had in the middle of the cold and dark winter.
Samson is doing OK after his surgery. We also had the dew claws on his hind legs removed and apparently there was some difficulty. He will be OK, but on pain medicine for that. We are on our way to pick him up now.


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