In the past, I wrote posts about Swedish yuletide traditions this time of year. Today, I want to tell you about someone special in Swedish folklore instead, the tomte. He is in some ways similar to Santa, but he is also very different. This is his story, which I first told in the 2012 A to Z:
This plate shows a tomte taking care of the farmer's horse.
In olden days on each farm in Sweden, there lived a tomte. He was thought to be a small being, smaller than a person, and was usually old with a white beard. He lived under the house or in the barn and avoided human beings for the most part. His duty on the farm was to bring good luck to the farmer and to make sure that the humans treated their animals well. He was sometimes thought to be a ghost of the man who began farming the land where the present farm family lived.
This is my little tomte looking after our ranch.
The tomte was known for his bad temper and would retaliate if the farmer didn't respect him or didn't treat his animals well. Therefore, it was very important for the farm family to be nice to the tomte. One way to be nice was to feed him grot (porridge). The tomte was particularly fond of rice porridge, which had to be served with a large pat of butter. If you forgot the butter, you would be in trouble. That was a well-known fact.
In the book The Wonderful Adventures of Nils Holgersson above, by Swedish author Selma Lagerlof, it's the farm tomte who gets fed up with the farmer's mean-spirited son, Nils Holgersson, and turns him into a small elf, in order to teach him a lesson. Then Nils sets out on his wonderful adventures, riding with the wild geese as the migrate over Sweden. In the end, he learns many important lessons and is returned to boy status and statue by the tomte.
My grandfather made this tomte. My most loved possession.When St. Nickolaus and Santa Claus appeared later, the Swedish version, jultomten, took some of his characteristics from the tomte of old and some from the more modern Santa Claus.
A family of tomtar are a part of my Christmas decorations.
On Christmas Eve, when I was a child, jultomten would come slowly through the deep snow in our garden, carrying a big burlap sack over his shoulder. He would knock on our door and ask: "Do any good children live here?" "Yes, yes, we've been good, we've been good all year long," we would scream and rush to greet him. Then jultomten sat down and distributed all the wonderful Christmas presents. And we never wondered why our grandfather suddenly had disappeared at this most crucial time of the evening.
I will take off from blogging for a couple of weeks. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season.
Samson Says: Where do you guys live? In my house, they'd know who did it, even if I didn't do it. That's just how they are.....
Happy Holidays Everyone!