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söndag, december 03, 2006
När första ljuset brinner
står julens dörr på glänt
och alla är så glada
att fira få advent.
Let me see:
i) glögg, spices, almonds, raisins, ginger snaps, clementines - check
ii) four advent candles, four hole candle holder, advent moss - check
iii) brass stars, electric advent candles - check
iv) wreath, poinsettia, amaryllis - check
v) christmas tree and decorations - check
Yes, it looks like I have everything set for today, the first Sunday of advent and the day that Christmas festivities kick off in Sweden. Today we light the first Advent candle and set up all of the decorations, which I've talked about before.
When I say that this is when Christmas really begins here, I mean it. I know that back in Adelaide, the Christmas pageant was on November 4th, after which Santa was available to visit at the Magic Cave. This usually signalled the start of the commercial side of Christmas, with only church goers realising that today is the first Sunday of advent. While in many ways Sweden is a very secular country, the old Lutheran traditions are still followed and Christmas shopping, glögg party and julbord season starts today - tied in with the church calendar.
So today is also Skyltsöndag, which translates literally as "Shop Window Sunday". Lars-Göran joking calls it Skilsmässosöndag (Divorce Sunday) as it can be a tense morning as usually papa has to untangle the lights, set up the stars and find enough power outlets to use to ensure that their family is not left out when everything lights up in the afternoon. All with a chorus of youngsters asking "Is it ready yet?" and mum running around town trying to find spare globes etc.
We had a calm day, though as we set up then went out sailing for a couple of hours. When we came back, all of the town lights were on and they were serving glögg in the main square, playing Christmas carols, selling fresh pine wreaths and presenting the candidates for this year's Lucia. Even though it was mid afternoon, it was quite dark which showed off the lights to great advantage.
This is a large, old oak tree which dominates the main crossing in centrum. They have decorated it with lights that resemble blue icicles and it stands out against the mostly white lights on display everywhere else. This is a bit of a radical move here as plain white lights have been the norm here forever and I have mentioned in an earlier post about the attitude to coloured lights in this country. I'll be watching the letters to the editor section of the local paper to see the inevitable debate about this. Personally, I rather like it and I feel that once it snows, the blue light on a sparkling white background will be quite beautiful.
The shop window displays this year are varied and colourful.
I've always loved these paper stars with a light inside of them. They are quite striking and I had a surreptitious peek at the price tag of one I liked (the blue one to the far left) as I think my kitchen window needs one of these. I think it will be on my list for purchase this year, though I may have to convince Lars-Göran that it is something we really need, especially as it is his job to install all of the electrical decorations.
Across the road, we liked the display in the shop selling material, thread and wool.
They have stayed with a traditional look, but it is clean and uncluttered as well. A nice balance I think and the tiny fairies decorating the tree are really beautiful. I tried in vain to convince Lars-Göran that the little stuffed toys wanted to follow us home, but he stood firm. They are cute, though.
From here, we went up to the church where there was a carol service being held. The view from the church shows the main street, including the oak tree.
Yes, you can really see that tree! And the streets are so quiet. Afterwards, we walked along the other main shopping street (Fredsgatan) to see how those windows were decorated. Simplicity seemed to be the theme here again and most displays were tasteful and understated. One thing that I don't miss are the enormous "Buy! Buy! Buy!" slogans emblazoned across windows. They seemed so much a feature of shop front displays in Australia and I've come to appreciate the restrained, quiet appeal of the windows here in Sweden.
One thing though that made me look twice was the presence of a lot of black Christmas decorations. I asked Lars-Göran about this and he can't recall that it is a colour widely used here before for Christmas. I know I've certainly never seen it anywhere else. I associate Christmas instinctively with green, red, white and more lately with gold and silver. But black? Maybe it is just me, but I don't make the connection at all between black and Christmas. We saw black decorations in this shop:
And also, more puzzlingly in the florist display. You can click on the picture to see it more clearly, but there in the middle of the cheerful red amaryllis, candles, ribbons and poinsettias is a black straw goat (has someone burned it already?), black chandeliers, gift bags, candles etc. It gives it a bit of a funereal touch that I'm not sure I like. "Perhaps it's the new black" quipped Lars-Göran, who is learning the art of being a smartarse far too quickly.
The next window is set up like an old fashioned school room. Lars-Göran spent many nostalgic minutes in front of this window, remarking on the authentic attention to detail and the memories that seeing that wall colour, the door with its distinctive handle and the school books had stirred within him.
The other window figure that I liked was in one of the menswear shops. It isn't exactly a Swedish tomte, nor is it exactly a santa figure or even the Sinterklaas from my childhood, but he has a friendly, welcoming face and you just know that he embodies the best of Christmas spirit.
Having looked at all of the windows in town, I think I like the one at the matieral shop the best. I was tempted by the warmth of the florist shop, but those black decorations really threw me a bit. Does anyone else have black decorations in their country?
It was starting to get chilly, so we headed to our own apartment, which was lit up like the proverbial Christmas tree. We don't have the Christmas tree up yet as this is only done in Swedish homes in the last week of advent. Don't worry, I tried to convince Lars-Göran to put it up today, but he can't see the need. I pouted and tried the "In Australia we would have had it up weeks ago" tactic, to which he responded with the logical but none the less infuriating "Well, when we are in Australia for Christmas, we'll do it that way". Hmm.. checkmate, I think. Still, the apartment looks cosy, friendly and welcoming.
Though I think you'll agree that the kitchen would be enhanced by a big blue star.
Now all that was left was to have our inaugural glöggmys for 2006. There is no single word translation for glöggmys. Glögg is the drink we have and the verb mysa is usually translated as to be enjoying oneself contentedly. I like the tradition of beginning the evening with a cup or two of warm, spiced mulled wine accompanied by raisins, blanched almonds, ginger snaps and clementines. It provides a focal point for the evening and a chance to sit down together and go over our respective days. For me, it serves the same function as the summer gin and tonic tradition we have on the boat at the end of a day's sailing.
After much experimentation over the last few years, I like to make a wine glögg, spiced with dried ginger, dried Seville orange peel, whole cinnamon sticks, whole cloves and cardomom seeds. I set it up to infuse in the morning and set out the sidedishes (would you believe I just had to look up "tillbehör" to find the English word! What is happening to my language?), so that as soon as I get home in the afternoon, it's ready to go.
So that is skyltsöndag in Nynäshamn for another year. In Stockholm, even last week the Christmas things were on display.
In some ways, it is rather sad that the big cities here have lost this tradition. In a smaller town like this, it can still live on and I know that all of the shopkeepers here have made a real effort to make this Sunday into a real party and something to remember. With music, free glögg and gingerbread, presenting the Lucia candidates and the unveiling of the special Christmas windows, it is still a very special day and a great way to start the Christmas season. All this from a small town where people think that nothing ever happens.
Oh wow! I wish I had that in Taby!!! With such a big mall, they don't really do windows here. It looks lovely and your house looks beautiful too. Happy Holidays!
Wow! My first comment! I owe you a steaming hot chocolate from Chokladkoppen. You clever girl, you noticed I had added a comment feature yesterday :)Skicka en kommentar
Yes, living in a small town does have these advantages. We have individual shops, no mall and everything in a compact area around centrum. As everything is walking distance, it makes for a cosy atmosphere at Christmas and we all get involved in gingerbread house competitions, community carols, Christmas markets and the Lucia parade. I love it.
This month's postsÄr det skilsmässosöndag? (söndag, december 03, 2006)
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