|For more information on Sweden see
Aussies in Sweden
and on Australia Australians Abroad
tisdag, december 30, 2003
I just HAD to post this picture of my darling Bruce. He is busy eating the Christmas cards. The one he's eating at the moment is from my good friend Pauline Oborne in Adelaide. I knew the lady had good taste, but now Bruce is confirming it :) At least he's having a break from eating my bed. We have an IKEA pine loft bed and he's busy munching away at the support slats. I guess if we crash to the floor one night, we'll know WHO to blame!
Welcome to a bone-chilling day here in Sweden. It's really cold and icy at the moment. I've been watching some young girls running along the street outside and I'm wondering how do they do it? Me, I walk in mincing baby steps, gingerly trying to stay on the areas that have gravel and aren't solid sheets of ice (we had below freezing weather for a week, then 2 days of above with RAIN and snow and then back below again, it's treacherous here) and I STILL fall (on gravel covered ice, no less).
But these four-year olds I'm watching... RUN, SKIP, and HOP on the ice.
Now,I don't want them to fall and get hurt anymore than I want to, but I do want to know one thing...
HOW THE HELL DO THE LITTLE ONES DO IT??? I slip when I step outside and just LOOK at the ice.
I just don't get it....anyone know the secret?
I've been reading Samantha's blog and now I want an armadillo decoration for my Christmas tree. Lars-Göran is rolling his eyes as I make a space on the tree and say "Look! Right there! It's crying out for an armadillo". It got me to thinking about trying to organise a Christmas decoration swap. I'd love to have a tree filled with decorations from AA friends all over the world (starting with people who can supply armadillos, hint, hint.). Must get my thinking cap on and see about that one. I think a few people may be interested.
I also received a lovely letter from a Swedish reader asking about what I remember of Christmas in Australia as a child. I think the thing that always heralded Christmas for me was .... the jacaranda!
I'm from South Australia and in my suburb (Rose Park) these are the usual street trees. I always knew that Christmas was "just around the corner" when these magnificent trees suddenly burst into flower. We used to paint the seedpods gold and sprinkle them with glitter for decorations, but it is those vibrant flowers that I remember and evoke Christmas for me. Last year we sailed to Gotland for a week in August and while wandering through the beautiful Visby Botanical Gardens, I spied a flowering jacaranda and it produced such an overwhelming welling of emotion that I burst into tears.
Other plants I loved at that time of the year are Christmas Bells. My gran had these growing in her Norwood garden and we always picked them for a great decoration. Also the Western Australian Christmas Tree. I just love that beautiful wattle yellow. I'm one of those luckily NOT allergic to wattle flower.
Then there was the lovely NSW Christmas Bush and the wonderful Flame Tree. Our neighbours had this tree in the back garden and it was always flowering in December. These are the plants that I remember being the signals that Santa was on his way pretty soon. I suppose we were not as sophisticated as modern children, so we looked to nature and the changing seasons to give us the clues.
This, my fourth Christmas in Sweden has been the hardest. I really missed my family a lot this year and thought of them often. I also thought a great deal about my (now deceased) grandmother and the good times I had with her Saturday afternoon baking. This was a ritual for me as a kid. I'm the eldest child of a LARGE family, so I think gran realised that it was tough for me and I was always asked over to spend a little time with her. I think I learned my love of cooking from her. I thought about her last night when I made her cheesecake recipe. That rich lemony smell wafting from my oven brought back those times spent with her.
Anyway, 2003 is almost over. I guess my next post will be sometime next year *grin*
Hope you all see in 2004 safely! We are spending ours at home enjoying the Swedes going bananas with fireworks: It's my birthday New Year's Day (International Hangover Day) and we are heading into Stockholm to meet up with some friends from far north Kiruna. I hope that SOMETHING is open as I don't fancy freezing my extremeties off for more than a microsecond.
I leave you with my thought for the day:
There comes a time when you should stop expecting other people to make a big deal about your birthday..........around age 11.
lördag, december 27, 2003
Well the silly season is well and truly over for another year. Ours was an unconventional, but enjoyable time, full of relaxation, time together, good food, church services etc. Not really the "normal" Swedish Christmas at all!
So what do Swedes do for Christmas?
A lot of quite strange things.
The strangest one is that they celebrate Christmas on December 24th! Why? Nobody can tell me. They all agree that yes, Jesus was born on December 25th. And yes, Christmas is about celebrating his birth. So WHY have the party the day before? I just hate celebrating it on the 24th. It doesn't feel right.
They still have midnight mass on the 24th (after the party!!!) and early church service on the 25th (after the party!!!). Does this make sense to anybody? The whole point of midnight mass is to be there at the point where the day changes and we can start celebrating the birthday from then onwards. The Swedish way makes me think of having the wedding reception, then asking everybody to come to the church for the wedding afterwards! Weird. Anyway, whatever the reason, Christmas Eve (Julafton) is the big party day.
Kalle Anka and Karl-Bertil
The next big and mystifying event is that Sweden comes to a complete standstill on Julafton at precisely 3pm to watch TV. "Okay," you are thinking, "it must be the King's Annual Christmas message". Nope! It's the screening of Kalle Anka a 30 year old tradition in Sweden. Everybody told me about Kalle Anka before my first Christmas here. It was treated with reverence as one of the highlights of the day. Having experienced the very moving and beautiful Lucia services, I was excited to see what splendid thing this Kalle Anka was.
It starts promptly at 3pm and the celebration of Christmas has become centered around this television event! Do we have dinner before or after Kalle Anka? Do we give out the presents before or after Kalle Anka?
So I sat with anticipation at 3pm on my first Julafton in Sweden and waited. An old Disney cartoon started and I thought this was the "warm up". But no. This was Kalle Anka! My first thought was "You MUST be kidding?"
But alas, they were not kidding. What Kalle Anka actually IS, is an hour of old clips from Disney movies and shows. Kalle Anka being what Donald Duck is called over here.
So we all gather around the tele, drink glögg or julmust and nibble on almonds, raisins, clementine oranges, ginger biscuits, knäck and ischoklad. Both young and old watch this event and it is estimated that 90% of Swedish homes come to a halt for this show. This year was especially important as for the first time since this began over 30 years ago, Arne Weise (pictured here) was not introducing it. Who would be the new face of Christmas in Sweden?
It turned out to be this young woman, Lotta Bromé, so I wonder if she will still be around after 30 years? The show has been pretty much unchanged for over 30 years and if they dare to omit any one of the favourite clips there would be a huge outcry. The main ones are Ferdinand the cowardly bull, Lady and the Tramp sharing a bowl of spaghetti, Woody Woodpecker (Hacke Hackspett) singing the apapapapa-pa-dia-papa-OH-pa-OH-pa song, Mickey, Donald and Pluto on their caravan journey and the one where Mickey Mouse cuts the Christmas tree, brings it into the house and then Pluto trashes it because Chip and Dale have set up housekeeping in the tree.
Then later is another tradition, Karl-Bertil, a Swedish cartoon about a young guy, who gets a seasonal job in the post office but is struck by the inequality of rich people getting tons of lovely gifts, like chocolates, food and wine, when there are others more deserving not having a very good time, so he "appropriates" and "redirects" the gifts. It is based on a classic Swedish tale by Tage Danielsson called Sagan om Karl-Bertil Jonssons julafton.
Okay, time to switch off the box and get to the dinner bit. Now I thought that in this cold, snowy climate we would have a hot dinner. But i was wrong again. When it snows, what could be more logical than to eat cold fish, ham and salad!
The Christmas buffet in Sweden is a smörgåsbord of traditional delicacies. As in most smörgåsbords, this is eaten in a particular order, beginning with fish.
This includes pickled herring (inlagd sill) with various sauces, beetroot and herring salad (sillsallad), cold cured salmon (gravad lax) with a mustard sauce, baked lutfisk (a north atlantic cod dried then soaked in lye!!!) with white sauce. This course would also have cold hardboiled eggs halved and topped with tiny prawns and caviar. And the potato dish would more than likely be Janssons Frestelse (a kind of creamy potato gratin with anchovies). You take a small selection of the fish dishes and return to the table. You then take a small glass of chilled aquavit (a kind of spiced vodka or snaps), sing the inevitable snaps song, throw it down in one gulp then begin to eat.
Once you have had enough fish (and snaps), we move on to the meat dishes. I can tell you that this dinner is heavily geared to pork and pork products, with barely a vegetable in sight. Though I've introduced quite a few since I've been here. A typical course would include Swedish meat balls, a special pork sausage called Julkorv that is boiled, a liver paté, a cold pressed meat dish of potted meats in aspic (pressylta), little cocktail frankfurters called prinskorv and other seasonal dishes such as braised red cabbage. The centerpiece of the buffet is always a cold ham, Julskinka baked the day before with a crust of mustard and breadcrumbs, then refrigerated and cut into thin slices. Last year we also had moose - an unfortunate bit of road kill, that was frozen solid, slowly cooked in a barely warm oven for 12 hours, then soaked in a spiced water mixture in the fridge for several days. Again this was served in paper thin slices.
The favoured drink with all of these courses is either Julmust (that special soft drink I touched on in a previous post), a christmas beer or a strange mixture called Julmumma (a chilled mixture of beer, stout, madiera and cardommon).
There is no Christmas pudding here. Dessert is usually some of the biscuits and buns seen over advent, perhaps also an orange-saffron ice-cream (of course you eat icecream, it's only -17C after all!), a cheesecake with fruit sauce or (as in our family) a rice pudding. Most Swedish families top this with cinnamon and sugar, or a mixture of orange and whipped cream (Ris a la Malta).
But my husband, harking back to childhood memories wanted a fruit sauce that his (now deceased) father used to make. I scoured every Swedish cookbook and site I could find and there was no mention of this sauce. The recipe seems to have died with his father and I had almost given up hope when the answer occurred to me. Lars-Göran was born in Finland! Of course, it must be a Finnish recipe! And sure enough, I found it at a Finnish site. It is not unlike a Syrian fruit salad I used to make. It is basically a blend of dried fruits, soaked overnight in a sugar/water mixture, then slowly simmered with a cinnamon stick. When done, the fruit is transferred to a bowl, the sauce is thickened with a little potato starch and poured over the fruit. Lars-Göran declared "Hmm, now it smells like Christmas". That for me was the highlight of Christmas - being able to stir those childhood memories again for him.
After the dinner comes a period of rest, enjoying the Christmas tree decorated with tiny white lights, garlands of Swedish flags, and handmade straw ornaments.
This is suddenly interrupted by a knock on the door and Jultomten enters carrying a large sack of gifts. "Are there any good children here?" he asks. "Yes!" the children answer and Jultomten proceeds to hand out gifts (julklappar).
This is quite a different custom for me. In Australia, Santa comes while we are asleep on Christmas Eve and the gifts are opened Christmas morning. We never get to see him at all. But here, everybody sees tomten. My friend who lives in Kiruna told me that several people in her town who own reindeer are employed to come and visit homes in the town to distribute gifts. How exciting for the kids to see Santa and reindeer in the front garden. Mostly in Sweden it's dad or grandpa or big brother who dresses the part and distributes the gifts. Equal opportunity doesn't seem to get a look in here. I guess mum is too tired after all that Christmas cooking.
The other charming custom is that gifts have a special "Christmas Rhyme" on them. You don't just wrap the gift and bung on a store bought card that says "To Marie from Susan". You have to make up a funny rhyme that gives the person a clue about the gift. These rhymes are read out by tomten and everybody joins in the guessing game. While it can prolong the gift giving process, it is also a lot of fun. For example, if you give your nephew a book of cinema tickets you could write something cryptic like "it's dark and you'll be locked in, but don't worry, it's only for a couple of hours" or for an internet package, you could make a rhyme about surfing without waves, while sitting on a chair indoors. You get the idea.
After the gift giving it is time to head home. So that makes quite a busy day and evening.
No wonder there were only 35 people at midnight mass! I couldn't believe my eyes. In Australia we are packed in like the proverbial sardines for Christmas Eve mass, but in Sweden, while it was absolutely beautiful in the candle-lit church, the choir was magnificent, it was pretty much deserted. I guess they over-indulged and were sleeping it off.
That is something else that I find strange about Christmas in a country that is supposed to have such a strong Lutheran background. There is almost no mention ever made of the whole basis of the celebration. Maybe it's my catholic upbringing, but I do really miss that message of Peace on Earth and Goodwill towards All Men. If we forget that, then really what is the point? It merely becomes just another excuse to party and overindulge.
I find it a little sad. But then maybe I'm just getting old!
Till next time!
måndag, december 22, 2003
Wow, what a lot of snow fell in Sweden overnight. After a month of on again, off again snow and a lot of grey dreary weather, King Bore (the Swedish King of Winter) has finally arrived and just in time for Christmas! I’m pretty happy about this, though Lars-Göran does NOT share my enthusiasm for snowy weather.
Today is the day that Christmas trees are finally brought into the house. Most Swedes were out on the weekend buying up their trees. Of course they are fresh trees (either blue spruce or green spruce) and a lot of time is spent browsing the available assortment to select just the right tree to go with the symmetry of your home. They transport the tree home by car, on the bus or train, or even throw it over their shoulder and walk home. We are living in the land of the vikings after all.
Once home, the tree is set up in it's stand, well watered and often placed outside until the decorating day - traditionally tomorrow. So what about us? Well, I like my tree up early. When I lived in Adelaide, we had the Johnnies Christmas Pageant (now I think run by the Credit Unions) and for me that was the herald of the Christmas season. The first float had barely left West Terrace when I broke out the Christmas tree and decorations.
My husband on the other hand is a semi-Grinch when it comes to the subject of Christmas decorating. And I guess like me, he is a product of his culture and upbringing.
While I saw Christmas as a fun time, he always saw it as extremely stressful. It was winter (a season he hated) and his parents were perfectionists, so that unless everything was "just right", it wasn't a happy Christmas. When I first came here, he had nothing much in the way of decorations and he only grudgingly agreed to get some so I wouldn't feel so homesick. Actually, he wasn't that grudging, it was just that he had no idea what he wanted to have, except he didn't want the usual Swedish Christmas fuss of new Christmas curtains, matching tablecloths, napkins, pot holders, aprons etc. I have to agree with him about that one - it really is a bit much!
Well three years later and we have it all! Lights, candles, stars, Christmas flowers, julmust, glögg and a tree complete with lights, tinsel and christmas balls. And he is almost as enthusiastic about it as I am now that he has someone to share it with.
Well it's -11C outside and I have to take the poor dog out for a walk. She won't be pleased at all. She is a toy poodle and often that is just what she looks like - a fluffy white toy. As she is only the size of a cat, she is pretty low to the ground and gets cold rather quickly. When she sees snow, she'll be putting the brakes on very quickly!
The weather is set to be icy cold and clear tomorrow (-15C or so), then snow on Christmas Eve (which is when the big celebrations take place in Sweden). It should make the walk to midnight mass somewhat bracing!
I leave you with my next useless Christmas fact:
Did you realise that the name Santa Claus is not mentioned once in the popular Christmas poem "The Night Before Christmas".
söndag, december 21, 2003
The fourth candle of the Advent wreath is lit today. It is called the Angel Candle, to remind us of the angels who heralded Christ's birth.
A Joyous Winter Solstice to all the pagans out there!
The Winter Solstice is the time of the longest night and the shortest day. The dark triumphs today but only briefly, for the Solstice is also a turning point. From now on (until the Summer Solstice, at any rate), the nights grow shorter and the days grow longer. Really I think this is the day that Lucia should be celebrated, but tradition dictates otherwise and who am I to argue with that?
In Nynäshamn today, the daylight lasted from about 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. with the sun just above the horizon taking up the edge of the sky. The winter light here is amazing! We are lucky here that we get that much daylight. Further north in Sweden, especially in places like Kiruna which lies far above the polar circle, it is dark 24 hours a day. The sun sets at the same time as it rises! I'm not sure that I could manage to live there.
So, this is the shortest day of the year, the sun is already gone and it's only 3pm. So what do we do on this day? Well, as the Swedes celebrate Christmas on the 24th, Christmas food is being prepared and the children make Christmas sweets like knäck (a kind of toffee), chokladkola (chocolate truffles), ischoklad (literally ice-chocolate), engelsk fudge (English fudge) and of course the seven different types of cakes and biscuits that should be on the table.
I thought I might try making two sweets - ischoklad and knäck. So I read about making knäck. It sounded really complicated, but I wanted to try out this traditional Swedish toffee prepared at Christmas. I mentioned it to Lars-Göran, who groaned about mess and looked most unenthusiastic.
Luckily, I stumbled on a microwave version of it that looks no mess and takes only 8 minutes! Couldn't ask for more, really. So I bought cream, light syrup (a bit like golden syrup), almonds, sugar and made up a batch. I just love the smell of toffee - it brings back a lot of childhood memories, even though this is not like the clear toffee we make for the school fete!
Then on to ischoklad. I've seen these for sale in the supermarkets and wondered what was so special about them. Having checked the recipe, I'm still wondering!
It is basically dark cooking chocolate, melted in a double saucepan with copha, then poured into tiny foil paper cases. The only English recipe I found was flavoured with coffee or grated orange rind, but apparently "we don't do that in Sweden". I can't say that they sound very nice, but then I'm not really fond of chocolate (except for Tim-Tams, Violet Crumbles and Cherry Ripes!).
We got ourselves an early Christmas present yesterday when we bought a new digital camera. We have an older model that annoys my dear husband SO MUCH. I spotted him checking out websites about digital cameras and he assured me he was NOT thinking of getting another one - he was "just interested" in seeing what was around. Of course, I should have known better! Last time, when he was "not looking for a yacht", I found myself in Göteborg in mid-November, aboard a yacht he had just purchased with the grinning man telling me we were going to sail her the 550NM home!
So yesterday, when I had planned the ultimate couch potato day, he greets me mid-afternoon with the "Now don't get mad, but..." speech. We had to go pick up a bargain digital camera that he'd just found on the net! It's cold, dark, 3pm and we have to go to Västerås! That entails a train trip to Huddinge to borrow a car (1.5 hours), a drive from there to Västerås (150 kms away!) then back again. We got home at 10pm, but he's really happy with his new toy - a Canon Powershot A-40.
I also ran into an Aussie guy I knew at Södra Station. He thought it was me, but followed us just to make sure he heard the Australian twang before he approached. So, we chatted with Phillip about his new attempt to get Aussie Rules going in Stockholm, with the new Stockholm Club. We also discussed Australia Day and the idea of having a beach party at the Dancin' Dingo. Sounds good to me!
Anyway, off to gobble some knäck and watch the snow falling in the darkness. There is a blizzard forecast for later, so it looks like it will be a very white Christmas here. As it should be!
And in my series of useless Christmas facts: In the Christmas carol, "Twelve Days of Christmas", the total number of gifts that "my true love gave to me" is 364.
fredag, december 19, 2003
The Swedes have always prided themselves on their sense of lagom when it comes to most things. There is no direct translation for lagom, but perhaps the best explanation I've seen is in Christer Amnéus' book Lagom, The Very Unofficial Guide to the Swedes. He says it is a perfect description of the Swedish mentality. It's meaning can be said to be "just about right" or "no more no less". Everything in Sweden should be lagom.
And this extends to Christmas decorations, too. One must have "just the right amount" and certainly NO MORE. That wouldn't be lagom and so would be very un-Swedish. As a foreigner, I've had to listen to endless criticism of the completely over the top Christmas lights in other countries. I'm lucky they know next to nothing about Australia so I don't have to admit to things like The Lobethal Christmas Display in Adelaide (a small sample pictured here) *bows her head in shame*, or places like this.
Fortunately, they firmly believe that all things tacky are American, so I just nod along with them and hope they NEVER hear about our Australian decorating habits. I just mumble something about it being summer so they think we have no lights.
On one level I agree with them. I abhor for example the the proliferation of PLUBJLOs - Plastic Light-Up Baby Jesus Lawn Ornaments. I just can't see how "Baby Jesus" and "plastic light-up lawn ornament" belong in the same phrase together... let alone in the front yard.
And then they are combined with PLUVMLOs, PLUJLOs, (Plastic Light-Up Virgin Mary Lawn Ornaments, Plastic Light-Up Joseph Lawn Ornaments). Most, however, also include PLUTWMLOs and PLUCLOs(Plastic Light-Up Three-Wise-Men and their Plastic Light-Up Camel Lawn Ornaments), as well as two kinds of PLUSLOs (Plastic Light-Up Shepherds and their Plastic Light-Up Sheep Lawn Ornaments), a couple of PLUDLOs (Plastic Light-Up Donkey Lawn Ornaments), and some PLUALOs (Plastic Light-Up Angel Lawn Ornaments), all nestled in a giant plastic stable, surrounded by still more PLUSLOs (Plastic Light-Up Snowman and Plastic Light-Up Santa Lawn Ornaments) and possibly a few PLURASLOs (Plastic Light-Up Reindeer-and-Sleigh Lawn Ornaments). I didn't know that Santa was in on the birth of Jesus. You learn something new every day!
So okay, the Swedes have a point.
But today, I have my revenge thanks to the daily afternoon newspaper Aftonbladet. There is a contest on to vote for the best decorated house in Sweden. And let me tell you, the Griswald's have been busy! I can't wait to forward the article Du kan rösta på finaste julehuset to all of my Swedish friends. Especially those who are so smug about Swedes being so lagom.
You can vote until Sunday night too if you like. Click the link that says "Här kan du se de 10 finalisterna" to check them out. Then go to the box underneath headed "Vilket hus är vackrast?" and cast your vote. You can press "Se resultat" to check the progress. Now, numbers 5, 7 and 11 are truly indescribably tacky and at the time of writing, the leader (number 9) wasn't much better. The only one that I thought was okay was number 6 from Österskär.
I'm eagerly waiting to see what Lars-Göran has to say about this. I have a feeling he'll be sporting a black armband for the rest of Christmas.
And my useless Christmas fact for today (and very apt, too):
Thomas Edison introduced the first Christmas lights on December 22 1882.
So we CAN blame the yanks!
onsdag, december 17, 2003
Today in Sweden it is Christmas card sending day. We send close friends and family small postcards with pictures of Jultomtar (the Swedish version of Santa) and snow scenes etc.
Tradition dictates that the card should be received as close to Christmas as possible. And Swedish Posten promises that any card posted by today for a Swedish address will arrive on time. Of course, as I'm a foreigner, I did the very un-Swedish thing and sent mine out last week!
The Christmas card selection is pretty sad really, unless you have buckets of money. The cheap, but tasteful packs we get back home in places like David Jones simply don't exist here. The only ones I saw were a cool 200kr ($40) for 10 "okay looking" cards. Or you can buy individual cards from 35kr ($7)!
Once I picked myself up from the floor, I looked at the usual cards Swedes send to each other- they are just postcards with a Christmas theme - and not ONE nativity scene, angel, wise man or shepherd in sight! It makes me wonder what they believe Christmas is all about. Surely not just an excuse to stuff yourself? Typical cards look something like the ones here. You don't put them in an envelope, but merely write your name on the back, address them and send. These packs are much cheaper at 20kr ($4) for a 10 pack.
Anyway, today I wanted to report the sad news that the Gävle goat has been burned down. Again. As usual. Who or what is the Gävle goat? Well, hold on and I'll tell you.
In Australia, we are used to the collection of quirky "big" things that proliferate at the side of the highways. Things like The Big Pineapple, The Big Merino, The Giant Koala, The Giant Rocking Horse... you get the idea. Actually, I'm feeling slightly queasy and more than a little embarrassed by these pieces of kitsch. But in Sweden, they don't go in for trashy stuff so much, except at Christmas time in the town of Gävle (about 100kms north of Stockholm), where every year, since 1966, they have built a 13 metre high, 7 metre long, 3 ton straw goat!
The Christmas goat (julbock) preceded santa as the Christmas figure in Sweden and is still a popular Christmas purchase to stand under the tree. But why they want to build such a structure every year, and see it razed to the ground nearly every single time is a real mystery. In the past, they have been burned with cigarette lighters, levelled by a car and rocketed by fireworks. Sometimes just hours after being erected in the first week of December!
The structure sits in the centre of the town square and you can view it night and day via webcam at the Gävle kommun website. Well, you COULD view it until last Friday, when the citizens awoke to be greeted by this:
Christmas Goat Burns Again
2003-12-12 - 11:20 Once again the giant straw Christmas goat in the Swedish city of Gävle has been burned by vandals, just two weeks after it was set up by local merchants.
Erected each year since 1966 and featured in the Guinness Book of World Records since 1985, the 13-meter-high straw goat has seldom survived an entire Christmas season unscathed. Two years ago an American tourist for fined for torching the goat.
The goat survived Christmas last year for the first time since 1997.
This year, however, the 3 ton straw creation was monitored by several Internet webcams, and the police hope the images will help them track down the culprits. Four or five young people were reported to have run away from the area just after the alarm the goat was on fire.
It must be so disheartening for them all. I do remember there being a huge outcry after the American was caught burning it down a couple of years ago. While people are fairly goodnatured about the locals doing it (it's almost considered a bit of sport) but they were damned if some foreigner was allowed to have a go! He was fined 100,000kr ($20,000) and jailed for a month. And no, it wasn't a young kid, either, but a 52 year old from Cleveland, Ohio!
The good news is that the people of Gävle are rebuilding the goat on Friday, December 19th and you c an watch it live on webcamera if you tune in to the Gävle website, click on the link to Gävlebocken and look at the webcams. Also under the same link you can see a pictorial essay about how the goat is constructed at the link to Så byggs Bocken.
I leave you with my useless Christmas fact:
Assuming Rudolph is in front, the number of possible way to arrange Santa's other eight reindeer is 40,320.
måndag, december 15, 2003
This is one Swedish Christmas Market that is really worth the effort of attending if you happen to be in the Stockholm area. We had a great weekend, despite the best efforts of mother nature to provide two days of piss awful weather! A lot of glögg helped restore our good mood! We have taken a few pictures to bore you with. Unfortunately, there was no snow which would have made the pictures really nice, but you can use your imaginations!
Utö lies about 15 nautical miles north east of Nynäshamn. We sailed there Friday in glorious weather - cold, certainly, but clear blue skies and a good wind that kept us moving under full sail at around 6 knots.
This shows Lars-Göran, well rugged up as we set sail from our pier at the sailing club. He's looking in great spirits! We had one funny moment when we saw a boat in the distance that made a full 90 degree turn and head towards us. I wondered if it was a military patrol or perhaps the coast guard, but it turned out to be a fishing boat. We were obviously "Sight of the Week" as they came very close to us, went behind then alongside our boat, waved heartily to us, then promptly resumed their course! Lars-Göran thought that they may be pirates and told me he was prepared to "sacrifice the women" in order to save his precious boat!
Utö is an incredibly popular summer getaway, but it is accessible via ferry all year round and the Utö Värdshus is a very well-known restaurant and a great reason to visit the island no matter what the weather. From the restaurant, you can enjoy views like this!
But our main reason for going there was the Utö Julmarknad. This was held in the courtyard of the Utö Värdshus. There are some pictures here of the markets.
First the venue itself - Utö Värdshus (this is at 10am)
The entrance to the courtyard
Some of the market stalls:
Another view of the market:
It was a small market, but really pretty, with a nice range of good quality, hand crafted goods. There was no crap here at all - everything was high class. The stalls had a variety of christmas foods, drinks, decorations, gift ideas. There was music, food to eat and a lovely bustling atmosphere. My absolute favourite stall was one by a local woman, Helene Larsson and her driftwood art. I was drooling! So many that I loved, but they are quite expensive, so alas, I wasn't able to buy any. Maybe one day I'll be rich again. There are a couple of photographs of her work.
Yes, that's me dressed like an eskimo admiring the artwork!
A closer look at the detail in one of her driftwood pieces. You can see more on her website.
The other lovely place was a little shop just off the courtyard that was set up like an old fashioned corner store, with a lovely array of gifts. The shop is apparently open all year, so we must make a time to come and see it again when it is less crowded. I could have stayed forever and pottered around. Look at the traditional hardbread drying on the stick across the ceiling.
While Friday was a lovely day, it was unfortunately very wet and cold on both the Saturday and Sunday. We were hopeful of snow and I'm sure that the markets look much prettier with a light dusting of the white stuff, but still it was a beautiful atmosphere and I'm really glad that we went.
Next year, we may try and angle a weekend with better weather, as the markets are held over three weekends. We did see some people we knew - a couple we know from Nynäshamn and someone from the OE Yacht Club. They had all come via ferry from Åsta Havsbad and eaten at the restaurant. We spent the remainder of the time enjoying our life onboard again - after all, it's been a while!
On Sunday, it was wet again, so we decided to motor home, rather than hoist the sails in uncertain conditions. We were so lucky that rain held off until we were actually in Nynäshamn. It could have been much worse.
These last few shots show a little of the boats that were here (lots of ferries!), the village itself and a couple of night views.
The village with a view across the bay to the church. (the tiny yello dot in the distance)
Some of the ferry traffic (our boat, Fiona, is in the foreground of the photograph)
The harbour shops at "night" (it was only 4pm!)
The main street at "peak hour" - don't get run over in the rush!
Till next time!
söndag, december 14, 2003
The third Advent candle, lit today, is the Shepherd Candle, in honour of the shepherds to whom the birth was announced.
You are 'Hark! The Herald Angels Sing'. You take
Christmas very seriously. For you, it is a
religious festival, celebrating the birth of
the Saviour, and its current secularisation
really irritates you. You enjoy the period of
Advent leading up to Christmas, and attend any
local carol services you can find, as well as
the more contemplative Advent church services
each Sunday. You may be involved in Christmas
food collections or similar charity work. The
midnight service at your church, with candles
and carols, is one you look forward to all
year, and you also look forward to the family
get together on Christmas Day.
What Christmas Carol are you?
brought to you by Quizilla
Click on the link and try it yourself. In my case, that quiz is so true! I just love the religious aspects of Christmas and yes, I'm looking forward to next week's carol service in the church. And I'm grateful to be here in Sweden where there is a decided low-key approach taken to the more secular aspects of Christmas.
I went to a small Christmas concert on Saturday. It was so beautiful. A mixture of traditional Swedish Christmas hymns, English carols, and gospel. It occured to me that I understood all of it and related to all of it. An overwhelming sense of belonging--the first Christmas in Sweden that I've been able to feel that. Exciting, scary, amazing.
My dear man is fiddling with the photographs from this weekend's sailing trip to Utö, so I'll write more about that tomorrow or the next day. It was wonderful to be out, but I have to say, it's lovely to be home now it's snowing again!
torsdag, december 11, 2003
They say that one of the reasons that you know you've been in Sweden too long is when the sight of a young woman with lit candles stuck to her head no longer disturbs you!
What now, I hear you ask? Yes, I now have yet another Swedish Christmas tradition to enlighten you about. December 13th. Luciadagen.
The Swedish Lucia celebration, is a good example of an annual festival of medieval origin, which has acquired a new image. Just how Lucia became an honoured saint in Sweden is a bit of a mystery, for she was born in Italy in the third century. People here believe that her story was brought to Sweden by Viking traders who had become Christians.
Her name means "light" and because she died close to the winter solstice, she became a symbol of light to the sun starved people here in the north. They imagined Lucia as a shining figure crowned by a radiant halo. In Sweden, she is revered as a symbolic figure who greets us when the days are darkest and brings back the light. She gives a promise that soon the days will become longer again and daylight will return. Thus the choice of a light haired girl as Lucia.
Lucia is celebrated in a variety of ways but the most common is the Lucia Procession, consisting of a group of young girls and boys singing traditional Lucia songs. The lucky girl chosen as Lucia wears a crown made from a wreath of green lingonberry leaves. In this crown sits seven lit candles. She also wears a white, full-length gown, with a red ribbon round her waist.
Her attendants are dressed similarly and the stjärngossar or ”star boys” wear cone-shaped hats decorated with stars.
The celebration includes carol singing, Lucia coffee, which is served with lussekattar ”Lucia cats”, a saffron-flavoured bun, and gingerbread biscuits. Lucia symbolically opens the door to Christmas and is seen as a symbol of the good forces in life.
This Feast of lights is celebrated all over Sweden and it is a very special and wonderful occasion. In every town, city, school, even workplace there is a Lucia. The girl is crowned here in Nynäshamn at the church and the parade winds through the town in the early afternoon, with stops at various places for refreshments and singing. You can click on the link and find the song Sankta Lucia.
Santa Lucia, thy light is glowing
Through darkest winter night, comfort bestowing.
Dreams float on dreams tonight,
Comes then the morning light,
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia.
And the recipe for those great buns can be found here
And a picture: Lussebullar
We are off sailing for a few days to the Christmas markets at the island of Utö – back later with picturs and an update. I hope it doesn’t snow while we are sailing!
tisdag, december 09, 2003
The annual war has begun.
CocaCola versus Julmust.
This is the current war in Sweden. Forget about Iraq, Afghanistan or Israel. It's here the battle is.
The battle of the soft drinks.
I'm sure most of you are wondering what the hell is she talking about. Well let me explain it a bit better for you.
Julmust (pronounced yule-moost) is a traditional soft drink that everybody in Sweden drinks around Christmas time. It looks like coke but it has some distinct differences. Taste being the most important. It tastes like Christmas!!! Well, for most Swedes anyway. It's really hard to explain to an outsider. One American I spoke to said it tasted like a mixture between beer and coke. Hmm, not sure about that. Another expat muttered something about a bit of a sarsaparilla taste. Hmm... nope, that's not quite right either.
Secondly, it's a tradition and tradition in Sweden is hard to erase. Now, this is something the Coca-Cola company has a hard time dealing with. They don't want miss out on those extra dollars they could make for those three months. (did I mention that we also have Påskmust at Easter?). Not that they will lose any big sums because, after all, they have the rest of the world. Even in far away places that I have never heard of, they drink coke. Incredible.
So far I'm happy to report that in Sweden at Christmas, Julmust is the winner by a long shot. Must was created by Harry Roberts in the early 1900's as a non-alcoholic alternative to beer. And the syrup is still made exclusively by Roberts AB in Örebro. The original recipe is said to be locked up in a safe and only two people know the full recipe.
Must is made from carbonated water, sugar, hops extract, malt extract and spices. The hops and malt extract give the must a somewhat beer-like taste, but must is not fermented and contains no alcohol. Must can be aged provided it is stored in a glass bottle. Some people buy must in December only to store it a year before drinking it.
Julmust is the source of some real annoyance at Coca-Cola in Sweden, since Sweden is the only country where the consumption of Coca-Cola drops dramatically over Christmas. Most Swedes drink julmust instead. This was quoted as one of the main reasons Coca-Cola broke away from their contract with Pripps and started Coca-Cola Drycker Sverige AB. Ironically enough, Coca-Cola later felt it was necessary to make their own julmust.
In Sweden every Christmas, 50 million litres of must is consumed. That's a LOT of drink over November, December and January. You can see why Coca-Cola is pissed off. But despite Coca-Cola pouring in millions in advertising, special offers, give aways, fluffy toys, Christmas packaging etc, the Swedes stubbornly stick to their Julmust. You just have to love a nation that refuses to bow to the pressure of modern advertising? And let's face it, Coca-Cola is one company that usually knows how to scare off "the opposition". Ha Ha, guys, it just doesn't work here!
In this article from Aftonbladet it is reported that sales of Coca-Cola drop an amazing 50% here in Sweden over Christmas. And today, even among the young, if you ask which drink will they serve at their Christmas party, they all reply "Julmust of course!" Somehow, it's just not Christmas without it!
And what are we serving at our julbord? Why, JULMUST självklart!
To close, I leave you with my Zen thought for the day:
A closed mouth gathers no foot.
Till next time!
lördag, december 06, 2003
The second Advent candle is lit today. It is called the Bethlehem Candle, for the town where Jesus was born.
Today, it is crisp and cold. At this latitude, the clear winter sky with sparkling stars and the low sun through the short days give a fantastic winter light. It's snowing like crazy outside at the moment. It's like being inside one of those snow globes. I guess someone gave my globe a really good shake this morning, because it's almost zero visibility out there, with the heavy snowfall...
Today and tomorrow it is our Julmarknad (Christmas Market). Just when I wonder whether Sweden, a country of wonderland, can become any more wonderful, well, wonder of wonders, along comes Christmas. And along with Christmas come the wondrous wonders of Sweden's Christmas markets.
At the Christmas markets you can purchase traditional art and handicraft products, knitwear and home made delicacies. Skilled craftsmen offer everything from wooden toys, hand-made candles and painted glass decorations to cigars, exotic spices and home made Christmas mustard - all unique products that can not be bought anywhere else. And yes, it is held OUTSIDE!
Many towns have a local market during this time of year. Christmas markets are rather like "festivals in the street" with lots of booths of crafts, jewellery and food. Ours is held in our harbour area, in over 60 rustic red cabins, outside stalls and in the courtyard. I have been to several markets, and, no matter how often I go, I always find something new and refreshing to lighten up my mood and my senses (especially my sense of taste). Yes, that is me, well rugged up, admiring the straw wreaths.
Our market is quite small and relatively simple, although it offers a nice array of ornaments, handicrafts, smoked fish, smoked sausages and other Christmastime commodities. It is ideal for browsing, snooping, drifting and otherwise honing the appetite with such Swedish treats as vort limpa bread and thin ginger biscuits.
There were lots of covered stalls selling all kinds of crafts, wreaths, straw animals, baked and preserved goodies etc. The ground was covered with straw and everything was colour co-ordinated in shades of red and green. The smell of fresh straw combined with fresh pine, newly baked pepparkakor (thin gingerbread) and warm glögg was divine.
What a lovely atmosphere. Yes, it snowed but everyone was well rugged up. Despite the cold, people were happy, good natured and friendly. No pushing, shoving etc that you get in Australia. I enjoyed it very much, especially after sampling a glass or three of glögg!
As we are on the archipelago and just a short way from Stockholm, Nynäshamn's Christmas markets are well attended. You can come here via traditional steamboat. The boats were built early this century and are really beautiful with lovely all wood interiors and brass fittings. We wandered along the pier looking at one called Blidösund; very civilised, I thought. You can enjoy a trip through the winter landscape of the archipelago, being wined, dined, entertained and WARM! Then visit the markets which are at the harbour and go back for the return trip.
There were also historic steam trains running from Stockholm where glögg and biscuits are served while you journey here. I think that would have been nice, too. And the train station is right by the harbour. Some people came via train and returned via boat which was clever. We just wandered down from home via leg power. Luckily, it is such a small place that we can walk to the harbour in 10 minutes.
Today is also a special day for me, as three years ago today I arrived here in Sweden, coming from a blazing +40C summer day in Adelaide to -6C in Stockholm. I can't believe how fast time has flown by! I reminded L-G that I have been here 1095 days now and his comment was "It feels like it!" Who says romance is dead? I had to send him a little something to remember the day, so I thought that THIS was very appropriate!
To close, I leave you with my Zen thought for the day:
The best way to forget all your troubles is to wear really tight shoes.
Till next time!
onsdag, december 03, 2003
Yay, I've got a brand new wireless optical mouse. Wheee look at it zoom around the screen! Okay, maybe not that exciting to all of you, but to me it is a joy.
Advent continues throughout Sweden. The weather is very wet, chilly, icy and unpleasant, so the glögg is very welcome when you come in the door in the evening.
Samuel Johnson once wrote that "Claret is the drink for boys, port for men, but he who aspires to be a hero must drink brandy."
By that definition Swedish Julglögg, will make us superhuman. What is glögg, do I hear you ask? Okay, so you didn’t ask, but I’m going to tell you anyway. Glögg, (pronounced glerrg), is a high octane, hot mulled wine made with a potpourri of spices and all three of the above: red wine, port, and brandy. It is the perfect cold weather drink, warming the body and soul from the inside out.
The origins of glögg go at least as far back as the coronation of the Swedish King Gustav Vasa in 1523, when 210 jugs of the stuff were reportedly consumed. That must have been one hell of a party, because glögg is the Swedish version of backwater moonshine.
There are as many recipes for this old traditional winter beverage as there are people in Sweden. Instead of brandy, the Swedish recipe calls for aquavit, a distilled vodka frequently flavoured with caraway seeds. The spices and flavourings change just as frequently, with most recipes calling for cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, orange peel, raisins, almonds, and sugar. Some brew it and drink it on the spot, and others age it. One thing is certain: the aroma in the kitchen of mulling glögg is heavenly, and when it is served steaming hot after a hard day of skiing or shovelling the footpath, the body offers thanks.
My recipe, you ask? Well, just pretend you asked, okay...
Marie’s Authentic, Easy Swedish Glögg Recipe
1 set car keys
1 wine shop
1. Place money in purse
2. Grab car keys and hop into car
3. Drive car to nearest wine shop
4. Stop car, hop out and take purse with you into wine shop
5. Take a queue number.
5. Ask shop assistant for a bottle of glögg (actually you’d better say ”Jag skulle vilja ha en flaska Blossa starkvinsglögg (Med cognac)”)
6. Open purse and hand over money (69kr)
7. Take glögg home and enjoy.
The pictures below show glögg, heated and ready to skål.. no, I mean sip! The other picture shows some traditional and decorative copper pots used to heat the wine. We have one like type 3.
Glögg is an acquired taste: sweet, hot, spicy and very boozy, not to everyone's liking. But as an Australian guest of mine once commented, "This isn't a drink, it's an event."
This month's postsGood taste (tisdag, december 30, 2003)
Nu så är det jul igen (lördag, december 27, 2003)
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree (måndag, december 22, 2003)
Winter Solstice (söndag, december 21, 2003)
Det är inte lagom! (fredag, december 19, 2003)
The sacrificial goat? (onsdag, december 17, 2003)
Utö Julmarknad (måndag, december 15, 2003)
"en stråle av Guds kärleks ljus..." (söndag, december 14, 2003)
Luciadagen! (torsdag, december 11, 2003)
Of course you know, this means war! (tisdag, december 09, 2003)
Nynäshamns Julmarknad (lördag, december 06, 2003)
Skål och välkomna! (onsdag, december 03, 2003)
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