Well this is a long overdue post. Blame having a life and being too happy to come whine on my blog about how shitty people are. Thanksgiving went great and my friends were the best little test subjects ever (being the first to eat my first--and only--turkey dinner) and it was great to have some familiar tastes like stuffing, cranberry sauce, and yam/marshmallow casserole.
So now we're in Christmas mode!! First things first, this list is my opinion of the best traditions, what I'm looking forward to the most, etc. If I forgot or left something off, deal with it, it's my second Swedish Christmas and my first one spent with children. Second thing...out with this Christmas business. It's YULE. Or, if you want to be even more correct, Jul. (Still pronounced with a y sound.)
Jul. Say it. JUL. Don't you already feel like a pre-Christianity heathen basking in winter's fine glory while standing in the mead hall in your fine mooseskin boots? Okay good here goes.
1. Glögg (you'll have to google pronouncing that one as I have no idea how to phonetically spell it)
This was my first introduction to what Jul is all about. And it continues to be a favorite. It's a warm, spiced alcoholic drink that you sip while obviously sitting in front of the fire and cuddling with your handsome Swedish lover. There's non-alcoholic versions for the kids, of course.
2. Stars in Windows
I don't know if there's a proper Swedish term for this, but it's a custom that I was curious about my first winter here, and now on winter two, I'm absolutely a fanatic. Instead of Christmas trees in windows every apartment and house has one (or more) lit stars out the window. They're usually made of paper with a light inside, but I've seen them made out of plastic as well. They are classy and beautiful and make the otherwise cold and relentless Scandinavian night seem warm.
I am SO FRIGGIN EXCITED to celebrate Lucia for the first time in Sweden!! You may know the song (it was on an episode of the Andy Griffith show, and Elvis also sings an Italian version) but America doesn't celebrate Swedish style; a choir, a girl with candles on her head, and some delicious saffron buns called Lussekatter. I asked about the origins and nobody has a clear answer, and neither does Wikipedia. Does it matter? GIRL WITH CANDLES ON HER HEAD SINGING. This is one of the few blatant Christian traditions I enjoy. Bringing Christianity to Sweden--something I don't care about--but it's a beautiful tradition nonetheless.
4. Risgrynsgröt och mandeln i gröten
Why are all my favorite traditions about food? I have a problem. Well anyway, here's a cute fact: instead of the chocolate chip cookies, Santa eats porridge (rice pudding) in Sweden!! It's too damn cold here for cookies to warm his frozen tush, even the warm gooey ones straight out of the oven. But the tradition gets better! Inside the porridge is a single almond. The person who finds the almond is supposedly the person who will get married next!!! God that's adorable.
5. Santa comes in the house!! WHAT?!
I almost dropped MY cookies at this tradition. We all know as Americans that you better get your little arse to bed and keep your eyes closed while Santa sneaks his sneaky self inside and leaves presents. Not in Sweden! In Sweden, presumably because every family doesn't have a rifle, or maybe because rice pudding > cookies, Santa COMES IN THE HOUSE TO GIVE OUT PRESENTS WHAT. I am so excited for this. I can't believe I get to really see the big guy at work!! Like his actual one work day of the year. I will probably cry because I cry most times I see Santa.
Yeah another food shut up okay? Julmust (Christmas-Sap) is a beverage kind of like Coca-cola, but more...jul..ey. I cannot explain the taste!!! You must try it if you have a European relative or a shop in your city that sells Scandinavian goods. Julmust took a few days to grow on me because the taste is markedly different than other soda, but man oh man does it taste good now! It's only sold during Jul (and again for Easter) so it's like the McRib, when it's in town everyone flocks to it like mosquitos to a zapper.
There are other traditions here: julbord, gingerbread houses, advent, and so on but the above are just my favorite parts of the holiday. I love how toned-down and earthy Swedish Christmas is compared to big huge blowout American Christmas and I absolutely adore how Black Friday isn't even a term people recognize. As much as I friggin hate how dark it gets (SUN GOES AWAY AT 230 PEOPLE. TWO THIRTY PM) I do love that feeling of turning down all the lights, lighting up candles, and feeling the Christmas spirit.
More on Swedish Christmas to come!!