Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas...

And yes... the snow came down today... and lots of it. The world is white in anticipation of a Christmas we always dreamt off. However, every single person in Sweden is in expectant anticipation for weeks now and judiciously follow every Christmas tradition in the approach to Christmas. It is as if the hope of the start of the white snow days and the coming Christmas keep their spirits alive during the grey dreary days of November and early December. A local Swedish newspaper proudly announced total of 16 ours of sunshine in the whole of November. Something is needed to keep the people going and that is what the Christmas season does. Unlike in South Africa, where Christmas is equal to two or three days of family and feasting, Christmas in Sweden is a serious affair and lasts more than a month. It started with the first advent Sunday in late November. During that weekend the city transformed itself and the streets were lit up with Christmas lights and stars, pine trees everywhere were decorated and in all windows various forms of lights, stars and candles appeared. The first advent weekend also have the Julmarknad (Christmas market) and a kickoff of advent with a display of fireworks in the Botaniska (botanical gardens) in front of the castle. The Julmarknad was quite an experience with chorus groups performing in Stora Torget (the Main square in the middle of the city) and little stalls lining the city streets selling Christmas delicacies and presents. There are very specific Christmas foods, which swamps the shops during Jul (Christmas) that you just wont find the rest of the year. We will devote a whole post later-on to these foods (just to name a few of the most common ones; Julmust (Christmas Cola), Glög (pronounced glug, which is warm spiced wine), Pepparkakor (literally pepper cake, which is gingerbread), Lussebullar (Saffron buns), etc., etc.,... Anyway..., the whole Sunday afternoon we browsed the stalls and then the whole city moved in one big river of people to the castle to witness the fireworks. That was the first advent Sunday. Below is two videos of Stora Torget during Julmarknad, the second video is with a choir singing my favourite Christmas song, Strålande Jul (pronounced Strolande, meaning Shining Christmas). Below I also paste the lyrics in Swedish and English and a link to a YouTube video with the song (which you just have to see).

Julmarknad video 1 (17 meg, 1 min)

Julmarknad video 2 (19 meg, 1 min)

(note the guy on the bicycle in the middle of the video - in the little cart behind the bike would be his baby - this is how babies are transported here in the winter)

Strålande Jul lyrics

*Jul, jul, strålande jul, glans över vita skogar.
Christmas, Christmas, shining Christmas, light above white forests.
*Himmelens kronor, med gnistrande ljus.
The crowns of heaven with gnistering lights.
*Glimmande bågar i alla guds hus.
Glowing bows in the houses of god.
*Psalm som är sjungen från tid till tid.
Hymn that is sung from time to time.
*Eviga längtan till ljus och frid.
Eternal desire of light and peace.
*Jul, jul, strålande jul, glans över vita skogar.
Christmas, Christmas, shining Christmas, light above white forests.
*Kom, kom, signade jul, sänk dina vita vingar.
Come, come, sacred chrismas, lower your white wings.
*Över stridernas blod och larm.
Above the blood and sounds of war.
*Över alla suckan ur människobarm.
Over the sighs from humans.
*Över de släkten som gå till ro.
Over the families who go to peace.
*Över de ungas vars dagar nu gro.
Over the young whos days go past.
*Kom, kom, signade jul, sänk dina vita vingar.
Come, come, sacred chrismas, lower your white wings.

Youtube link: (must see) Strålande Jul

From the first advent onwards people are high on the Christmas spirit but a particular highlight before Christmas is the celebration of Lucia on the 13th of December. Even though St. Lucia was an Italian saint, the celebration of Lucia on the 13th of December is built on a pagan tradition celebrating the winter solstice. This night would be the longest and darkest and evil spirits were believed to wander, other strange things were believed to happen such as people developing the ability to talk to animals. You needed to stay awake the night before the 13th to make sure you could avert the evil spirits. When the morning of the 13th broke processions of people with candles that brought light in the darkness fended off the evil spirits. From there the traditional Lucia procession with the Lucia girl wearing a crown of candles on her head leading a procession of girls with candles singing the Lucia song. We attended the Lucia concert in the Uppsala Domkyrkan (see video below) I also paste two links to Lucia processions on YouTube.

Youtube link 1: Lucia1
Youtube link 2: Lucia2

Lucia concert video (21 meg, 1 min)

So far we enjoyed all the Christmas traditions tremendously and we cannot wait for Christmas, the world is white and more snow is coming... Our next posts will have more on the Christmas foods, and then of course Christmas!


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