Another trip to Italy coming up this fall. What do you think of my itinerary?
We can start at the Egizio Museum, have a coffee at the Piazza, swing by the GATES OF HELL and maybe round up the day at the cinema?
My 10-yr old wishes you all a happy Easter from the Easter spider rabbit.
On our upcoming trip to Portugal, our hotel shows photos of peacocks that roam the walls and streets of the area. This was charming and exotic when we booked, but lately, I’ve been reminded of the sound a peacock makes. This may not be the relaxing trip we were hoping for.
I’ve made a family fun guide to Venice in case anyone’s looking to convince their family that this is the place to go!
Today is Knut’s Day, January 13, where many Swedes celebrate julgransplundring (‘Christmas tree plundering’), stripping the tree of its ornaments and throwing it out of the window. As that’s not very nice to the environment, most people take it to a recycling center these days.
We have gone to a few Christmas plundering events. Lots of food and songs and dancing around the tree.
Also, I have to admit that when we lived by a forest, I threw the Christmas tree off the balcony ever year from the second story window. These days, we have a silver plastic tree, so no mess to clean and we just keep it in the storage room.
In Sweden, Santa delivers gifts personally.
Santa visits Swedish homes (after Donald Duck) to hand out gifts personally to the kids. Unfortunately, this usually happens after dad or another male member of the family has just stepped out to check for the newspaper and he misses Santa every year.
When my husband (often the only adult male at our Christmas celebrations) found out that the American Santa Claus visits children while they sleep, he happily accepted that tradition instead and that’s how our family celebrates.
The Christmas gift poem is not as widely done these days, but some people still practice the tradition. The gift-giver writes a couple of rhyming couplets on their presents, hinting at what’s hidden inside, which is then read out before opening it.
A lovely scent of mystery
in a bottle you’ll admire
a few drops at time
may set hearts on fire.
My husband used to do this on my gifts until we had kids and now we are too exhausted to come up with that many rhymes.
This Disney Donald Duck Christmas special has been shown at 3pm every year on Christmas Eve since 1959 and almost all Swedes organize their celebrations around the show. Most families, like ours, open gifts when the show is over. It’s an hour long show with the same set of cartoons since 1959. Everyone has the cartoons memorized.
Honestly, most of the country tunes in to watch this. If you were going to rob a store or vandalize a car in Sweden, 3pm on Christmas Eve would be a good time to get away with it.
A straw Christmas goat guards the presents under the tree. The tradition is very old and is thought to date back to Viking times during the harvest when the last grain was thought to be magical, or it’s something to do with Thor. Who knows?
Through the years, it has evolved from a prankster, to a scary creature demanding gifts, to bringing the Christmas gifts, to making sure the presents and decorations are correctly done, or for good luck. There are even more old traditions than those.
In the Swedish city of Gävle, the biggest straw goat is erected in the town square every year since 1966, with the idea of bringing in tourists. Well, the tourists certainly come now, but not to see the goat standing. It’s because the goat is famous for being illegally set on fire almost every year. They have tried fire-proofing it, hiring guards, setting up cameras, etc., but it rarely survives until Christmas. This year, it only survived one day before being set on fire.
Some of the interesting destructions include:
1976 – Goat run over by a car
1988 – During a severe blizzard, volunteers guarding the goat retreat into a nearby café for a break and some coffee, assuming that no one could possibly start a fire in the raging storm. They were wrong, and the goat burned.
2001 – Swedes tricked an American tourist into burning it down by telling him it was an annual tradition.
2005 – Burnt by unknown vandals reportedly dressed as Santa and the gingerbread man, by shooting a flaming arrow at the goat.
2010 – (failed attempt) – Two men tried to bribe a guard to leave his post in an attempt to kidnap the goat by helicopter and fly it to Stockholm.
I’m not really sure if this is an actual Christmas card, or just a general “My headless goat wants some apples” card that people often send. Though I prefer “headless ostriches who want bananas” on my greeting cards.
December 13, St. Lucia day
Today begins early in the morning when it’s still dark. A girl dresses up as a dead Italian saint with fire on her head followed by “tärnor” (like Lucia maidens – no fire on head) and “stjärngossar (star boys who wear white pointy hats, I have no idea why) singing Christmas songs.
It’s a celebration of light in the darkness of winter. Young children wear electric candles on their head, but above age 12, they wear real candles. Yes, the wax drips down as the ceremony usually lasts 30 minutes to an hour. They have a light covering on their hair, but most Lucias have long hair and it still falls into the bottom parts.
The outfit Lucia wears is for an Italian saint who brought food in secret tunnels to persecuted Christians. She wore candles on her head to see in the tunnel. The red sash represents blood, as she was sentenced to death and they tried to stab her (apparently didn’t work). They also tried to set her on fire, which is why everyone carries candles (also didn’t work). These days the candles mostly represent the light she brings.
One of my sons had three Lucia performances over the weekend and has two more today. My husband had the job of being class parent for one of the concerts, which means he had to stand to the side during the performance with a bucket of water in case anyone caught fire.
So much more exciting than just being a chaperone at a school dance, I think.
We celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve and celebrations start with lunch at noon.
Christmas food in Sweden is ham, pickled herring, meatballs, potatoes with anchovies, small sausages and dry crisp bread.
We also drink Julmust, which is a soda is sold only around Christmas time. (Then again at Easter under the name Påskmust). I say it tastes a little like Dr. Pepper.
And of course we can’t forget glögg, which is Christmas spiced wine, served with raisins and almonds at the bottom. I would look up the traditions and meaning behind glögg, but after having a cup, I am now too sleepy to bother.
I thought some people who read my blog and do not live in Sweden might be interested in what goes on here during the month of December. Sweden has so many traditions, it’s often hard to keep up (not to mention my kids have 12 Christmas concerts between them this month).
I thought I would post things during the month about the many Christmas traditions and activities that we celebrate in Stockholm. First, we begin with things we see this time of year around town:
Christmas markets are up all over Stockholm from the first of Advent. They sell Swedish handicrafts, glögg (spiced wine), candy, brandied almonds, etc. out of small red booths. People working the booths are usually dressed in old-fashioned outfits.
At the most expensive department store in town, NK (Nordiska Kompaniet), the windows are decorated with animatronic Christmas scenes. They are different every year and it’s a must see for children. Here is an example:
Almost every home in Sweden hangs a paper Christmas star in the window and many also have electric Advent candles.
Of course, in our family, we have the greatest Christmas decoration of all…. THE CLAWS!
When our son was 2 years old, his daycare class made Christmas decorations of Santa Claus. He apparently thought putting on the beard was the best part, since his had the biggest one in the class. When we came to pick him up, he took us to pick up his masterpiece and with his limited language skills, pointed to it and said, “THE CLAWS!”
The name has stuck.
This week’s Victorian Christmas card depicts a party of birds apparently on their way to torch another bird’s nest. At least that’s how I interpret it. Bird army.
I also think the caption “Lighten your Christmas hours” is not funny, but rather creepy as these birds do not look happy and obviously have it in for someone.
… but my son just told me this weekend about what happened when he went trick-or-treating this year in Stockholm for Halloween. I guess he forgot to mention it before.
I’m often going on and on about Swedes just not understanding the holiday. They’ve given my kids money, old candy dug out of their pockets, an orange and loose potato chips in previous years, but we have a new winner this year:
My son told me that when he and his friend were trick-or-treating this year, one couple opened the door, apologized for not having candy and offered the boys an uncooked lasange plate each.
I guess we can start cutting down on sugar around here now if I can replace the kids’ candy with lasagne plates. Not a bad idea.
It’s that time of year again… time to wonder what kind of drugs people in the Victorian age were on when they made Christmas cards. Also time to wonder what their deal is with frogs.
I give you, Victorian Christmas card number one. Frog and Beetle dancing on beach with a dragonfly playing tamborine.
If you can get past a frog and a giant beetle dancing together, much less that they would make a tambourine small enough for a dragonfly to play, I still say the beach scene makes no sense at Christmastime.
As usual, today is simply “Thursday” here in Sweden. I have nothing Thanksgiving-ish to say, so I leave you with the most disturbing pictures I could find on the internet.
We’ve been in Italy the past week, offline and relaxing.
People ask me, “Why are you always going to Italy?”
I think you can see here just why Italy is so great:
Sometimes I think it must have been terrifying to live in Victorian times just based on their holiday cards.