It is only this year that I learned what “Boxing day” means. Most Americans have heard this term and I guarantee that the majority of us just picture a boxing match or taking out frustration on relatives after being cooped up in a house with them over the holidays.
So for those who, like me, have never understood why the UK has a day to beat the crap out of people after Christmas, I will give you the information I learned this month from Reader’s Digest:
“… it’s actually a celebration of charitable giving…… The name comes from the ritual of opening ‘the box’ – the alms box – in the local parish church and distributing the contents to the poor.”
That’s nice, but there are still a few people out there who could use a good knock-out.
For the person who has everything… Well, I bet they don’t have THIS!
December 13th in Sweden is Lucia day. It’s basically a celebration of light in the darkness, based on an Italian saint who had her eyes gouged out (really gets kids in the Christmas spirit).
All over Sweden, choirs of children dress in white robes while one girl (the Lucia) has a crown of lit candles on her head. The other children carry their candles.
I volunteered to be the helping parent for one of my son’s classes on this celebration. All I knew was that I was required to stand on the side with a bucket of water in case someone caught on fire. Sounded kind of exciting.
It turns out that kids catching fire was the LEAST of my worries.
First of all, I had to help the teacher accompany the kids from the school to the church. This was like trying to herd goats that are constantly stopping to make and throw snowballs at each other. (Yes, goats totally do that.) I almost had 2 kids get run over because they didn’t stop at the crossing light and were way too cool to acknowledge my screaming “STOP!”, causing them to be stuck in the middle of the road with cars speeding past.
During rehearsal, no one caught on fire (good thing, since they didn’t give us our buckets for rehearsal), but 2 kids almost fainted and a few burned their hands on dripping wax.
I think that all parents should have to assist with a class activity or outing to understand what these teachers have to deal with every day. Not just observing the class, but actually having to herd them, instruct them and keep them alive.
To sum up:
- Teachers should be paid more.
- Kids are like goats.
- I am never volunteering to help out with a school class again.
P.S. The actual Lucia concert went just fine. I think these kids behave a lot better when parents and cameras are watching. haha!
I like to wear jewelry, but I also like to be practical. Fortunately, I found the perfect necklace!
My husband was singing in a beautiful Advent concert that I attended this past weekend. Everything was very tasteful, old-fashioned, Christmassy, etc., until the beautiful chandeliers were lowered and the altar boys lit the candles with….. a blow torch attached to a stick.
Hey, this may be a reverent celebration, but this concert is only an hour long and we’ve got to get these candles lit quick! Get the blow torch!
Side note: This church was originally built in the 1600s but has burned down twice. Um… maybe less blow torches duct-taped to sticks in the main chapel? Just an idea.
For several years now, here in Sweden, I’ve been seeing stores advertise for “Black Friday.” It’s not the chaos of the U.S., but more regular type sales. As far as I know, nothing opens early.
The reason that I and other Americans find Swedish “Black Friday” sales ridiculous is that there is no point behind them. In the U.S., the entire country has the day off on Thursday, which leads many to also have Friday off as well.
In Sweden, we obviously don’t have Thanksgiving, so this is a normal Monday – Friday work week. They might put up lights in the city this weekend, since it’s so dark, and most things naturally kick off around the first of Advent, which makes sense.
On Thanksgiving Thursday in the U.S., almost every business is closed. There are basically no stores open either, so everyone is crowded in a house with no options but to visit with their family. When Friday comes, people are thrilled to have an excuse to leave the house.
No one here in Sweden has a day off to shop this Friday. Not to mention that Swedish “sales” aren’t all that great. Currently at the grocery store, you can get two bags of shredded cheese for 30 SEK. What’s the price for one bag? 14.50 SEK.
Can we adopt other cultural traditions from the U.S. instead? Barbecues and snow-cone stands maybe? Real nachos with actual melted cheese?
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.