Shaena, from Canada, gives tips on finding a job in Sweden and minimizing the winter blues by watching Melodifestivalen. We also discuss the greatest pastry ever made – the semla!
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Spent a lovely day on Sunday, here in Stockholm, taking a walk, going to a park and even petting farm animals. Spring was in the air. I even stopped at the flower display at the grocery store and considered buying something for the balcony.
Luckily, I’ve lived here long enough not to fall for it.
Sure enough, we woke up Monday morning to -2c and snow.
I thought maybe if I used Photoshop, I could make winter go away and feel better. I tried this picture with my son, but I still don’t feel very summery…
There is an event taking place in March, here in Sweden, called “Nordic Gardens.” This is what I picture:
The snow is melting today and it’s just a big slush of muddy roads and giant slabs of ice falling from roofs. I think most people here who claim they hate the snow don’t really hate the snow, they hate what’s going to happen because they know that eventually it will get melty and slushy, which I agree is no fun.
I think people would like it more if slush days were declared days off. When it ices over in Texas, most people get the day off school or work because it’s dangerous to drive with no winter tires. Well, when melting snow is making ice fall from the roofs, we should all get the day off work here and stay inside as well.
It’s actually quite dangerous with the snow falling from roofs, and many sidewalks are blocked off so that people don’t get hurt. All the more reason to order people to stay inside today. Can we just have this one thing? I mean, we don’t have sun for 5 months a year, so maybe a few days off on the nastiest days? I don’t think that’s too much to ask.
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.
My husband posted this on Facebook yesterday:
“The official report is in: Stockholm had only 35 minutes of sunlight in TOTAL over the last two weeks.”
This is true. I haven’t seen the sun for many, many days. My pupils are growing larger, skin is getting paler and I sleep like a sloth.
Today I see a very small bit of sun peeking at my balcony. It’s not full sun, just a sliver, but I’m going to have to get my sunglasses.
Winter in Sweden – a mass conspiracy run by the Vitamin D corporations to increase sales.
(Artwork by Simon Stålenhag. A Swedish artist who gets the lighting and mood of winter exactly right.)
When you have around 6 months of winter and darkness here in Sweden, you can do one of three things.
- Take a vacation to the sun (smartest idea, unfortunately, I’m not that smart)
- Find a creative project to put meaning into your day.
Well, I’ve gone with number 3 (I really need to save up for number 1 next winter) and I’m about to publish my second book of essays, this time all about transportation and travel!
Here is a short example of what you will find in this book:
I made my husband eat alligator when he visited me in Texas.
He made me eat snails when I visited him in Europe.
Another update next week when I make it available. Until then, here’s a picture of a very well-dressed cat.
Our local paper has raised a question in our neighborhood; Should people be sledding in a graveyard?
The initial picture one gets in one’s head is of sleds crashing into gravestones or “this wouldbe great for ‘The Addams Family Christmas Special.” However, the hill they are using doesn’t have any burial sites, it’s just landscaped in the middle.
The graveyard they are talking about is down the road from us and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Now, I don’t think people should be sledding there at all; it’s a place for peace and meditation especially for people visiting their loved ones, but I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought once or twice what a great sledding hill they have. Take a look at the picture and tell me you wouldn’t be a little tempted.
I had a spectacular fall on the ice yesterday. I’m talking a full-out comedy banana peel-type fall landing horizontally on the ice. The only thing missing was the Benny Hill theme as background music.
It’s mid-January and so far the score is Winter – 2, Heather -0, unless a defeat against winter would be a day I haven’t had to go outside but worn pajamas all day indoors drinking hot chocolate. Then the score is Winter – 2, Heather – 1.
As my kids are going to school this morning, it is -18c here in Stockholm, Sweden. We haven’t seen temperatures this low for about 3 years when I was last convinced we lived on planet Hoth (I swear I saw a man riding a TaunTaun to work). The buses barely ran, there were subway problems and it was total chaos in the city. One would think places located in the Arctic Circle would be prepared for these things, but that doesn’t seem to be the case in Stockholm.
For the past week, the evening dinner conversation has revolved around the question of why people would ever settle in Sweden in the first place. I can only think that they discovered the place during the summer and then it became dark and cold so fast that they all experienced mass hibernation and never left.
This leads me to my ongoing argument that people living in northern countries should all hibernate during January and February. We practically do anyway since the darkness makes us all so tired. Why not take it up a notch? Most of us would get the same amount done as we do when we are awake in the winter.
I live in an apartment complex. We have an incredibly boring middle space between our two buildings with nothing on it because the building company decided to “keep the nature,” which basically translates to them wanting to save costs by not developing any common area for us to have barbecues.
But now I’ve found this amazing product online. How perfect is this for Swedish winters? I’m fairly certain all the neighbors could chip in – and with all of us, it wouldn’t be expensive at all. We could reserve times in our igloo just like we reserve laundry times. I’m pretty sure I can convince everyone, especially if I promise to keep the igloo stocked with glögg (warm Christmas wine).
If I can get them to sign up on this, maybe later I can get us a hot tub as well.
Took the kids out for some Frisbee this past weekend on the big field by our building. We got a few strange looks from people going by as the temperature was -2c and the field is covered in about a foot of snow. Honestly, it was no different than playing frisbee at the beach, except I was really cold in my bikini.
Lately, Stockholm has been one giant sheet of ice. If you want some comedy, just look out any window and watch people slip, slide and try to keep their balance outside.
This is also generally the time of year I start to see the largest number of people with crutches and casts.
In order not to end up as one of those people, I dug out my snow-grippers for my boots today, much to my husband’s dismay. Every time I wrap these things around my boots, he’s embarassed to walk with me. In his words, “Only old people wear those.”
I used to argue about this and almost had him on my side until we stepped on an escalator and my gripper got caught between the lines in the steps. Luckily, I freed myself at the last moment while my husband walked quickly away hiding his face.
He also doesn’t seem to like the “click, click” sound they make when we go inside a building. I tell him to pretend he’s married to a tap dancer.
One thing that’s nice about Stockholm is that when you lose something, about 95% of the people will put it somewhere in the hopes that you will find it. (Not like in Texas where someone sees a hat and goes, “Now it’s MY hat!”)
During the fall and winter, you can find many gloves hanging from tree limbs. When people find lost ones on the ground, they hang it on something eye level so that the person who lost it will hopefully see it when they walk that way again. In fact, I left a helmet outside in the park recently and forgot all about it until I needed it 6 days later. I walked over to the park and there it was, hanging eye level on a fence!
I’ve seen scarves, stuffed animals and even shoes on tree limbs or fences, though you think one would notice a shoe missing immediately. But last week I saw the best one ever. A dinosaur on the fence outside my work. Because even dinosaurs can get lost and need to get back to their homes… or caves…. or time machine.
I’m currently sitting at work in my winter coat. Normally I sit in the next room with a portable heater all alone. The other people who work here don’t want to sit there with me and call it the “sauna room” because of the heater.
I know many Swedes are descended from Vikings, but even Vikings wore fur and proper winter gear, plus appreciated a warm fire. Why am I the only one freezing all the time? It must be some sort of Swedish pride thing that they can’t admit they’re cold. Or is there still something I haven’t figured out after 14 years of living here. I’ve learned to by down-feather coats, have a hat that goes over my ears, wear wool socks…. things I never knew about in Texas.
But I still think they’re hiding things from me about how to stay warm. Maybe I earn a new badge when I’ve made 15 years here. Then I get a new secret, “we all coat ourselves in butter under our clothes” or something like that.