Something Swedish


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First SomethingSwedish VIDEO: Valborg in Halmstad, celebrating Spring in Sweden

Last year was my first time experiencing the celebration of Valborg in Sweden. Here, let this link to last years post refresh your memory: **Links are currently broken – search for “Valborg- How We Welcome Spring in Sweden” to learn more about this tradition **

This year I decided to do something a bit different – I decided that text and photos are no longer enough for the fans, friends, and family of SomethingSwedish – so I started a Youtube channel, recorded a video, edited it, and am now sharing it for your viewing pleasure!

A lot of you have said how it feels like you are living vicariously through my words and captured moments, I want it to feel like you are really in Sweden with me. A picture can say a thousand words, but is that enough to feel the atmosphere, hear the language, and listen to the music?

Enjoy this video of the Valborg celebration, I hope it to be the first of many! Tell me what you think and what you want to see videos of next!

Trip to the Tivoli Christmas Market

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Tivoli is always a beautiful place, especially at night, but with all the extra Christmas decorations and lights, with dozens of fun stores filled with presents and ornaments, it was extra special!  ~ Enjoy!

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Hope all those photos put you in the Christmas spirit! This week I sent out all of my U.S bound Christmas cards and exchanged my first presents! It really is around the corner!

This gallery contains 32 photos


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First Snowfall: Första Snöfall

When many people (Read: Americans) think of Sweden they think of snow. And Polar Bears (Which there are none of). A snowy winter is how I know Sweden to be, not only because of that stereotype, but because I have spent all of my visits here during Christmas time.

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I’ve always loved snow, but I welcomed this snow with extra glee. It doesn’t snow nearly as much in the Southern tip of Sweden as in the rest of the country. Yesterday was my first “first snow” in Sweden, especially because I finally have something to compare “Snowy Sweden” to. The best part of the first snow early in December? Saying goodbye to Dreary Grey November. I’ve never experienced a Swedish November before, and I have to say it was the worst. On December 1st the sky finally opened up and revealed it’s blue self again, and then gave us snow to brighten our long nights as we hung decorations.

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This will be my forth Christmas in Sweden, but my first full winter. My visits were usually barely enough time to enjoy Christmas and New Years. I’ve never been here long enough to enjoy Christmas shopping, Christmas Markets, Lucia, or Advent.

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I was surprised to see so many cyclists out braving the weather. I could barely walk without falling. There are more tire tracks than footprints in the snow.

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An interesting difference that I find in Sweden is the lack of shoveling. As soon as the snow accumulates at all in NYC you hear the whole neighborhood shoveling as its still snowing. And then again an hour later, and early in the morning. The sidewalks are COMPLETELY shoveled. In Sweden – not so much. I didn’t see or hear a single shovel, nor see a shoveled sidewalk. Instead, we just walk on the bumpy and slippery snow and ice on our way to work and school and try not to fall down. I guess it is also a different mentality than “If someone falls on my property because I didn’t shovel they can sue me” which is pretty unlikely to happen in Sweden.

In Sweden, instead of using rock salt before it snows or right after, there is always a layer of gravel on the ground from December – April. I guess it gives traction and breaks up the snow a bit, but it doesn’t melt snow and ice like rock salt does. And it looks so messy for months!

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Some photos of the beautiful sky we had today, taken from the new bridge that goes over the train tracks (2:30pm). I couldn’t quite capture it. To see photos of today’s picturesque sunset from a great view, visit this blogpost: MovingtoSweden

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A snowman I found outside my apartment, and a soda can – perfect way of measuring snow!

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Vocabulary:

Snow: Snö

Snowman: Snögubbe


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The First Advent & A Christmas Market

Yesterday was the start of the longest holiday season: Advent. It was the fourth Sunday from Christmas and it’s a big deal in Sweden.

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Every Swedish family (I would assume) has Advent candles that they light gradually every week, creating a staircase effect. Yesterday we lit the first candle. Most traditional advent candles have an area where moss and decorations can be arranged. Everyday in town square you can find stands selling this moss, along with wreaths, decorations, pine branches, and advent candles:

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Another type of Advent candle that is lit a little bit each day:

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To celebrate the first advent, there was a Christmas market from 2pm-7pm filled with homemade items and foods to buy as Christmas presents.

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Many of the people selling things were wearing Santa caps. Even the horses and hot dog vendors:

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During the Christmas market there were things happening all throughout town. There was caroling and music, horsey rides400042_10151463854640312_657501302_n and face painting for the kids, dancing around the Christmas tree, free gingerbread cookies and glögg, an Advent concert at the church, and the town’s Lucia was crowned. Lucia is a very big holiday here, which I’ll write about in about a week. It was too cold to stick around and see everything that was going on, unfortunately.

Despite the below freezing temperatures (-7°c/20°f) and the night time darkness at 4:30pm (it felt like 9pm), it was the most crowded I’ve seen Halmstad. These two things are also the cause of only a few low quality photos, my fingers were a bit too frostbiten. (See said finger in photo below)

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Traditionally, the first advent was also the day that stores revealed their Christmas window displays and decorations – meaning all the stores in town are open ON A SUNDAY! Nowadays, most of the Christmas decor has already been displayed, but the stores open their doors anyway. It was unbelievable how many people were out shopping yesterday, to the point that it was difficult getting in and out of places, without any special sales – just because it is tradition. (And exotic to shop on a Sunday!)

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This count down to Christmas became popular in the 1930’s in Sweden, without so much emphasis on the religious origin; the “coming” of Christ. Instead it gives the country a reason to celebrate and be festive. Special Advent decorations are in all the windows, advent calendars are opened, candles are lit, and even an annual advent 24-episode kids show is used as a count down to Christmas. By the first Advent, Southern Sweden only has 6-7 hours of daylight, so the extra decorations, lights, candles and festivities are a huge plus for moral. For Northern Sweden, where the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon, this time is also a count down to the Winter Solstice on December 21st, when the daytime sunlight will return. “It will soon turn,” is supposed to be a common greeting in Northern Sweden, waiting for the Winter  solstice to come and bring back daylight.

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Vocabulary

First/1st: Först/ 1:e

Christmas: Jul

Christmas Market: Julmarknad

Christmas Present: Julklapp

Stores: Butiker/Affärer

To shop: Att handla

To buy: Att köpa

Advent Candles: Adventsljusstake

Decoration: Dekoration

Freezing: Frysning


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Today: Fars Dag & Veterans Day

“Don’t forget Father’s Day!” signs are posted throughout the town in bookstores, bakeries, and flower shops. The reminder surprised me, as in the US, Father’s Day is celebrated on the third Sunday of June. Father’s day was created in the USA in June 1910 to compliment Mother’s Day, so most countries celebrate around that time time. Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland and Estonia celebrate it on the second Sunday of November instead. Father’s day is said to have traveled to Sweden in the 1930’s, but like Mother’s Day, did not become popular very quickly. Today my husbands father was celebrated with a homemade cake.

This year the Swedish Father’s Day falls on the same day that Veterans Day/Remembrance Day is observed in other countries, which marks the end of WWI; “at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.” A red paper poppy is worn to remember, commemorate,  and honor all veterans. They are made by veterans and the profits go towards

a veteran charity. This red flower was inspired by a poem, “In Flanders Fields” and represents the first flowers that grew on the graves of fallen soldiers. In the U.S. we also celebrate Memorial Day in May, which is a more popular “Poppy Day.”

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Happy Fathers Day to dads that celebrate it today and thank you to all veterans, present and past.

Vocabulary:

Today: Idag

Don’t forget: Glöm inte

Flowers: Blommor

Books: Böcker

Father: Far, pappa

To celebrate: Firar

Remember: Minns


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Halloween in Sweden

Growing up in New York Halloween meant dressing up for costume parties, bobbing for apples, and trick or treating door to door. Even stores and businesses stock up candy to give to the kids. When I was a little older Halloween was more about the massive candy sales, carving jack o’lanterns, and decorating with gravestones, half buried skeletons, glow in the dark eyes, and cobwebs. You can’t go anywhere without seeing spooky decorations everywhere.

Pumpkin Picking Two Years Ago vs. “Bobbing for Pumpkins” This Year

The cashiers literary didn’t know how to ring it up or what to charge.

Halloween in Sweden just isn’t the same. There’s the occasional costume party. Some bars have Halloween themed nights. But… there’s no decorated houses, porches or windows. No Pop-up Halloween stores to excitedly browse. No gigantic bags of individually wrapped candy that will be half price in a week. No candy corn. No haunted houses. No pumpkin patches to find the perfect pumpkin. No excited trick or treaters. (So Far)

Thankfully, our local bakery bakes Halloween themed cakes:

The Americanized Halloween traditions I’m so used to were introduced to Sweden in the 1990’s, supposedly from Hard Rock Cafe and a Swedish year-round costume chain called “Buttericks”, but American traditions are also widely known and sometimes mimicked in Sweden through TV and Movies. With all the hype and festivities, a lot of people forget that Halloween is not an American holiday, but instead has Pagan (fall harvest festival of Samhain) and Christian (All Saints Eve/ All Hallows’ Eve) roots, which was brought to America by the surge of Irish immigrants in the 19th century and became mainstream in the 20th century.

Similarly to Valentines day (Read Here), Halloween is observed and known in Sweden, but not nearly to the same extent. This is ALL of the Halloween stuff I could find  in town, aside from a couple bars and bakeries:

I’ve read a few interesting reasons why Sweden hasn’t jumped on the Halloween bandwagon:

1) All Saints Day is traditionally observed here, which is a time to pay respect to saints, visit the graves of loved ones, and light candles in remembrance. The two holidays conflict too much, as the contrast between them is too drastic. Some think they are the same day, but they are not. Alla Helgons Dag = All Saints Day Alla Helgons Afton (eve) = Halloween

2) Many people here view Halloween as only celebrating with scary costumes such as skeletons, ghosts, witches, and zombies (From the few Halloween costumes I’ve found in stores I’ve never seen anything cute and fun like princess’s, cowboys, cartoon characters, or superheroes) Too many “Tricks” are associated as part of the regular tradition, such as toilet papering and throwing rotten eggs. This seems to discourage parents.

3) Youngsters in Sweden dress up as witches for Easter (Read here), starsholders for Lucia, and gingerbread cookies for Christmas. Another costume? No Thanks.

4) Trick or Treating is pointless when Swedes have a huge  lösgodis (Loose candy) consumption and buy candy regularly.

Some confusion about the “When” is also a part of the Swedish Halloween downfall. While some people celebrate on the “traditional” or “popular” date October 31st, some Swedes will still celebrate Halloween on the eve of All Saints Day, even though it is now a floating date –  the first Saturday between October 31st and November 6th. I’ve read stories of expats being very confused about finally receiving their first ever trick or treaters, but it was almost a week later and they weren’t prepared. There are also some school parties or bar themed parties the weekend BEFORE, which spreads out the holiday celebration even thinner.

I was sad to hear that carving pumpkins is also not too common (I’ve seen two outside of a toy store), and many Swedes have never carved a pumpkin! I couldn’t resist the tradition- and it turns out my husband HAS carved pumpkins and is quite skilled at it!

I just stumbled upon a website for a pumpkin patch  in Sweden that an American started in 1998: Louie’s Pumpkin Patch  It might be something to check out next year!

Additionally the island of Öland has a yearly fall harvest festival Skördefest during the last days on September, which looks like fun! Öland  is known for the Swedish pumpkin growing, and has expanded since the introduction of Halloween.

I dressed up a little witchy to celebrate All Hallows Eve, and was met with strange looks. Maybe because it was during the day. I’ve heard reports from classmates of spotting other people dressed up, but haven’t seen more than two.

 

My earrings are cute spiders…because the devil is in the details :)

Next year I’m having a Halloween party to bring the celebration to ME.

In the meantime, I’m planning Thanksgiving Dinner for my Swedish family! Any tips?

Happy Halloween Everyone! *And a lot of love and prayers to those who lost so so much in Hurricane Sandy, I am thankful that my friends and family only sustained minimal damage but NYC as a whole is on my mind – Halloween has been a needed distraction.*

Vocabulary

Halloween – Alla Helgons Afton
To Celebrate – Att Fira
Pumpkin – Pumpa
Candle – Ljus
Costume –  Maskeraddräkt
Witch – Häxa
Spider – Spindel
Ghost – Spöke


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The Magic of Midsummer

The summer solstice is a pagan holiday when the sun rises the earliest and sets the latest which was said to be the most powerful day of the year, when magical elements are strongest. In Sweden the summer solstice is called Midsummer, once celebrated by sacrificing for fertility.

 Nowadays it is celebrated differently, but traditions and symbols are still recognized. Midsommar traditions in Sweden are so beloved and important that the day was debated to become the country’s Nationaldag, and to many people it is.

Until 1953 Midsommarafton (Mid summer eve – Most Swedish holidays are celebrated on the eve, instead of the day) was always celebrated on June 23rd. Now it is always observed on the Friday that falls between June 19th and the 26th, giving Swedes a three day weekend to properly enjoy the longest day of the year.

You can’t have a Swedish midsommar with out the maypole, “midsommarstång” (Midsummers pole). The central part to midsommar is decorating, rising, and dancing around the maypole to traditional music and traditional clothing.

One of the most popular maypole songs isSmå grodorna”  (The Little Frogs), where the dancers hop around the maypole.

“Små grodorna, små grodorna är lustiga att se.
Ej öron, ej öron, ej svansar hava de
Kou ack ack ack, kou ack ack ack,
kou ack ack ack ack kaa.”

“The little frogs, the little frogs are funny to observe.
No ears, no ears, no tails do they possess.
Kou ack ack ack, kou ack ack ack,
kou ack ack ack ack kaa.”

Not only do maypoles get adorned with flowers and ribbon, but it is also common to decorate a crown as well. From wild flowers, string, and ribbon it is traditional to make and wear a “midsommarkrans.”

From 2010, when we celebrated mid summer in New York City

Flowers and greenary are an important part of Midsommar, once believed to hold the potency of magic on this day. Herbs are stronger, plants can bring good luck and health, and picking nine different sorts of wildflowers and placing them under your pillow would make you dream of your future spouse on this night.

Fresh Swedish strawberries are a top priority when celebrating Midsommar.

This year I picked berries for the first time ever, these small sweets are called “smultron,” and are a great addition to the strawberry desserts.

So very tiny, tasty, and fun to pick!

We had bowls of strawberries and smultron with mint and vanilla ice cream. We also had a strawberry and whipped cream cake, and a rhubarb and Strawberry pie!

Midsommar is also known for the new potatoes. Fresh from the ground, covered in dirt, and ready to be scrubbed –  new potatoes are one of the centerpieces of the midsommar meals. New potatoes paired with an assortment of pickled herring and boiled eggs followed by fresh strawberries is the way to go.

Aside from the food, the flowers, the magic, the maypole, the dancing, and the music, there are the games. Many friends and families play group games on midsommar as part of the festivities.

We played a classic Swedish game called “Kubb”

The real magic though, is in enjoying the 18 hours of daylight with great company.

Glad Midsommar!

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