Something Swedish


Leave a comment

The First of May

IMG_3950In 1938 May 1st was recognized as the first non religious “red day” holiday in Sweden, meaning that it’s a day off of work for most. On this particular red day though, you will find even more stores and restaurants closed because it is “International Workers Day” when political rallies flare up to fight for workers rights (since 1890). On this day there are demonstrations throughout Sweden, some of which can escalate into violence. In our town it consists of a couple calm hours of speeches, music, marching with banners, and ‘events’ in town square trying to recruit people to their cause.

There’s always a lot more than politics going on on this beautiful day though – aside from the hang overs from last nights Valborg celebrations. The two things that catch my eye are the releasing of the cows (which I unfortunately wasn’t able to see) and the classic car parade (which is not a Sweden thing, but a Halmstad thing). Last year we stumbled upon the car parade by accident and posted photos. This year we went in anticipation with ice cream in hand. Instead of photos, enjoy this video so you can hear the rumble of the engines, beeping of the horns, and music blasting from the windows.


4 Comments

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!


8 Comments

Swedish Weather: “Svenskt väder”

When I first moved to Sweden people thought I was crazy for arriving in the middle of winter. They are even more surprised to learn that over the past three years almost all my visits have been in the dead of winter, and I still wanted to move here! Sweden is known for its harsh weather- lots of snow, wind, freezing temperatures, and 17 hours of darkness during those winter months (November – March). The climate between Southern and Northern Sweden is severe. Where the January temperatures in our town usually bottom out around -4 C (25F), that is nothing compared to Middle/Northern Sweden where Winter temperatures hit -15 C (5F). Our 17 hours of darkness is nothing compared to the 20+ hours of night the further North you travel. Thankfully our Southern weather is not as drastic: less snow, more light, less frigid, but more wind. The winter months affects all Swedes though, and everyone looks forward to summer days filled with sunshine and warmth.

When Spring begins to peek out of hiding Sweden starts waking up from its many months of slumber. A few weeks ago Spring had sprung and even showed a glorious preview of summer. The streets were crowded, the parks were sprawling with sunbathers, the ice cream and gelato trucks were out, people were grilling and picnicking. It was a week of bliss. A week of exactly what makes Sweden tick. It’s an amazing feeling to finally feel the warm sun on your skin after months of dark and cold.

It  was. WAS. For the past two weeks temperatures have fallen and the sun went back into hiding. It has been raining almost everyday, cloudy, or windy. This type of unpredictable, ever changing weather is common in April, but I was hoping not so much in May! At least we now have 15 hours of daylight (Even if it is filled with clouds) and the temperatures are  usually above 10 degrees Celsius (in the 50’s F. The hottest it usually gets in Southern Sweden is around 80 degrees Fahrenheit, which I think is perfect!)  The sun makes a guest appearance a few times a day, but never long enough to be considered a “nice day.” There was one beautiful day in the past two weeks and it is supposed to start looking better on Friday (A little cloudy but no rain). It feels like One day forward, three days backwards these days. I’m beginning to understand why Swedes are so quick to jump in the sunlight as soon as it appears – it might not last very long!

EDIT: Mother nature most have read my post because that 80% rain forecast turned out to be a pretty nice day! Some clouds and wind, but mild. We even played tennis.


7 Comments

Valborg- How We Welcome Spring in Sweden

The warmth of Spring showed its shy face yesterday, and we think it’s here to stay this time. We felt the sun on our faces, admired the beautiful blue skies, enjoyed the smell of barbeques cooking, saw people enjoying picnics, and soaking up the rays – sunbathing anywhere and everywhere. We spotted our favorite gelato truck and knew it is finally Spring. What perfect timing as yesterday was Valborgsmässoafton, which is the eve of Walpurgis Night – a time to welcome and embrace Spring. Thankfully it embraced us right back.

This celebration of Spring is common in many European countries but not in the States so I was very excited. The festivals are most popular in Southern Sweden (maybe because of the climate difference?) and may be influenced by the pagan Northern European traditions of May Day. Large bon fires litter the Swedish towns as the main event for the celebrations, which is said to have originated because on May 1st farm animals were allowed out to graze and fires were set in an effort to protect them from predators.

In Halmstad our bon fire is set up on the Nissan River- out of reach for any pranksters to light it early.

The band started at 7:30 and people started to gather an hour before, some early to enjoy a picnic in the park and others to grab a good spot near the river. Thousands of people show up to listen to the music, the choirs, the speech, and watch the fire burn. Traditional spring songs are a huge part of the celebration, along with the national anthem.

The speech was given by the headmaster of the university, aside from a few random words the only sentence I caught was “We hope Spring always comes back.” The first choir was students from the school, named köörmit (kör=choir, the name is a wordplay to sound like Kermit) and the second is the ‘Men Choir’- which oddly enough was lead by a women conductor.

Some examples of traditional Spring songs:

Vintern rasat ut
Vintern rasat ut bland våra fjällar,
drivans blommor smälta ned och dö.
Himlen ler i vårens ljusa kvällar,
solen kysser liv i skog och sjö.
Snart är sommarn här i purpurvågor,
guldbelagda, azurskiftande
ligga ängarne i dagens lågor,
och i lunden dansa källorne.

The winter raged among our peeling;
drift flowers melt down and die.
The sky smiles in the spring’s bright nights,
sun kisses lives in forests and lakes.
Soon it is summer here in purple waves,
gold coated, azur shifting
lie the meadows in today’s flames,
and in the grove the wells dance.

Majsång (Sköna maj, välkommen)

Sköna maj, välkommen till vår bygd igen!
Sköna maj, välkommen, våra lekars vän!
Känslans gudaflamma väcktes vid din ljusning;
jord och skyar stamma kärlek och förtjusning;
sorgen flyr för våren, glädje ler ur tåren,
morgonrodnad ur bekymrens moln.

Beautiful May, welcome to our area again!
Beautiful May, welcome, our playful friend!
emotions godly flame rose at your dawn;
earth and clouds stutter love and delight;
sorrow flee for spring, happy smiles from tears;
morning blush from troubled clouds.

At around 8:45 we spotted a kayak approaching with two flames, which were held by a small boy who looked very excited to light the fire. They circled and lit it from all sides- quickly plumes of smoke filled the air.

Then came the flames. Then out came the ducks! Only two or three but they swam away at full speed:

Once the fire was roaring more kayaks came to perform the torch parade. There was 10 kayaks with fire at the front and end of each. The circled the fire a few times, making different shapes and patterns.

The fire did not burn for as long as I expected, I’m sure it lasts longer in other places where this tradition is an even bigger deal such as Goteborg, Uppsala, and Lund which are known for having a large Sista April (Last Day of April) celebration including events from the graduates of their universities.

For someone who has never experienced such a celebration it was something special. What else is better than celebrating wonderful weather? This is the time when Sweden shines.

The rest of the night was celebrated with great friends and liquor, the best way to spend Valborgsmässoafton.


6 Comments

Return of the River: “flodens återkomst”

We’ve been noticing a hint of Spring in the air the last three or four days. The temperatures aren’t as frigid, the wind isn’t slapping us in the face as hard, and you can actually feel the warmth of the sun caressing your check. Hubby and I went for a walk yesterday, the plan was to show me how to get to my SFI classes and see how long the walk takes (straight forward 15 minute walk). Afterwards we planned on continuing our walk to the beach and take some photos. The ground was wet and the wind was a bit too chilly so we decided to skip the beach, but it was a good thing we had the camera with us. Just as we were arriving at the bridge to go to town we noticed that the ice on the river was melting. A true sign that spring is arriving – we are no longer experiencing freezing temperatures every single day, almost all the snow on the ground is gone (it’s been the same 4 inches of snow and ice lingering for 3 weeks now). I know that people usually consider the first sign of spring to be when they catch the first glimpse of flowers starting to bloom, to that I say that the vendors selling tulips in Stora Torg are also a delightful reminder.

I dragged hubby closer  to the water so I could take a few photos, turns out we arrived at the perfect time.  The last chunks of ice were drifting down stream, breaking in front of our eyes and before we knew it most of the ice was gone beneath the bridge. A few minutes later and we would have missed it.

It’s nice to have our river back, released from Winters frozen grasp. We could hear the sounds of the ice cracking and crashing surrounded by the white noise of rushing water. It was pretty amazing to watch as one huge sheet of ice broke lose and started moving, like a boat leaving a dock. I took several photos to document its movement, I like that you can see our shadows appearing and disappearing as it passes us by:

It wasn’t until afterwards that I realized I could have filmed all of this, but I think the stop and go captured it nicely. We crossed the bridge to find where all the ice had come to a halt, large chunks of ice building up and climbing on top of one another.

And so, the ice is not all gone but it is a good start. Until then, it’s a fun photo op. I was excited to go around along the (deep) edge of the river to get a different angle under the bridge, hubby followed along saying that he’s been “supporting my antics since 2008.”

Two days afterwards and the ice is now all completely thawed. Out of sight, out of mind. It’s nice to go out without needing to bundle up.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 486 other followers