I started a business. It made me want to drink copious quantities, smoke myself into oblivion and hit my head against a brick wall. Instead I wrote a blog.
'Oh my God, she even published a blog on Xmas day. Does she never take any rest?'
Well, yes and no. It's not as bad as you might think because Christmas is actually celebrated on the 24th in Sweden - it's the law. So I celebrated it yesterday.
'How can that be? Christmas is the 25th. It's not debatable!'
For a country so astoundingly logical in every other sense, it is a most curious thing. Christmas Day is like a non-event. Our Boxing day. Even more curious is that they start celebrating Christmas with 'Little Christmas Eve' on the 23rd. Not able to wait to tuck into their ham, red cabbage and schnapps (tasty) they have a sneaky snifter the night before...the night before.
'So what happens on the 25th?'
Not much. I get to eat nice Christmas food like Turkey and mince pies after a tortuous Christmas Eve, of having to heavily breathe my way through several types of herring and another rather pungent gelatinous fish dish - this year even without the aid of any alcohol to wash it down. Nevertheless in Sweden, you have to eat herring on Xmas eve. It's the law.
(Unless you're pregnant...then you get to eat what you choose - cabbage pie, cinnamon bread and breaded ham :)
As we set off on the boat for the mainland then to spend Xmas with the family, there were about 30 people who had Santa hats on. To get into the real spirit of Christmas in Sweden, you have to have one of these hats. But they aren't frivolous and woe betide you if you laugh at them. It's perfectly normal thing to wear - out of respect for Christmas. Don't mock the hat.
And as my boyfriend's father - an ex-judge of a respectable 76 years - waved at us from the harbor with his Santa hat of an almost equivalent age, I realized that if I intend to stay here, one day I would have to have - and wear - a Santa hat. In Sweden, it's the law.
On arrival we were greeted by his mother decked out in a fabulous red suit brimming with gold jewelry (topped by a Santa hat) and I got out my first gift. A box of crackers. They looked at them dubiously
'What do you do with them?'
'You pull them and they have gifts and jokes inside. And a hat.'
'But we already have hats.' they said. No more debates on that point then.
The jokes (in English) were barely translatable and the gifts were, well, as good as you're going to get in Tesco Family crackers. But it was still worth it to see my father in law jump at the crack and hear him say in a shocked tone ' Oi oi oi, we'll have the police round here in a minute.'
The judge has decreed; crackers are against the law.
From the Ikea Rocking Moose my daughter received from her aunt and the axe (and logs) my boyfriend received from his father to the house thermometer I received from my parents in law (because everyone knows what the temperature is indoors and outside in Sweden apparently - it's the law) it's a surprisingly different culture to get to know. In fact, there's very little about a Swedish Christmas that is recognizable to an English mind when it comes to tradition (did I mention there's very little chocolate either?).
Luckily, the most important ingredients are there. Love, generosity, warmth and laughter. Just remember not to laugh at the Santa Hats. It's the law.
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