Today is the 24th of December and in Sweden this is the day we celebrate Christmas. I know, I know… we are not normal… but this way it’s over and done with before we suffer too much. Don’t get me wrong, I like Christmas…. no, that’s not entirely true, I have mixed emotions about it. However, it would take a very coldhearted person not to be affected by the enthusiasm a 7 year old can show for everything christmasy.
On Monday evening, we were at our daughter’s school for the Swedish version of a Natitvity play. The stage was filled with nervously giggling 6, 7, 8 and 9 year-olds, some of wich were clinging on to cuddly animals sizes ranging from natural-rabbit-size to big-enough-for-the-child-to-hide-completely-behind. These animals were later to act as props for the nativity part of the event, filling the stable in Bethlehem with large bears, dogs, Pingu the penguin, an elk (after all, the play was set in Sweden), a dinosaur and Donald Duck. Before the birth of Jesus could start, Frida’s class performed a dance from ancient times. They had done the choreography themselves and they showed us hunters and gatherers, how they hunted with spears, how they made a fire and what happened when someone would eat poisonous berries. We were very proud of the way our darling daughter died on stage and was buried by her tribesmen together with cermonical gifts. Do we have an actress in the family?
On Christmas Eve, all of Sweden grinds to a halt at exactly 3 pm, as everybody gathers in front of the altar of these times: the TV. On every 24th of December since 1960 Swedish television have shown “The Wonderful World of Disney – From all of us to all of you” and I have seen it every christmas since I was born. The children of today don’t really see the point of watching it, saying “can’t we save it to the DV-R and watch it later…?” They have no sense for traditions…
At 4 o’clock, the kids are almost besides themselves for want of opening the presents, which have been on display all day under the Christmas tree, but noooooo….. Now it’s time for the traditional Swedish Christmas smörgåsbord….. The different courses on the christmas table can vary between families, but in my family we usually have: pickled herring, meatballs, small sausages (called prince’s sausages, I have no idea why…), potatos, beetroot’s sallad, boiled ham, Swedish knäckebröd, omelette, bread and cheese and of course…. beer and schnapps. After a few hours of eating and drinking we are not hungry anylonger and someone says “now I have to go out and buy a newspaper”…. After a while, there is a knock on the door and the children goes to open and let Santa in. The adults offers Santa some Glögg (Swedish mulled wine) and Santa hardly ever rejects the offer, although he probably already have had enough beer and schnapps to get him into trouble should his sled be pulled over by the reindeer police. The children wait VERY impatiently but they know better than to trouble an unknown bearded old man with strange clothes and a bundle on his back while he’s drinking. FINALLY the presents are being handed out and one of the children will assist Santa, since he needs to be sitting down because of his fragile state. When all presents have reached their final destination, Santa leaves and the ritual thrashing of paper and string begins with the energy only very enthusiastic children can acheive. About 3 minutes and 17 seconds later, with 78 presents opened and their content diffused over the room, the children say in unison: “was that allllllll there was??????”.
And this is the cue for my mother. She will now bring out the presents given to her from behind the sofa… and open them slowly and with the full attention of everybody in the room.
A very Happy Christmas to all of you from a very cold and snowy Stockholm!