Home: A Swedish Holiday

Hello Friends,

My mother's family is from Sweden. My brother and I are half Swedish.  An important fact for this post, which is half story and half Swedish tradition/folklore.

Open my freezer and you are likely to find Vetebrod.  My family refers to it simply as 'bulla', a sweet bread. 

A story...
Last year I became friends with a gal who was born and raised in southern Sweden. In addition to being runners and career women, we are both Swedish.  We spend a lot of time together.  Predawn running, discussing daily life highs/lows, books, etc.

Over the last year, I have realized I wasn't raised with Swedish traditions, and often wonder HOW is this possible?! CAN it be possible? Our friendship has created curiosity, often leading to researching a story, folklore, or tradition. My childhood memories include Limpa, cheese, lingonberries, caviar, knackebrod, lutefisk, pletta, raggmunk, meatballs... plenty of Swedish food but sadly it did not include long-standing Swedish tradition.

This brings me to yesterday.   I joined my friend, and her children, to attend a Swedish Christmas Market and St Lucia celebration.  I was hoping to find Dala Horses and straw ornaments.  I didn't know what to expect but was surprised to see gnomes everywhere.

I was looking at a few adorable gnomes (like the ones below) when my friend asked if I was planning to buy them.  As soon as I said I wasn't, she jumped at the chance to buy them. I was left wondering what the gnomes signify; I don't remember seeing Swedish gnomes as a child.

Swedish Christmas History and Tradition
A pagen celebration of Jul in the Nordic countries is often described as "a midwinter celebration to eat and drink jul/yule". In medieval wooden calendars and pre-Christian picture stones, symbolized by a barrel of ale, or a drinking horn.

December 13 is an important day for the Swede's
1) St Lucia Day:  a modern festival of light combines elements of pagan and Christian tradition.

- The Norse celebrated the winter solstice with large bonfires to scare off evil spirits and to alter the course of the sun.
- St Lucy was killed by the Romans for her religious beliefs, in 304ce.

After converting to Christianity around 1000, the Norse incorporated the legend of St. Lucia into their celebration.

2) The tree is decorated!

December 24
Jultomte (a Christmas Gnome) travels with a Yule goat, delivering presents door to door.  It is customary to leave a behind a bowl of porridge with butter, in gratitude.

This is where I confess that I have never heard of Tomte {gasp}

Tomte folklore: In ancient times Tomte was believed to be the "soul" of the first farm dweller.  If treated well, the tomte protects the family and animals from evil and misfortune. Tomte is commonly seen with a pig, a popular symbol for fertility and their role as guardians of the farmstead.

In 1881, this traditional mythical character was turned into the white-bearded, red-capped friendly fellow.

January 5
The eve of Twelfth Night.  Boys dress up as the Wise Men and carry a lighted candle on a pole topped with a star, singing carols

January 13
St Knut's Day (twenty days after Christmas).  Pack away Christmas decorations, costumed children eat the last of the wrapped candies left on the tree, out goes the tree to the tune of the last song of Christmas.

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I'm left to wonder how immigrating from Vastervik to NYC changed my grandparents family traditions.  My Grandmother was a devout Lutheran and my Grandfather didn't believe in god.

If only I could have an adult conversation with my grandparents.  Get to know them, their traditions, why they came to America.  Hearing it firsthand would have been lovely.

For now I think I will embrace Jultomte and the Yule Goat.  I love pigs... buying a few at the market :)

Do you have any traditions that you look forward to, or avoid?

God Jul and Happy St Lucia! 
            Much love, Mari