Advent Calendar 2017: December 1
Our Swedish Life: Advent in Sweden
Glad Advent! You can probably translate that without my help. In places where there is no Thanksgiving, ie, everywhere but the US and also here in Sweden, the beginning of Advent (Dec 1st or the first of the four Sundays away from Christmas) is when you “can” start getting ready for Christmas by putting up decorations, playing music, making Christmas Spice everything. The shops start a couple of weeks before that, but in true Swedish fashion, almost no one else bucks the trend. Last night, the eve of Advent, was the first night I saw many stars in windows. And the rule is, every window needs a light. I believe it is supposed to help the wise men find Jesus. Super helpful up here, won’t throw them off one bit…
AND, now it begins! AND everyone has been champing at the bit!! (Except for probably the large Muslim population of the city and my Russian-Jewish neighbor. Probably not them so much. I will have to find out if they do their own lighting of their homes, living in such a dark place.)
The shops have been filled with bright stars, window lights, gnomes, woodland creatures, fake snow and more for a few weeks and as the days get darker and darker, everyone is eager to add more light. The street decorations are stunning. Huge and everywhere and so very festive! The shop windows are like a sunny day with so many window stars. They are so much more than Ikea’s cheap version. They all cost between $30 and $100 and have beautiful designs, glitter, patterns. Fortunately there are so many amazing ones that I can’t decide this year and bought a cheap one for about $7. Fewer choices in that price range!
Everyone grumbles about November and calls it the darkest month because the fall leaves are all gone, it’s cold and wet but not yet snowy, and the sun has started to really disappear, but you aren’t yet “allowed” to decorate your whole house with lights for Christmas. I found November to be really lovely. We had our first snow, the leaves hung on in the first part of the month, and had our children been older and in better sorts we could have gone for the candle-lit celebration at the cemetery for remembrance on All Saints Day. The sun-light here, when it was out, was just amazing. The whole time the sun was up it was the “Golden Hour” because of the angle of the earth. You just had to be sure to make it outside to see it, and hope for a cloudless day. It is getting colder but with the right clothes, so far, no problem. Also, our container arrived in early November, so perhaps I was too busy trying to dig out of a pile of boxes to notice the onset of deep darkness. And I’m not stuck in an office every day, so I see the sun when it’s out. I digress.
Jul, or Christmas, is filled with a million small traditions as it is everywhere. One common one here is to have an Advent Calendar for EVERYTHING. You have the paper ones, the candy ones, the toy ones, the DIY ones. There is also a radio advent calendar and a TV advent calendar that tell stories, one snippet per day. There are many more on YouTube of varying levels of funding; the Swedish Wild West Town does one, oh my. Many shops have Advent Calendar specials on different products each day. Instagram is buzzing with just about every blogger/Instagram-user in town posting little tidbits. I would say that they’re already posting constantly so it’s not special. In my case, I’ve left you all in the dark about our life here for 6 months, so me writing is totally different, right?
So now our planning and decorating begins in earnest. I’m struggling to find CommandHooks to hang everything or we would have been finished decorating a week ago. (We're American and we can decorate after TurkeyDay!) We have lights to hang, stockings to hang (sadly no fireplace), a place for Christmas Cards to hang, and to figure out where, when, and how to get a Christmas Tree. The biggest hang-up on that so far is that I can’t find a Christmas Tree stand that holds water. Why didn’t I just keep that??!?!?!?! More later on “Things I’d wish I knew before we packed/planned”. The Swedish ones just hold up the tree so it dies super fast. Most people don’t get them till two weeks before Christmas, some on Christmas day… I can’t have Advent without our tree decorations!!
Tomorrow we’re going to the Jul Marknad at Skansen. The Christmas Market is another thing that is ubiquitous here. There are craft ones that run a wide gamut from traditional Scandinavian to feminist-themed, some commercial tourist ones, every local farm has one, the Queen’s palace has one. I can hardly remember who’s is when because there are so many and I want to go to ALL of them and I’m pretty sure our kids will make it incredibly painful. Tomorrow, we’re trying Skansen’s and I’ll let you know how it goes! I will also get more pictures of the Christmas scene here. For now, try to imagine it. Happy Advent everyone!