Advent Calendar 2017: Dec 24th - New Year's Eve, God Jul!
Dec 24th – God Jul!! How we’re making Christmas happen, aka, thank goodness for the tradition of the tomtar (gnomes) or we would have some serious splainin’ to do.
So what do you do when you have beautiful stockings that you hand made and love, and a tradition of opening gifts on Christmas Day (the 25th, Christmas Day is the 25th)… and yet, Santa is supposed to have already waltzed through the door, dropping not just any bag, but your family heirloom present bag filled with presents from not just Santa but from everyone? The logistics are challenging to explain to a very logistic-minded 5 year old. It’s just magic only works for so much. So here goes.
On Christmas Eve, when you’re with your Finnish family, Santa comes to your home through the door. Or the Great-Uncle-you’re-eating-dinner-with’s home. He hits these kids’ houses early because they are closer to the North Pole and he comes in because he likes the food better. It’s comfort food for him and the people are like family to him. You know, because they’re all Finns after all. This is true even when your Finnish family is in Texas. He makes exceptions for expats.
Now, Santa has a bag filled with presents from other family members because of the gnomes, or tomtar. Santa is basically the king of the gnomes (in Swedish he is called “Jul Tomte” or Christmas Gnome. No Saint anyone up here). And since he is the king of the gnomes, they help him out. They watch you though your windows if they live outside, or the cracks in cupboards if they are house gnomes, and they keep track of your behavior and what you like. Good thing too, because we totally spaced the whole “Letter to Santa” thing this year, which is too bad, because he writes back to Swedish kids! Next year.
They also come in the house from time to time and you just hope they are in a helping mood. For example, we got a good snow a few weeks back and a sled just appeared in Felix’s room. Get this… with a bow on it! Those wily tomtar just knew he needed one and that when there is a good snow, you can’t wait for Christmas. You’ve gotta get out to sled.
For Christmas Eve, they come in, steal all the packages from your family that aren’t being guarded by a dog or two and sneak them off to Santa. If your dog is elder and hard-of-hearing, they’re able to sneak around him. If your mom or dad leaves out the special family present bag, they collect that as well. This helps Santa have a nice full bag of gifts to share with everyone, and adds a little more magic to the gifts from the humans. (I wish the tomtar had taken some of the gifts we had in Stockholm and carried them to Helsinki for us… the car is uncomfortably full! But they help enough. This is a first world problem to have!!)
So then Santa can be ready to bust through the door on Christmas Eve. There’s just no waiting for the next day when Santa is there in your living room. So, twist our arms, we’ll open some gifts between courses. This year we’re having a celebration with the larger extended family and we aren’t all staying in one place, so we’re not going to open everything on Christmas eve till late in the evening. If you don’t have to stay up super late after making a big meal, it’s nice to rest. We’ll all go to wherever we’re living and staying after dinner and a few presents and I’ll put my kids to bed reading The Nativity from my dear friend Cynthia in Portland and ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas from another dear friend Kay in Houston. If you haven’t seen this version of the Nativity by Julie Vivas, you should rush to the bookstore and pick one up. You can because it’s still open in the States, in Finland, Christmas Eve is a holiday, so everything, and I mean EVERYTHING is closed. If I’m lucky I’ll go to a Christmas Eve service in a beautiful church at 2pm. I think beautiful, candle-lit Midnight Mass is going to have to wait until I can start my Christmas dinner at 4pm and my kids are old enough to be dragged along as well, half asleep no doubt.
We will leave our (travel) stockings hung, if not by the chimney with care, somewhere, and in the night the tomtar will have to help Santa out since he’s already come by. They will help fill our stockings with M&Ms and oranges and maybe a few surprise treats by the … radiator? We’ll open the rest of our gifts as a family, in our PJs, and enjoy a simple breakfast and probably lose Felix to a Lego daze quite quickly. (Spoiler Alert! Don’t tell Felix he’s getting some Legos! Yeah, he assumes). I think we’ll try a mix between pure euphoric present chaos and taking time to appreciate what you’ve received. We’ll try to make rice porridge but am not sure if the rental kitchen will accommodate. And we have dinner to go to on Christmas Day with a different relative.
I think in the end, I miss dinner at my Aunt’s the most. The meals and family communion we had when I was a kid are now just a very fond memory, anyway. My grandmother has passed, and almost all of us have our own families, many of us have moved away (you might assume we moved the farthest… and you’d be right!), and we aren’t kids romping around a big house with awesome toys, seeing older cousins who are home from college, and fielding good hearted teasing by aunts and uncles. I’m sure the food would be just as good, though! I’m sad we can’t be closer to get the next generation of cousins together more often, but maybe next year? Eh? Eh? Another great holiday book for inspiration to bring your family together, check out “Over the River and Through the Woods” by Linda Ashman. It makes me veclempt every time.
So that will be our ScandiAmericansk Jul Christmas. I’ll try to share some pictures on Christmas Day… you know, the 25th, for our last day of the Advent calendar. It’s been fun, challenging, and eye opening to me to write like this everyday and I hope you’ve enjoyed it. I’ll see what I can do to keep writing but my family promises you it won’t be daily!
God Jul everyone!