Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sankta Lucia, aka "Saint Lucy"

December 13th marks the celebration of Sankta Lucia in Sweden and other Scandinavian countries. This is an annual celebration that has taken place for many years throughout this country, and Jo and I were fortunate enough to be invited such a performance at Astradskolan. When I asked Julle and Daniel where this tradition stemmed from and who this “Lucia” was, they both said she was a young Italian girl who had been burned as a martyr. I didn’t quite understand the Italian-Swedish connection, so naturally I did a little research.
Sankta Lucia girls and Starboys at Astradskolan
According to Wikipedia (where I get all of my information) Saint Lucy, Sankta Lucia, is believed to be a young Sicilian saint who suffered as a martyr. Her legend goes back into the Middle Ages where she had been seeking help for her mother’s long-term illness. After becoming a devout Christian, she vowed to remain a virgin despite marriage and thus was denounced by her betrothed. The date of December 13th traces back to Sicilian Catholics in which large feasts of traditional homemade Italian dishes are eaten in memory of Saint Lucy’s averting of a famine. In Italy, it is also common for children to receive gifts on the night between December 12th and 13th.
Saint Lucy is on of few saints celebrated by the Lutheran-Scandinavian people. This celebration is an adaptation of Christian and pagan beliefs and is based strongly on the yearly struggle between light and darkness in which the winter solstice brings. The tradition of Sankta Lucia has become imbedded in the Swedish culture and is often practiced within individual homes. Typically, the eldest daughter is crowned “Lucia”, wearing a long white robe tied with a red ribbon at the waist and a wreath-like crown topped with candles. Younger girls will accompany her with white dresses tied with tinsel at the waist, while the “star boys” wear white robes, cone hats, and carry stars. It is traditional for the Sankta Lucia procession to sing holiday songs and serve Lussekatter (Lucia buns) with coffee.
Lussekatter and coffee :)
At the school’s celebration, Tomten, better known in America as “Santa”, made his debut. The celebration of Sankta Lucia begins on December 13th (12 days before Christmas) and this holiday season will end on January 6th (12 days after Christmas).

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christmas Around the World

Jo and I with Tomten in Ljungby
Christmas, also called Christ’s Mass, Nativity, Noel, and Feast of the Nativity, is an annual holiday celebrated by Christians and non-Christians worldwide. Originally this time of year held a pagan festival in which a winter feast would accompany the Roman New Year - Christians adopted this pre-existing date to commemorate Christ coming into the world. Although there are still many pagan traditions that influence Christmas, such as gift-giving, greenery, and lights, this time of year has become Christianized with the nativity scenes and the honoring Jesus’ birth. This will be my first Christmas that I am not celebrating in America, and thus, I decided to learn more about my new home’s Christmas traditions. I had to do a little research for both countries' "typical" Christmas, and although each family has their own traditions, these are the most commonly practiced. Enjoy!


Date celebrated: December 25; holiday season begins after Thanksgiving (4th Thursday of November) with the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade ending around January 6 (when the wise men visited Christ)
Santa bringing up the rear of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade
Typical foods: turkey, goose, duck or ham served with cranberry sauce, plum pudding or pumpkin pie, nuts and fruit, candy canes, gingerbread, eggnog, apple cider, baked breads, cookies
Typical Christmas dinner in America
Decorations: holly, mistletoe, garland, wreaths, snowmen, angels, snowflakes, nutcrackers, Christmas trees, Santa, reindeer, nativity scene, often the roof of the home is outlined with lights
American house decorated for Christmas
Christmas Tree: decorated with lights, popcorn strings, candy canes, ornaments, tinsel, topped with a star of Bethlehem or an angel; typically placed near a window
American Christmas tree
Religion services: Christmas Eve midnight mass, some churches will have Christmas morning mass
Jesus: Born to a virgin mother in a manger in Bethlehem, visited by 3 wise men, surrounded by shepherds and sheep
Nativity team
Santa: travels around the world on a sled pulled by reindeer (led by Rudolph); Santa comes down the chimney of homes to leave presents under the tree while children are sleeping; “bad” children get coal in their stockings; eats milk and cookies; lives in the North Pole with elves and Mrs. Claus; wears red, has a rotund belly and a white beard
Santa flying through the night sky
Traditions: pictures with Santa, writing letters to Santa, Christmas movies shown on various TV-channels throughout the month of December, Nativity plays, Christmas carolers, cookie exchange where families bake holiday cookies/treats and share them with neighbors, “secret Santa” where groups of individuals are secretly assigned to give a gift to another member of their group, mistletoe – if two people are standing underneath it, they are supposed to kiss

SVENSK JUL, aka Swedish Christmas

Date celebrated: December 24; holiday season begins with the 1st Sunday of Advent and Saint Lucia, celebrated on December 13 where boys dress up as “star boys” in long white shirts while one of the daughters in each family wears a white robe, red sash, and evergreen crown with illuminated candles; holiday ends January 13
Sankta Lucia procession at Astradskolan
Typical foods: rice porridge, meatballs, pickled herring, spareribs, small hot dogs, lutfisk, pork sausage, salmon, Janssons frestelse (potatoe casserole with anchovies), julmust (Christmas soft drink), Christmas beer, glogg (red wine with spices, usually served warm), gingerbread, ginger snaps 
Prinskorv (mini hot dogs), meatballs, Janssens frestelse (potatoes and anchovies casserole), the back pot has non-alcoholic glögg in it 
The cold foods: Ham, rödbetssallad (beet salad), mustard, 3 types of herring (tomato, mustard, and vinegar),
deviled eggs, sausage, liver pate, salmon
Decorations: advent candles and large stars in windows, red tulips, nativity scene, advent calendar. outside light decorations, Santa Claus
Advent Candle and Star of Bethlehem in a window
Christmas tree: straw ornaments, star always on the top, candy canes, tinsel, ornaments (red and white), gifts under the tree
Svensk Julgran
Religion Services: Midnight Mass on December 24th
Santa (“Tomten”): A family member dresses up wearing a white beard and red robe, knocks on the door or window to bring a sack full of gifts to the family; he walks around Sweden on a one-man sled to deliver gifts to the Swedish families; eats rice pudding. This is the reason that Americans celebrate Christmas on the 25th. He can come before or after Kalle Anka Jul, depending on the family
Family member dressed as Tomten over the years
Traditions: at 3pm on December 24, everyone in Sweden will watch “Kalle Anka Jul” (Donald Duck Christmas); typically there will be a party on the 25th and 26th for Swedes 18+ where they will oftentimes drink mass quantities of alcohol and celebrate with their friends; many families will eat breakfast on Christmas morning (the 25th) before going out to celebrate. There is a TV show that the children watch where they open their advent calendar candy in the morning. 
Donald Duck's Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 5, 2011

You know you're homeless when...

We’ve all seen the homeless in our area sifting through the trash for buried treasure: old clothes and furniture, sometimes electronics, or even uneaten food. In Sweden, these treasures lie in people’s recycling bins. Jo and I have quite the collection of recyclable items, however it’s mostly the plastic bottles we’re after. Depending on the size, a plastic bottle can be worth up to 2 kroner! Yes, dear readers, I've resorted to scavenging for something that is worth a mere 30 cents. Nevertheless, this has proved to be quite a moneymaking deal, as Jo and I have been doing this since our arrival in September. We have a jar that hides in an undisclosed location in the apartment full of our earnings. This money will not be counted until the last week of our time in Sweden at which point we will be taking our money over to Systembolaget (the liquor store), spending it all, and throwing the biggest and best going away party that Ljungby has ever seen.

Initially, the gathering started fairly low key, as we would just take bottles that were easily accessible. This mainly consisted of people’s trash from the two, and only, get-togethers we had at our apartment. We then decided to move on to practice, asking our teammates to, instead of throwing away their Celsius drink cans, let us take the garbage home. This gradually grew into a part of our everyday lives.

Case 1: At the pre-match meals, some of the team moms provide us with multiple beverage options, usually some flavored seltzer water—its very Euro. The first home match, Jo and I really wanted to take these 2-liter bottles, but weren’t sure how the team and parents (who bought them) would feel about us more or less “stealing” their money. So, I hid the empty bottles in my pants. All four of them.
Bottles in my pants.
Case 2: Any time Jo and I leave the gym, or any place that we see people drinking from cans and plastic bottles, we request that they give them to us instead of throwing them away. Sometimes they forget, forcing us to rummage through the trashcans. Thanks to Sweden, and my low self-consciousness, I can now cross “dumpster diving” off my bucket list.

Case 3: We’ve managed to suck Selma into our twisted ways: when leaving a men’s Elite Series match, she noticed two unattended Coke bottles. We waited for two bystanders to leave the area before swooping in for the snatch. I realize that I just described a hawk stalking its mouse prey, but this is swiftly becoming our livelihood—don’t judge.
Jo caught Selma and I in the act!! 
Case 4: Jo and I went over to Joel’s apartment to watch our match against Falköping. Upon entering his kitchen, Jo noticed 3 FULL bags of 2-liter Coke bottles! We instantly asked his permission to have them. Despite his hesitant “yes”, we nabbed the bags as we left. It’s fair to say that both Jo and I are becoming a lot bolder with our methods of collecting.
Our overflowing recycle bin