Tuesday, 24 December 2013

English cravings for Christmas

Just before Christmas I was hit by an enormous craving for England and anything English. Luckily there's an "English shop" in Gothenburg. There I spent more money than on Christmas presents for my family ... In the picture are only some of the stuff i miss from England:
*Christmas crackers (They exist in Sweden as a tree decoration, but there's no "gun powder" inside, just a piece of sweet if you're lucky and you're not supposed to crack it open until you take the tree out.)
*Mince pies (The first time I was offered a mince pie, I said no thanks as I'm a vegetarian and thought that the pie contained meat mince!)
*Mulled wine (I could not buy the wine itself, but I found the spices. In Sweden we have "glögg" which is similar but sweeter and is served with raisins and almonds.)

*Salt & vinegar crisps (There's a Swedish brand of salt and vinegar crisps nowadays but it doesn't even taste of vinegar in comparison to Walkers.)
*Cadbury's chocolate (I'm not a massive Cadbury fan, I just bought this in a flash of nostalgia.) 
*Flap jack
*E45 cream (A bit tragic to miss a cream! But then it's the best cream for dry skin that I've ever tried. Not very fancy, but it works.)
Merry Christmas/God Jul to all blog readers out there!

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Happy Winter Solstice!

IMG_4417Hooray! The days are getting longer again! (Well, a long day doesn't sound very positive, but what I really mean is that the days are getting lighter and brighter. I could really do with some sun right now.)

In England I used to celebrate the Winter Solstice by watching the light parade "Burning of the Clocks" that went through Brighton and finished off with fireworks on the beach. It felt a bit empty not being there this year, but I went for a walk along the quayside in Gothenburg and was hit by all the artificial lights.
In the past, in Sweden, 21 December was called "Tomas fylltunna" which means "Tomas pissed barrel" as it was time to try the Christmas beer ... As I mentioned in my previous post, even in the 19th century people thought that Lucia was the longest night instead of the 21st or the 22nd. Unfortunately I have no home brewed beer to try ... 

Friday, 13 December 2013

Lucia: a Swedish tradition with many meanings

Lucia is only celebrated in Sweden and in some parts of Finland. A couple of times I've been to the Lucia celebration at the Swedish Folk High School at Loxdale Centre in Portslade, Brighton. The English people were amazed and asked what it all meant with people dressed in white and candles in their hair. I wasn't quite sure and now, when I've studied a bit of ethnology, I'm even more confused ...

Here are just some of the reasons we celebrate:
*Lucia means light. The day got its name from the Italian saint Lucia. She refused to marry and poked out her eyes. As a punishment she was sent to a brothel and was tortured to death.
*In the past people thought that 13 december was the longest night instead of 21 december. People thought it was a magical night when the animals could speak. There are also associations to Lucifer.
*Lucia was a feast before Christmas lent. Some people had as much as seven breakfasts! 
*Lucia was a tradition in the West of Sweden where the maids sang for their masters in the morning. Lucia didn't become an official tradition until 1890 when Skansen, a museum in Stockholm made it into a national celebration and in 1920 the first Lucia election was held.
*In the past Lucia marked the end of term at school and the school boys went round people's houses to sing and ask for money for their studies.
*Lucia could have a German origin. Some sources refer to St Nicholaus who gave gifts to children or a similar tradition called Christkindlein where a woman dressed in white with candles in her hair was a part of the Christmas procession.
Soures: God Jul by Lena Kättström Höök and Årets festdagar by Bringéus