Today I want to wish everyone a happy St. Lucia’s Day (or St. Lucy’s Day, as I think she’s more commonly called in the anglosphere). St. Lucia’s Day is a pretty integral part of the holiday season up here in the North, as a celebration of how the light will soon be returning after the solstice. I’ve heard that the 13th used to be considered the solstice and that was why we celebrated on that day, but I’ve also heard that that’s a myth so I’m not sure. Either way, it’s one of my favorite parts of Christmas.
Swedish television always shows a Lucia special, which is mainly music (there’s a whole reportoire of Lucia-specific Christmas songs here), in the mornings of St. Lucia’s Day. This morning, I couldn’t find the remote to the TV, so we had to watch it on the laptop, hah! But it was nice all the same. Not one of the best ones (most years they record a new one, though some years they will air an old one instead) but not bad.
Today is a nice, calm day here in the house. I’m not working, so I’m spending the day tidying up a bit and doing some writing. Hope you all are having an equally pleasant day!
Today is the second Sunday of advent. The advent candle holder below is a Swedish classic. You light one candle on the first Sunday, two on the second etc. I hope you all are having a wonderful, calm day.
I’m a bit tired today, so I’m keeping today’s post brief and just telling you about a Swedish tradition: every year, in a city called Gävle, they eract a big straw goat for Christmas called Gävlebocken (the Gävle goat). Most years, it is burnt down by some random person. Some years it isn’t, but that tends to be the exception to the rule. Although of course, if caught, the person doing the burning will likely be charged with vandalism by arson or something like that, but on the balance the burning seems to be as much of a tradition as the goat itself. No-one really seems to mind (if anything, when it is not burned done, one does get a bit surprised), although I am sure it is frustrating for the people who build the goat.
You can read more about the Gävle Goat on Wikipedia.
It’s been pretty quiet here at Zero, Eight, Love, lately. I’ve had a bit of a hectic fall, and not much time or energy for blogging. Well, it’s about to get busy in here! From today until Christmas Eve, I will be posting daily in a sort of advent calendar. All the posts will be themed around Christmas in Sweden, and it’ll be a mix of post types, some Word Pantry and Music Monday posts with other things inbetween. I might even throw in a recipe or two!
I thought we’d start at the beginning, as it were, so the first post in this calendar is a Word Pantry post about…. advent calenders!
This is one of those words that’s pretty easy to understand even if you don’t know any Swedish. Advent means advent (d’uh). Kalender means calendar. The s between is a sort of genetive (which technically I think is not supposed to be there, but is there anyway because its been lexicalized that way and that rule has about a million exceptions it seems). Advent calendars, at least in Sweden, consist of 24 doors and one is opened on each day from December 1st to Christmas Eve.
I’m not very familiar with how common or uncommon advent calendars are in other countries or what the customs around them are, but without comparing here to anywhere else I can say that we’re pretty fond of our advent calendars here in Sweden. Let’s go over some of the most common kinds:
Chocolate calendars. When I was a kid, these were a must have every Christmas. Since we usually only had candy on Saturdays, it was a thrill to get a piece of candy every day for a whole 24 days. Eventually I outgrew the rather icky cheap chocolate that most kids’ chocolate calendars contain so I didn’t have one for quite a while, but a while back I discovered that the chocolate company Lindt has calenders with high quality chocolate, so last week I bought my “grown up” chocolate calendar for this year. Delicious!
Tv and radio calendars. Every year, SVT (Swedish state television) and SR (Swedish state radio) air a 24-episode advent calendar program. I never really listened to the radio one, but the TV one was a given when I was a kid. The episodes are short, usually about 15 minutes long, and vary quite a bit in style. Sometimes they’re old-fashioned Christmas stories filled with snow and candles, sometimes fairytales, sometimes comedic, sometimes more like a fantasy story etc. This year’s calendar seems to belong in the first category. I don’t watch the TV calendar too often these days, usually I check out the first episode and then decide if I’m going to keep going. I’ll probably check out the first episode or two of this year’s calendar tomorrow.
Gift calendars. My family always has a gift calendar with tiny, cheap presents (small chocolate bars and the like). My mom keeps a schedule of who gets a gift which day, though now that my brother and I don’t live at home they don’t always get opened on the right day. We hang our gifts up in the living room at my parents house, so they become part of the Christmas decorations, but I’ve seen all sorts of setups for gift calendars. Some have these sort of wallhangings featuring numbered pockets to put gifts inside, others hang up boxes or baubles filled with things in their tree.
I sort of consider these the three “main” kinds of calendars, but of course there’s many others. A few years ago, for example, I got an advent calendar for my birthday from The Body Shop, which was fun and felt very luxurious. Some stores will also have “advent calendars” with new discounts each day, which I don’t quite think counts but oh well! Some day I’d like to find a tea advent calendar. Now that would be fun!
This post turned out rather long for a Word Pantry post, but there you go! See you again tomorrow. Oh and, you should check out my main blog where I’m doing a different kind of advent calendar. Over there, I’m signal boosting marginalized creatives every day until Christmas. Today’s post is about an awesome literary magazine called Capricious! Check it out!
Några Gråter; Sverige Sover (poetry, w/ English translation)
During the winter 2015-2016, I volunteered at a refugee center. I was only there about one shift per week, but it had a great impact on me. I got to know some lovely people, got to use my Arabic in a practical way for the first time, but was also painfully reminded of how awful our current system is to those that come here in search of safety and stability. In March, the refugee center was closed and the last of the residents left on a bus late at night. I wrote this that evening, or maybe it was the next morning. It expresses some of all that I felt that night. The English translation is below the Swedish original, though it is not nearly as good and frankly comes off rather flat:
Några Gråter; Sverige Sover
Bussen går på tomgång i mörkret
En sista kram, ett handslag, och så går de ombord med sin oro och sin matsäck
Huttrande volontärer står på trottoaren och vinkar
Vinden tar tårarna
En bil tutar, måste förbi, måste runt, kan inte vänta de extra minuterna som sorgsna farväl behöver
Bussen rullar in i natten, mot norr, mot det okända
Bilen kör hem, hem till tevesoffan, till värmen
Boendet var sekretessbelagt
Hemlighållet för att vår brist på medmänsklighet inte skulle skada dem
En besvärjelse mot den med tändstickorna
En viskning i vinden
Maten smakade skolmatsal, en nostalgitripp för oss, yoghurt för barnen som inte ville äta
Korridorerna ekade, längor av små inte-hem
De av oss som kunde prata, försökte lyssna
Vart tar bussen mina vänner nu?
Målet är otydligt, en stad men ingen postkod, en hägring med suddiga konturer långt borta
Dagis, skola, språklektioner, eller överfulla sovsalar?
Vinden tar frågorna
Gav vi dem inte extra kläder för att vi inte visste om de skulle kunna ta med sig dem på bussen?
Varför vill vi att de ska nöja sig med smulor
som vi aldrig själva skulle stoppa i munnen?
Some (people) are Crying; Sweden Sleeps
The bus idles in the dark
A final hug, a handshake, and they board with their worry and their packed food
Shivering volunteers stand waving on the sidewalk
The wind takes the tears
A car honks, needs to pass, to get around, can’t wait the extra minutes that a sad farewell requires
The bus rolls into the night, northbound, towards the unknown
The car drives home, home to the TV couch, to the warmth
Some are crying
The housing was classified
Kept secret so that our lack of humanity wouldn’t harm them
An incantation against the one with the matches
A whisper in the wind
The food tasted like a school canteen, memory lane for us, yoghurt for the children who don’t want to eat
The hallways echoed, rows of little not-homes
Those of us who could speak, tried to listen
Some are crying
Where is the bus taking my friends now?
The destination is unclear, a city but no postcode, a mirage with blurry edges far away
Daycare, school and language classes, or overcrowded dormitories?
The wind takes the questions
Did we refuse them extra clothes because we didn’t know if they’d be able to take them with them on the bus?
Why do we want them to be content with crumbs
That we would never put into our own mouths?
Some are crying