Sunday, November 28, 2010

Swedish Christmas Traditions I

It's now 4PM and the temperature is holding steady at -2 degrees Celcius. Powder light snow corns are circling peacefully in the air and the light of the day is now a memory. My head is throbbing with pain of an approaching migraine, but I swollowed a painkiller and endure it; this Sunday marks the beginning of the coziest of the Swedish holidays. Four weeks of warm hearth fires, hot chocolate and mum's Christmas bread lies ahead. No other holiday is so full of joy as this one; no other holiday brings families and friends together than this one.

Christmas season generally starts around 1st of Advent, the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day. The word advent derrives from the latin word adventus, meaning "arrival" which indicates the coming of the Lord. Sometime during the 1930's the Swedes started to hang Advent stars in their windows, a tradition coming from Germany and symbolizes the star of Betlehem that lead the three wise men to the child Jesus. On this Sunday, a candlestick with four candles start to decorate the Swedish homes and the first candle is lit. Every Sunday until Christmas, one more candle is lit. An electrical candlestick is placed in the windows, usually with seven candles in the shape of an upturned V. Traditionally, lights are lit in the windows around this time to light up the way for people on their way to the early Christmas-morning services in church.

At the same time the "Julskyltning" starts, a word that could be translated as "Display Sunday" and refers to the time when shops start to decorate their windows for Christmas. Where I live, in a small village in the south-western parts of the country, this is an important and popular occurence. There aren't many shops in the village, but this has been compensated with a small fair, with lotteries, sale of traditional hot mull wine and gingerbread biscuits and a Santa parade which ends with Santa Claus himself is giving out sweets to the little ones.

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