Sunday, December 5, 2010

It's Tomte Time
Christmas in Sweden means looking out for ways to celebrate the little tomte- gnomes named for the land- who purportedly look like these guys. They live outdoors, usually in the barn, and can make mischief for you if not treated to the occasional bowl of rice pudding or other acknowledgment of their service to your family.

The Tomte embody the Christmas spirit in Sweden.

This is only our second year in Sweden for Christmas, since last year we took pappaledig and returned to USA for Thanksgiving to Valentine's day. But we learned one thing our first year, and that is that the big build up to Christmas with Christmas markets and other charming events happens early.

I returned to Sweden Dec 2nd, and the regional Christmas event calendar showed there were just a few markets and events left on the schedule. Determined to get a dose of tomte style Swedish Christmas charm in, we planned to head to a old viking fortress where there was an event that touted old fashioned Swedish Christmas merriment in a historic setting with a good restaurant. The program promised baking papparkakor on a wood hearth, instruction on creating traditional southern Swedish straw ornaments, story telling for children, and dancing around a Christmas tree. We headed to the said destination only to find it was closed due to the weather. It was no short drive to get there, and we were disappointed. It felt a little like when Chevy Chase arrives to find WallyWorld closed in the movie 'Vacation'.
But fresh off ten hours of airline delays on my return to Sweden, I was feeling either crazed or unfazed by delays. We decided to pursue merriment anyway, and proceeded to head across the region to the other event we had considered, a Christmas celebration at a cultural museum. Very far away. We got there at sunset, which is only at 3:30, after all.
This would have been fine but we found it was an outdoor event, and while we had the required clothes, mostly, we lacked two things that would bring our outing to an early end- one mitten for the toddler, and a stroller. The event was spread over acreage, and this created the problem of traveling mileage. After spending the last few weeks in only a diaper or swimsuit, and swimming in warm pools, SwedeBaby was a bit indignant about the multiple layers of clothing immobilizing her, her one very cold hand, and being squeezed into the baby carrier with all her layers and mine compressing her, and then being carted around for three hours with only a slit of a view between her hat and my coat.

But our time at the museum did start off sweet. We had a little Swedish style dance around a Christmas tree with a musician alternating between a fiddle and an accordion.
It is funny that the midsommar songs for the maypole dances are also used for the Christmas tree. But there were many new ones, too. Swedegirl was an enthusiastic participant in the dances.
A song about a pig, in Swedish pigs say 'gnuff gnuff gnuff'- at midsummer this song is a classic, but is usually about a small frog. This fiddler does a frighteningly accurate pig sound at the end of the song.

Sometime after the dancing the break down began, but we did get to observe some wood fired baking in at this little hut.
A band with accordion, drums, and a fiddle came in and sang songs, and cheered the increasingly grumpy toddler up for a bit.
I was hoping to get some tips on making these types of typical Skåne straw ornaments....
We had a nice stop in a old farm mill house for Glögg and Pepparkakor. There were hay bales for seating, and a fire to warm our hands. This was tomte spotting territory for sure. But it was also the end of the road. We cajoled the children to let us trek to the old farm house area, where there was music, candle dipping, straw ornament making, and other demonstrations of Christmas crafting from times past. But there was a long line to get a turn to go in the small building, and the toddler reached full volume of protest at this point. I think she may have been wondering where the hot tub went, and why she was being compressed like a waffle in a waffle iron between the layers of clothing and the baby carrier.
We grabbed some home baked cookies from one of the many booths we did not have time to browse, to bribe the children to make it to the car with minimal whining, and called it a day. Once comfortably warm and reasonably dressed and in her car seat, SwedeBaby returned to her sweet natured self and enjoyed the cookies. SwedeDaddy and I were a bit worse for the wear after the crying, but satisfied with having made a day's tour de Skåne and wishing we had a bit more glögg to warm us on the drive home. I was grateful that this was a side of our girl she only revealed when truly and reasonably uncomfortable, and that I had made it through the one parent overseas flights with two happy kids.


Rose said...

This just nearly made me cry. SWEDEN I LOVE YOU!!! How do the Swedes maintain such a strong connection to the past? I love it.

(Wish you were here...I'm on my way to the moon.)

Valarie said...

What a beautiful school you have. The rooms look so welcoming and inviting. What really caught my eye,however, was the viking fortress with the holiday merriment. Looks like a great time was had by all. Did you have a major shock adjusting to the weather again after Florida? Hope all is well.