If all goes well, I anticipate there being a whole host of Swedish Ways posts this month, leading up to Christmas. Or jul (Yule) as we call it, because we’re all Pagan Vikings at heart!
Which is funny, because Christmas tends to be a fairly big deal in Sweden, despite it being an extremely secular society where you’re generally seen as a little bit of a weirdo if you attend church regularly. Unless you’re a pensioner, perhaps, or your parents forced you to do Confirmation studies when you were 14, despite your heartfelt assurances that it would be a waste of everyone’s time.
Back when I was still in primary school, we’d be marched off to the nearest church around the first of Advent, to sit there and sing Christmas carols, hear about Jesus and things like that. It was 20 years ago, I don’t exactly remember the details very well. Nowadays, I’m not sure you’d be allowed to do that, because there are probably kids in the congregation that are of a different faith, and/or kids shouldn’t have to be indoctrinated into religion by their schools. Either way, it’s most likely a no-no.
There are candles marked with the dates of December, and you burn it down to the next day every day, but you get those pretty much anywhere. Well, by “anywhere” I mean “I’ve seen them here in the UK too, so it’s not a specifically Swedish phenomenon”. As Swedish phenomenons go, most of us will have a candle holder of some description, that holds four candles. On the first Advent, you light the first candle and let it burn for a bit. The next Sunday, 2nd Advent, you light the previous candle and the new one next to it. By the time Christmas comes, you’ll have something looking like this:
We might be big on counting down the Advent Sundays, but we’re generally not treating it as a countdown to the birth of Jesus, but rather the countdown to more mundane things … like decorated trees, baked ham, gingerbread snaps, and other food we specifically associate with the upcoming holidays. Not to mention Christmas TV – but we’ll get into that more later in the month … Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a candle to light!
No, I’m not waiting for Jesus, I’m waiting for Karl-Bertil Jonsson.