Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Swedish Christmas in October

Daylight savings ended the other day. And by the other day I mean Last Saturday night/Sunday morning. That is a week earlier than the US. Very sneaky. Messes with the time difference a bit, so last week football games started at 6 in the evening instead of 7, and life was good. But aside from that benefit, it just means that Sweden is really dark now. Like sunset at 4 in the afternoon dark. Like pitch black by 4:30 in the afternoon dark. Like less than nine hours of daylight dark. Which can only mean one thing to Swedes. Christmas is almost here.

Swedes don’t have anything to look forward to until December rolls around. Halloween is trying to catch on, but Swedes have resisted the urge to adopt a holiday that really just gives people my age another reason to drink and dress up in next to no clothes. Some people love Halloween, but they are no friends of mine. Halloween isn’t really my style. Mostly because I hate fun.

But who are we kidding. Swedes don’t need another reason to drink during the winter. The darkness gives them plenty of reason already.

Of course after Halloween on the 31st of October comes November. Which means absolutely nothing to Swedes. They don’t even get Thanksgiving. And, in case you were wondering, no, Swedes don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. It is by far the question from Americans that aggravates me the most. Swedes do not celebrate English religious fugitives sailing across the Atlantic, landing in New England, and having dinner with the natives. For some reason they don’t feel the need.

Anyway, this leaves Swedes anxiously awaiting December. Santa Lucia. Christmas. New Year’s Eve. It’s all there. Finally, there is something to do in the winter darkness.

With this in mind, capitalism is alive and well in Sweden. Because I went grocery shopping last week. So now I don’t have to resort to a dinner of senapssill on knäckebröd and spaghetti with ketchup two nights in a row. I found the jar of senapssill in the back of the fridge and was hesitant to eat it not really knowing how long it had been there. Then I remembered that senapssill is in fact pickled herring in mustard. And pickling, by design, is meant to preserve food for a long time. So I ate it. And felt fine. But I digress.

While doing my shopping at Willy’s I couldn’t help but notice something was amiss. Christmas decorations were already out. Little towels with Christmasy themes. Tea trays with Christmas elves painted on them. Christmas had come to Sweden in October. And I was confused.

Every year in the US people complain that Christmas comes earlier and earlier. The idea being that the earlier you put the idea of Christmas in consumer’s heads, the more time they will have to spend. It makes sense. It’s kind of annoying, but it makes sense. But the US has Halloween and Thanksgiving to break things up a bit. To slow down the onslaught of Santa and his merry elves.

Sweden does not. And so, with 56 days left until Christmas day, or 55 days until Christmas Eve seeing as how this is Sweden, the onslaught has begun. But in the spirit of Christmas, there are rumors of snow tonight...

Welcome to Sweden.

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  1. Floridian in FinlandOctober 30, 2008 at 1:51 PM

    Whoa, how do you get football? I'd do anything to watch the Macy's T-Day parade. Maybe if those old ladies in my building didn't keep voting no on cable, I'd have some better options.

    I'm not one for Halloween myself either, but I plan on carving pumpkins and watching some old school thrillers - Rosemary's Baby, The Twilight Zone, etc.

    Hope you enjoy it in your own way!

    p.s. pickled herring and ketchup on spaghetti - you must be more Swedish than you let on :)

  2. Haha man I love your blog! I would love to visit Sweden one day and reading your blog gives me so much insight and at the same time make me realize, hey, wherever you are in the world, people are just people. :D On the note with Christmas, I don't know man, I go to various stores all the time and frankly, I think this year retail decided to skip Thanksgiving stuff and went straight to the Christmas stuff, and of course there's Halloween everywhere, too! The other day I walked by this Walgreen's and they had a giant count down clock towards Christmas.

    As for your quote "English religious fugitives sailing across the Atlantic, landing in New England, and having dinner with the natives", BRILLIANT. May be we should just put that in our textbook regarding the history of Thanksgiving! :D

    Since I will be busy 'cause it's holiday frenzy in the States, happy early holidays to you from the West Coast!

  3. Hang in there. Our daylight is almost similar. For some reason, the weather maps tend to not mention this. I guess it's due to being an island.

  4. I love your style of writing.
    "Swedes do not celebrate English religious fugitives sailing across the Atlantic, landing in New England, and having dinner with the natives. For some reason they don’t feel the need."

  5. @floridian - I dont. and it hurts. I did find out though that there is a bar here that shows a few hours of football on sunday nights. so I might have to start hanging out there.

    @ting - thanks. glad youve been enjoying it. and thanks for the update from the good old west coast. Im a little bummed to hear that the stores are hopping over halloween and thanksgiving. I blame the financial crisis. obviously.

    enjoy your upcoming holidays also.

    @isle dance - yeah its that crazy latitude... makes things a bit dark in the winter. the world over.

    @jessica - glad you enjoyed it!

  6. I noticed that Macy's was being mentioned in one of the comments. Fact is, that Macy's had a huge stack of christmas trees and decorations out here in San Jose already, 2 weeks ago. Even though I haven't noticed that enormous outbreak of christmas things offers everywhere yet, it has still started. CostPlus WorldMarket is selling special Christmas Beers, Target has placed the Christmas decorations near the Halloween things and so on. So you can be sure that even american stores has started, even though not yet in a massive scale.

  7. I for one hate your style of writing and think you suck. ... not really.
    Just trying to keep that ego in check!

    Ting is right, Christmas is already here in the sunny U.S. of A.

  8. Sweden doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving!?! What?! (!?!?!??!!!!)

    Oh, Hairy Swede, you don't enjoy gaining a pound or two after eating several bags of over priced candy? You don't enjoy looking at scantly clad bodies that end up draped over toilet bowls after several hours of hard drinking? You don't enjoy celebrating a once holy now turned purely capitalistic holiday? I love doing all that, it gives me three more New Year resolutions--lose weight, stop drinking, and be less materialistic.

    Speaking of purely capitalistic holidays, I haven’t seen too many Christmas decorations and paraphernalia out on display at the markets (two or three aisles at the most). I did find it rather annoying that I had to walk past two aisles of Christmas dishware and miniature Santa Clauses and snowman before I actually found pumpkin carving stencils; which, by the way, were right next to Christmas coloring books...Rudolph looked weird, reindeer's do not have eyes that are half the size of their heads. Seriously.

    The only thing I love more than the Christmas spirit is the economists telling us how much Christmas spirit we don’t have; we can be such scrooges, especially when we make Holiday sales go down *a ridiculously small amount* from last year. A lot of us are going to be saying “bah humbug” this year.

    I have to ask, how many different ways do the Swedes have for pickling herring? Is it as numerous as the U.S. and their damn emaciated cucumbers? I love pickles, but I never realized how many different types of pickles there actually are (bread and butter, sandwich, Gherkin, spear, kosher dill, sweet, and then you have those massive pickles which I’m not even sure what they’re called but I use to eat them along with string cheese when I was young(er) which doesn’t really help with describing to you what they are but as you can see I’m an attention whore so obviously I’ll talk about myself).

    I’m not too familiar with the climate in Sweden during the winter months, but I always figured it to be somewhat like Vermont: cold, with lots of snow; and then my mother informed me that it was similar to Virginia: cold with not much snow…and then she went on to describe something about air paths and how Sweden gets warm air coming from somewhere...warm, thus making their weather somewhat temperate ("somewhat temperate," haha, that's redundant). What is the weather like in Sweden?

    Happy Hallowe’en!

  9. @Magnus – yeah, that’s what I’ve been hearing. Ridiculous. I suppose I have less of a problem once the calendar says November, but October is just too early.

    @anonymous – all forms of it.

    @John – that’s fun John. But as we mentioned above, I hate fun, and your comment was fun, ergo… I kid I kid. Without the family around I need someone to keep my massive ego in check.

    @Phineas – I know, groundbreaking journalism really.

    To answer your question about pickled herring. I have no idea. But it seems like there are plenty of options to choose from. Apparently pickling lends itself to all kinds of variations. Because pickles sure as hell give you a lot of options.

    In terms of the weather. It’s tricky. Sweden is a very long country. About the same geographical size of California. Except it is on the same latitude as Alaska. So the weather varies quite a bit from north to south. Some places get plenty of snow. Others don’t.

    Stockholm sometimes gets snow. A lot of times though it seems like Stockholm gets missed. For a few different reasons. One being that it is built on islands and sits right near/on the Baltic Sea.

    But it does get plenty cold here. And plenty dark. One of the effects of living so close to the Arctic Circle.

    Hope everyone enjoyed their Halloween.

  10. At Macy's they have a Christmas dept all year around, don't they? At least in New York.

    The darkness gives Swedes plenty of reason to drink. Haha. That's a weak person's argument ;-)

    But October is far too early for Christmas! I agree! But we do have Allhelgona in Sweden to break things up a little, remember. There is need for more than (maybe) a day off though. It is a long period 'til Christmas. And we're certainly not helped by pretending Christmas starts now!

  11. oh I have no idea. Ive never been to Macy's in New York. But I sure hope not...

    youre right though, Sweden does get the all saints day, but thats at the begninning of the month. that leaves a whole lot of time between christmas like you say.

  12. I just wanted to comment, sorry, I'm just catching up on your past blogs, I've been incredibly busy lately. and while I realize you were making a joke about Thanksgiving, other countries having a thanksgiving is not that odd of an idea. Just because they aren't celebrating an American Thanksgiving, doesn't mean other countries do not have a reason to be thankful for in their country. Maybe Sweden is thankful for not having to eat barkbread anymore to survive the cold harsh winters. Or a dozen other things, it doesn't have to revolve around the American idea of it. It's a good Holiday, Sweden should adopt it.

  13. giving thanks is fine, but the holiday of Thanksgiving is solely American because of its historical background.

    but to have a holiday to give thanks for different aspects of life is most definitely an excellent idea.