Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Holidays That Don’t Exist in Sweden - Thanksgiving

The holiday season is coming up. Although in the US, it starts a little early. Because the US celebrates holidays that don’t get celebrated in Sweden. Like Thanksgiving.

Because I am an American abroad, I try to recognize as many holidays as possible. Although, there is a difference between recognition and outright ignorance. And yes, I know, I am a pretentious asshole, but there are few things that bother me more than Americans asking if Swedes celebrate Thanksgiving.

No. They don’t. Sweden does not celebrate Thanksgiving. Think back to elementary school, Thanksgiving celebrated the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock. Pilgrims were religious separatists from England in the 1600s. It’s a simplified history but regardless, it gets the story across. Nowhere does Sweden come into the picture. They didn’t leave from Sweden. They didn’t go via Sweden. They weren’t Swedish. Sweden was busy with their own age of greatness and not really all that concerned with a small group of religious zealots trying to cross the Atlantic.

Strangely enough, they could still care less. The average Swede might be aware of Thanksgiving, but that is about it. They will not celebrate it. They will not have Thursday and Friday off from work. They will not eat themselves stupid on turkey and potatoes (although they probably should). That will be left to the American ex-pats in the country. They might even invite a few Swedes along for the ride. If there is a Thanksgiving celebration in Sweden, there is an American close by.

Instead, Swedes will go about their business, happily spending their paycheck from the 25th. Waiting for their holiday season to start. Sweden doesn’t really get started until the 13th of December when blonde girls dress up in white and walk around with live candles on their head. Of course, just in case there should be an accident, small boys walk behind her dressed in white robes with conical white hats on their heads while carrying star wands. December 13th is Santa Lucia. Duh.

Welcome to Sweden. And the holiday season.

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  1. "They didn’t go via Sweden"

    They did however go via The Netherlands... but I dont think that they celebrate thanksgiving either...

  2. its true, a quick pitstop in Amsterdam. But they left when they realized that their kids were becoming too Dutch.

  3. OMG, some Americans actually ask you if Swedes celebrate Thankgiving?? That is hilariously ignorant.

    I personally don't like Thanksgiving that much myself. It seems like a silly holiday but I understand and appreciate its significance...plus, it's a day off from work =P Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving to you nonetheless!! :) -S.

  4. more than I care to admit. a part of me dies every time.

    I am a big fan of Thanksgiving. Mostly because I like family, meat, and football. so really its hard to beat.

    but thank you!

  5. im not gonna lie... i wish they celebrated it... including halloween too...
    it wouldve been great. and you just know the swedes would take it a step further and dress up in pilgrim clothing...

    i really wanna see the santa lucia candle girls...a skill that powerful should be a sport.. an extreme sport.

  6. I don't see why that is such a strange question. Many cultures have some sort of harvest festival where the main gist is to gather and feast, they just don't call it Thanksgiving.

  7. I love Thanksgiving! It's my favorite holiday. I actually like that it isn't celebrated other places. Except for Canada. I think they celebrate Thanksgiving too...on a different day. Typical.

    A church in my town has up a sign that says, "THE PILGRIMS THANKED GOD SO THEY ATE THE INDIANS." Or maybe it says "...SO THEY ATE WITH THE INDIANS." It says something about eating and Indians. I'm sure of it. If I could just remember whatever it was they told me in elementary school, maybe it would all make more sense. Church signs aside, Happy Thanksgiving!

  8. We will miss you here at home for Thanksgiving honey!! We are not quite "whole" without you. Hope you can find a turkey and some of those ex pat Americans to celebrate with!

  9. It was tough finding a turkey, till a savvy Swede turned us towards Ingelsta Kalkon! Whew, now I'm thankful that we don't need to celebrate with chicken. Just not the same...

  10. Do Americans celebrate the day of Santa Lucia?

    Just kidding... But to be honest, the fact that Sweden celebrates an Italian Christian saint is also kind of weird...

    @Stacy - In Sweden we call that Christmas... And Easter. And kräftskiva. And Midsummer's eve. No, wait, I think the last one's about drinking...

  11. I don't know why anyone wouldn't like Thanksgiving. It is just about the only holiday that is about what holidays should be about - family and being nice. The rest are all about how much krap you can buy.

  12. Hi! Am new to the blog. Great writing. Swede educated in the US, love Thanksgiving. Agree loudly with Stacy, a feast of Thanksgiving in some form is fairly widespread around the world! Why would the US have a monopoly? In fact we DO have a Tacksägelsesöndag in October here in Sweden, including pumpkins aand turnips and haybales (often found decorating the aisles of a local church) but of course we have no seafaring zealots to go with the decor. I think the zealots were incidental anyway, eating a massive meal in good company is always more fun than colonialism and ethno-religious persecution.

    I do have a question though.

    We managed to secure an organic Turkey through connections in Skaraborgs Län. But is it possible to find cranberry sauce, pecan pie and pumpkin filling in a can anywhere here in Stockholm? Or will I have to improvise with a rutabaga and lingonberries? Thanks for any tips on this!

  13. Dude... You have an ad for Scientology on your blog. Guess you can't choose your ads, but still :P

  14. @pingla

    dude you have no idea how many stores i went through looking for pumpkin filling, cranberry sauce!!! i went to ICA,Willis,Lidel,Maxie,netto, and all those other weird names you come up with. but thats in Skåne, i think you will have better luck than me in Stockholm since it has more cultural stores.
    they sell pecan pie in ICA the bakery section. but i suggest making your own...


  15. Actually Robban... http://store.americangirl.com/agshop/html/ProductPage.jsf/itemId/140376/itemType/TOY/webTemplateId/3/uniqueId/23/saleGroupId/339.

    My niece, who has absolutely no connection to Sweden (except my boyfriend, but she doesn't know him well) has this doll and can tell you more than you ever wanted to know about Lucia. This doll apparently immigrated to the US from Sweden with her parents, and she has a bunch of books that talk about how she combined her Swedish traditions with her new life in the US. My niece makes her family celebrate Lucia each year. So there. :o)

    Happy Thanksgiving to all of the Americans reading, and Happy Thursday to everyone else!

  16. Darnit, noticed that the link doesn't work. Try this: http://store.americangirl.com/images/KCO_main_2.jpg

  17. Hairy, you should know and feel it personally by now, that we want light in this darkness. Much more than turkey meat. Also in F-land.

  18. This has nothing to do with this particular blog post, but I just read this comic strip and found it really funny. Would this strip be considered funny in for example the US?


    Is this universal humour or is it only funny over here because of our "issues" with public transportation?

    The text in the strip reads:

    So, where are you heading?

  19. hehe

    When I first came here, after thanksgiving 2 years ago, I was a bit bummed out that I missed it. The year after I demanded from my newly inwed family that I would celebrate a traditional thanksgiving, american style with them.. this was also not even a month after giving birth to my son, so I was a bit sore but demanded to be in on the party.

    This year we're doing our own home-style america-swede thanksgiving.
    We got the turkey and we're doing hasselbackspotatis! Some green beans, pumpkin pie and kladdkaka, some turkey sauce, salads etc.
    A nice mish mash of cultures. Oh boy! I can't wait for christmas, it's going to be mostly Swedish, a demand of mine (again.) but with some american elements to it.

  20. Had a small Thanksgiving-ish celebration when I lived in Sweden. It sure wasn't the same but I tried. I got canned pumpkin from the American Goods (might be called something else now)store in Gamla Stan.
    HAPPY THANKSGIVING Hairy Swede & all other Americans. Everyone else...get back to work ;)

  21. @Smek this - hahaha. amen to light! and the lack of turkeys then. :p

    Who cares Hairy, wwe'll bring Thanksgiving to Sweden, one Swede at a time.

  22. OH!!!!
    @Lost in Translation...Literally -

    I would highly suggest buying frozen cranberries, i.e. tranbar. These can be found at any grocery store in Sweden.
    Then,make a cranberry compote. Cranberry Compote Recipe:
    1 package frozen cranberries
    1 cup water
    1/2 cup sugar
    zest of one oranage

    1. Heat the water until boils.
    2. Add sugar and bring down to a low simmer.
    3. Add frozen berries.
    4. Cook down until a bit thick, almost jam-like
    5. Add the zest of one orange, stir.

    As for pumpkin... some stores (I saw many Coops and some organic places) selling fresh pumpkin. You can go this route and scoop out fresh pumpkin and make pie.

  23. Hairy Swede, I think you're hot.


  24. ^ LOL!!! " HAIRY SWEDE i think your hot" hahahaha sounds so funny!

    i think he sounds hot. hahahaha

  25. Hej Hairy, Some Americanos are going to prepare and serve two turkey meals for approximately 100 residents and guests at Stadsmission’s Bostället on Södermalm today. This is the third year in a row we've done this (this is my first year because I had gone to celebrate in the USA the previous years). So, Thanksgiving has come to Sweden after all!
    Your faithful correspondent, the Greek-American Swede, Ron P

  26. I bought the pumpkin filling for our pies at The English store (Medborgarplatsen, Stockholm).

  27. Pumpkin in a can is plentiful, but you can also try a Sweet Potato Pie (mmm... sweet potato pie...).
    Ica Maxi Lindhagen had whole turkeys for 55 krowns a kilo (too bad I had already bought mine @ 85).
    Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday, just because there is no pretense to it. It is just about getting together with family and friends and giving thanks. No presents, no random bunny supposedly laying eggs (or however that story goes). Too bad Swedes don't have Thanksgiving though, since that means they also don't have Black Friday (which would be awesome since it would fall on pay weekend!)

  28. Wonderful blog.
    Just rss'd it. Swede myself but in England at the moment so none of those swedish letter in sight. It's so funny reading about our silly breed. Loved your topic on funny swedish words.

  29. @Lost – the santa lucia thing is impressive. And probably worth adding to the x-games. Because somehow it seems that no one goes up in flames.

    @Stacy – plenty of cultures have harvest festivals. Not many cultures have harvest festivals that include a story about pilgrims and native americans sitting down for dinner.

    @E – I think the longer I am abroad the more Thanksgiving means to me. Its just a solid holiday, simple and delicious.

    Church signs crack me up. I miss them here. And Im pretty sure it says they ate the indians. God likes cannibalism. Im sure of it.

    @mamma – well I managed to find quite a bit and also live vicariously through all of the pictures you have of thanksgiving.

    @Stu – I once ordered duck at a restaurant in Australia on Thanksgiving because it was the closest thing I could find to turkey. Bt youre right... it just isnt the same.

    @Robban – yeah Ive never really understood that either. Especially the whole blonde thing. Ive been to Italy. So clearly I am an expert on all things Italian, but there weren’t a whole lot of natural looking blondes in the country.

    @m8 – agreed. Completely.

    @Pingla - its not the monopoly on the harvest side of things. Its the monopoly on the diner with the native americans.

    It looks like all kinds of other people answered your pumpkin pie and cranberry question. But yes, some icas even have the stuff. The larger ones in ex-pat heavy areas (östermalm for example) usually have an american section full of things like that.

    @Anonymous – maybe I love Mr. L. Ron Hubbard. Although I did actually get to see the ad. It was amazing. Im not sure if I should start looking over my shoulders now waiting for a scientologist to attack and want to give me a personality test...

    @Lost – well I know that a few of those stores in Stockholm do carry cranberry stuff. Pumpkin filling not so sure...

    @An American Girl - oh wow. Well played.

    @Smek – well I actually prefer the light meat to the dark meat on the turkey. Clearly that is a sign.

    @anonymous – it is off subject. But well worth being off subject. Because I think that is glorious. But Im not sure how well it translates. Swedish public transportation is quite... special.

    @Mamaya – I really do think that is the way to go. To mix and match. To take the good from each culture and from each holiday and put them together and creaet something that is individual to you and your family. Thats what is so fun about being exposed to different cultures.

    @StacyShine – Thanks!

    @Sapphire – I think everyone can embrace a holiday that gives thanks, eats delicious food, and spends time with family. And great work on the tips for finding cranberries and pumpkin.

    @Anonymous – thanks. Its probably all of the hair.

    @Lost – thanks. If its not the hair its probably my boyish charm.

    @pavellas – see and its that sort of thing that makes Thanksgiving such a great holiday. Well done Ron!

    @Thomas – oh good call. They have all kinds of delicious ex-pat things there.

    @Shawna – oh man... I can’t even imagine black Friday mixed with a payday in Sweden. Payday weekend is bad enough as it is. Im pretty sure that the Swedish economy might explode.

    @josefin – thanks, the swedish word thing is probably one of my favorites. I love the literal translations. They give me endless hours of enjoyment.

  30. Swedes have advent instead. The greatest holiday of all. Even better than christmas. Cause you get to eat lussebullar every sunday til christmas eve. :)

  31. lussebullar are delicious aren't they?