The wind has picked up in the last couple days, which is good news for the local surfers.
While Americans were being pepper sprayed in malls, Swedes were out in their wetsuits and Bianca and I were out walking.
But, enough of nature. It was time to get into town and kick off the Christmas Season with some serious shopping.
Crass commercialism has hit Sweden. Stores were open from 2 until 7 this afternoon! Ordinarily, everything is closed on Sundays but not here in chase-the-kronor Halmstad. Store windows were decorated, some of them anyway.
For some reason, these girls set themselves up in a wind tunnel to sell their cookies. More on the wind in a bit.
Lights are hung around town.
One hot dog stand was open.
The town Christmas tree was barriered off and there were supposed to be all kinds of events this afternoon: pony rides, Santa Claus, dancing around the tree and the crowning of this year’s Lucia. Due to a serious storm, everything but the last was cancelled and the Lucia procession was moved indoors to the Halmstad Theater. The wind picked up as the afternoon wore on and tonight there are sustained winds of 22 meters/second and gusts of up to 35 m/s. I don’t know how that translates to miles per hour, but the wind was really blowing and continues to blow as I write this. The news folks were saying to stay inside but there seemed to be plenty of people out and about in the stores. No pepper spray was noticed but that’s probably because of the winds. Maybe shoppers had their tasers.
A crowd gathered in the lobby of the theater and first, some kids came down the stairs and sang some songs.
Then came the sounds of the song Santa Lucia, which was originally an Italian boatman’s song but in Scandinavia now pertains to the myth of St. Lucia. Story has it that Lucia was quite the looker in her day but also somewhat of an iconoclast. Back in the day, turning down a marriage proposal was not done but Lucia did just that to a suitor. The scorned man complained to the king who had Lucia thrown in jail for her impertinence. In a Hall of Fame demonstration of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face, Lucia then tore out her eyeballs and sent them to her suitor. Not quite sure of the point there. Her dream of becoming the castle librarian now over (this was before Braille), Lucia took to serving food to the prisoners in the deepest and darkest dungeons in the king’s supermax. In order to be seen in the deep darkness, Lucia took to putting candles on her head. For her good works once all the romantic drama was behind her, Lucia became the symbol of the Light out of the Darkness. The lyrics for Scandinavia have been rewritten from the Italian original to convey the message of light coming out of the darkness.
You can understand why this story would play here in Scandinavia. The sun is rising after 8 and setting before 4. Further north, the schedule is even worse. In earlier times, they thought that December 13th was the darkest day of the year and that traditionally became Santa Lucia’s Day.
Her crowning, though, occurs on the first day of Advent, which was today. Four Sundays before Christmas begins Advent, which kicks off the Christmas season here in earnest.
Here she comes down the stairs followed by her retinue. The red ribbon symbolizes the sword slash a prison guard gave her while jailed. None of this would have happened to poor Lucia today in egalitarian Sweden.
Seven must be the lucky number of the season. Lucia has seven candles on her head. She has six in her posse, making seven in all. There are seven pointed stars in many windows this time of year as well as seven candleholders in many others. Here is ours:
Very pretty ceremony. After the girls made their exit we hightailed it across the river to the big church for the Advent concert. On our way, we saw that the wind had worked its evil magic on the tree in the square and it was lying flat.
The storm is slated to blow itself out and they will stand it upright tomorrow. We really had to lean into the wind to get across the square to the church.
The town has an excellent choir and we enjoyed the Advent concert. Christmas is the one time during the year when Swedes go to church.
On our way home from the bus after dinner, we came across a huge honking tree lying right across the road. Fir trees tend to blow over in these storms more than the birch trees because the firs still have all their “sail” and blow over easier. In Jan. 2005 Sweden had an actual hurricane that knocked down enough trees to form a pile of logs 10 feet by 10 feet all the way to Australia.
Anyway, once home it was time to light the Advent candles. You light one on each of the four Sundays before Xmas. Here is Mariette doing the honors.
The little straw goat to the left is the julbock or Christmas goat. Before he became the victim of the Santa Claus lobby, the julbock was the one who delivered the presents on Christmas Day. The little guy to the right is a tomten. These were little elves who helped out around the farm looking after the animals and so on. If you didn’t appease them with porridge they could cause a lot of mischief.
It is still blowing like crazy outside and I am glad to have made it through this long post without losing the electricity. The news is saying that winds are approaching hurricane strength. Hopefully, the trampoline will still be on our property in the morning.
Välkommen till svensk Jul!