Dec 29, 2009

Part I:
"Twas the Night Before


     In Sweden Christmas Eve is the most important day of the holiday celebration.  The Christmas ham (Julskinka) is boiled, glazed, crumbed and baked on the 23rd so it will be ready for breakfast on Christmas Eve morning.  Some even partially cook the traditional rice porridge (risgrynsgröt) ahead of time only adding the milk, cinnamon sticks and single almond the next morning.  (Tradition says that whoever gets the almond in their portion of porridge will be married within the next year...but in our family whoever gets the almond gets an extra kiss from Papa!)

 The Christmas tree (julgran) for inside the home has been cut  from the forest, left to dry outside a bit, then brought in to be decorated with lights, strings of Swedish flags, and  ornaments handmade from wood, straw and strong red thread.  The Julbock (Christmas goat) stands guard beside the tree.

          In the days just before Christmas Eve all the other Christmas decorations (julpynt) are placed around the home and in the windows. 

Each year we put poinsettias in every window  on either side of the Adventstakar (seven light  candle stands) .  We tape the outer edges of  our 1800's windows to thwart any drafts and hope the flowers will bloom for us throughout the entire season into January.  These three angels holding their candles have such sweet porcelain faces, each one with a different expression.  We washed and ironed their dresses and they looked so crisp and pristine on the mantlepiece of the kakelugn (ceramic fireplace) in the TV room.  

     One Sunday afternoon, on the way home from church just after Advent, our family stopped at one of the many outdoor Christmas markets that are held in the countryside at this time of year.  Papa had always wanted Nainy to see one so they walked around to look at the displays. A woman who made these elaborate straw and thread decorations was from a village north of Örnsköldsvik.  Since it was a Sunday, we had only come to look, not to buy, but Papa contacted her several days later and he and Nainy went to her workshop and brought home beautiful straw/thread decorations, some that would hang from the ceiling and some that were smaller for doors and windows.  
    On the homefront, it was a busy time.  The house must be cleaned from top to bottom.  Julstäda - a verb that means "make the place clean and tidy for Christmas" certainly applied to us. 

  The kitchen floor which is made of natural, untreated wood planks, is scrubbed by hand with såpa (pronounced               'sorpa'), a thick, yellowish glue-like cleaning substance made from linseed oil and spread on one small area at a time.  Then a stiff brush soaked in water is used to scrub the floor and lastly it is wiped with a clean, wet scouring cloth.  Here Gustav does the scrubbing and Elder Blaylock, one of our full-time missionaries from Virginia, does the rinsing and wiping.  The floor was absolutely gleaming when they finished. Elder Harris,  from St. George, Utah, did a manful job of monitoring the woodstove! 

 The main house (storstuga) at 8:50 A.M. the morning of Christmas Eve.
The woodstove was crackling and warm, the animals were all fed, the cows were milked, the barn was sparkling clean, and     

     Uncle Mark always says, 
"When the time for ACTION comes, the time for PREPARATION is over". 
 When the morning of Christmas Eve arrived, the time for ACTION had definitely come.  We were PREPARED. 
It was a glorious morning, right off a Christmas card, and thanks to our two visiting daughters, Louise and Sophia, who outdid themselves with all the Christmas cooking, we had a glorious meal!

We sang "Hosi-  anna, Davids Son"  from the Swedish Hymnal,
 we prayed, we read the scriptural account of the birth of the Savior from Luke 2,
 And we ate!


MStevenson said...

Merry Christmas all! Your house really does look like a Christmas Card!

Lauralee said...

I just can't believe that my little sister lives in that cute red house with the comforting chimney smoke. So many miles away! All is well.

(I left another comment on this post a while ago, but it doesn't show, I wonder why.)