Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Better Know a Christmas: Sweden

Christmas is getting closer, so let's look at how another country celebrates the Yuletide. Tonight we'll focus on a place big on Christmas: Sweden!

God Jul to you all! Much like Matt over at X-Entertainment, Sweden's Christmas season starts at the beginning of Advent, aka December 1st and doesn't end until December 26th, St. Stephen's Day (yes, the very same "Feast of Stephen" mentioned in the song "Good King Wenceslas"). Whew.

In between those two, December 13th is St. Lucia's Day, a Hijacked By Jesus pagan festival of lights that celebrated the Winter Solsitce, which became a major holiday of its own. It's more of a food-related holiday in Sweden, where the eldest daughter of the family becomes the "Lucia" and give out "Lussekatts," buns flavored with saffron and covered in raisins for breakfast for the rest of the family. Like many holidays, it's become a gift-giving holiday in ITALY of all places, where St. Lucia rides a donkey to give out presents for children.

With Sweden being in Scandanavia and all that, you'd think that they would be familiar with Santa due to being in such close proximity to the Arctic Circle. But if you've been paying attention to this entry or have ever seen an episode of Metalocalypse, Sweden is a dark, dreary, country filled with pagans and aspiring death metal musicians. It's no surprise that their Christmas celebrations would have more pagan roots. Such is the case of its equivalent of Santa: The Tomte.

Looks like a garden gnome, doesn't he? And due to Christianization of everything pagan, including this thing, the modern image resembles more like Santa, or at the very least, one of the Kringles from Rankin-Bass's "Santa Claus is Comin' To Town." Common foklore was that the Tomte was an elf-like person who looked over one's house, and he's pissed off rather easily, especially if you eat the porridge that's left out for him. The Santa-iziation of Tomte now has him delivering presents, but he still gets rather pissed off if you disrespect him. I hear he shills for Travelocity during the off-season and may sometimes be voiced by Tom Bosley.

There are Christmas trees as well, and they're guarded by goats made of straw, to remind everyone about the Birth of Jesus. I guess using their actual goats are too risky.

Due to Sweden not celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve is the big eating holiday, and boy, its it! Everyone eats a big-ass buffet famously known as the "Smorgasbord" or "Julbord."

It's commonly served in three courses: The first one is fish, like smoked salmon, smoked eel, pickled herring, and various fish served with stuff like boiled eggs and the like. The second is cold cuts, like sausages, head cheese (known more commonly as Brawn), and a liver dish called leverpastej (a name that can only be pronounced by the likes of Skwisgaar Skwigelf). The most important of these is, of course, the Christmas Ham. These are served with cheese and pickled cucumbers. The final course is the warm stuff like meatballs, sausages, short ribs, and so on. Repeat until you're too full to berate your annoying family members.

Man, Sweden's awesome. Right, Skwisgaar?

"...That's ams pretty trues."
Shut up, Skiwsgaar.

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