That’s a question that Joss brought up in her blog yesterday. I started to write a comment there; it was getting longer and longer …almost turning in to a blog entry of its own. The question has lingered, brought up memories, today as I was doing some cleaning here. Christmas evokes many memories and emotions with people and I’m no exception.
We all have traditions with regards to holidays, and they vary throughout life. I don’t have the same traditions now as I had as a kid, sufficeth to say, as my mom is no longer alive, but back then we celebrated a rather typical, Swedish Christmas. Getting out of bed on Christmas Eve morning was wonderful. The tree was dressed — it was never lit until Christmas Eve, the house smelled good from all kinds of cooking and baking. Even though my mom wasn’t all that interesed in cooking normally, certain things just had to be done for Christmas — that was just ‘the way things should be’. Breakfast would be rice porridge with sugar and cinnamon, a certain dark brown bread. Later on we all had dinner together with her brother and his lady friend, but we had to be back home for 3PM when Donald Duck was on TV. This is (was?) a rather strange, Swedish tradition ever since 1957 I believe it was. The whole country came to a stand-still on Christmas Eve at 3PM because of this. Everybody watched it and knew it by heart because it was the same show each year. Recognition can be powerful. We all watched Santa’s Workshop and waited for some little santa to paint chess boards with checkered paint!!!
When that was over … that was about the time Santa would arrive. I don’t remember how old I was when I realized he wasn’t really ‘real’, but I do remember one year when I got convinced he existed! Santa was late … I kept nagging my mom, wondering WHEN he would show up, so finally she told me to call him and ask. She gave me a phone number. That was it! If Santa had a phone and even picked up, then there was no doubt any more!
Now the anticipation of receiving gifts had been building up for a long time. To be honest, as a child I think gettings gifts was the peak of the Christmas. I can’t speak for everyone but I think it is for many kids. Strangely enough now, thinking back, I can’t remember any particular gift that really stands out in my memory, but I do remember one that my brother got! Maybe because how happy he got and how unexpected it was. He’d been wishing for a certain kind of leather jacket that was popular at the time … perhaps he was sixteen … but he had never expected to get one.
Early on Christmas Day it was time for Church. 6 or 7 in the morning, depending on which church you went to. We always went to my mom’s ‘home church’, quite a ways outside town. I might add that in Sweden, it’s Christmas EVE that is the big thing.
As I got older, started to work and had a home of my own, things changed slightly. I did all the things that you, as a woman, should do — I cleaned my little apartment as a maniac, regardless of whether it was necessary or not, I cooked most of the foods, I baked even though I didn’t like to bake, but I did cut back on a lot of stuff. On Christmas Eve I had my Mom over, most of the times, and later on we went to my brother, who now had a big family of his own. Then it was all over and I was back with my friends doing what we usually did.
I remember my co-workers, who were all older than I … they were married and had families … talking about all their plans for Christmas … how they were going to either visit with, or having relatives over all the time …lots of events for each day of the holiday. Sometimes when I listened to them, I could feel a slight twist of … not envy, but perhaps longing. It all sounded so nice but also somewhat stressful. Later in life, I’ve talked with one of them about this … she who had the most to do … and as she thought back at these times, she said that she used to feel envious of me!
The last Christmases before I left Sweden, I was living alone and was perfectly happy with that. I’d come to terms with my life and with Christmas too. At that age, I’d cut back a lot … thought it over … and only had the foods that I really liked, brought out a few but dear Christmas decorations, went to midnight Mass in town. I was content with that, but I could sense that I was being pitied by some. One of my friend’s kids … he felt so sorry for me so he asked his mum if they couldn’t invite me for Christmas Eve! She knew better, and explained to him that I was happy with my way of living … she knew me that well.
Little did I know back then, that I would meet Love and move to another country … create new Christmas traditions … having different foods … different decorations, except one that I brought with me 🙂