Midwinter

Dec. 21st, 2018 10:54 am
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In Stockholm, the sun rose at 9 and will be back down again at 3. But it's cloudy, so there is no real light anyway, only dusk. But tomorrow there will be a little more light.

Jul starts for me today. Usually, I decorate the tree today, but won't until Sunday this year. I will light a lot of candles and do some not-tree related decorations. And bake an edible Yule log, as our fireplace doesn't work properly.



Illustration from Moominland Midwinter by Tove Jansson
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A few of my favourite Christmas songs. Which seems to veer towards the more unconventional. Apart from O helga natt (Oh Holy Night) with the incomparable Jussi Björling. I love that version.



Dejlig er jorden I think this is called Beautiful Savior in English, but the lyrics to this Danish (and also in Swedish) begins with “Beautiful is Earth/Beautiful is God’s heaven”













Det är inte snön som faller (It’s Not Snow Which Is Falling) is definitely on the ironic end of the scale. Warning for cartoon nudity.





The last song is really a Swedish Christmas song from the early 20th century, and the lyrics are very perky. However, the way Thåström sings it makes it drip with satire. Vit Jul means “White Christmas”.

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I was talking about Christmas movies with a friend. She always watches The Wizard of Oz at Christmas; something about the technicolor makes her associate it with Christmas. And not all the movies I connect with Christmas isn’t strictly speaking Christmassy, even if some are.

The movie I always and forever will connect with Christmas is The Tales of Beatrix Potter. It’s not a Christmas movie at all, it’s a ballet based on Beatrix Potter’s stories. For reasons unknown Swedish television aired it in the early afternoon December 23 for years, though they haven’t for about 20 years, and I haven’t seen it since then. But it was an essential part of Christmas all through my childhood, and this year I really crave to watch it again. Luckily it available on DVD, so I’m giving it to myself.

Here’s the trailer, which includes the incredibly scary part of Squirrel Nutkin and the owl. I used to hide under the TV when that scene came.



I also have a very strong feeling of Christmas when it comes to Singin’ In the Rain, which isn’t about Christmas at all. Perhaps it is the Technicolor which give sit the holiday vibe, as my friend thinks.



Another movie is the animated movie Gnomes. In Swedish these creatures are called “tomtar” or “tomtenissar”, and Father Christmas is called “Tomten”, so even if it may seem like a Christmas movie in other countries, it feels like it here. And it was always aired around Christmas too.



Disney’s From All of Us to All of You. It has been aired every single Christmas Eve (which is the day Swedes celebrate Christmas) in Sweden, at 3 in the afternoon, since 1960. When I was a child cartoons were almost never shown on television, except during Christmas. Even today this show, despite all the TV channels we have now (when I was a child there was only two), gets almost the whole of Sweden sitting down to watch it.



Mighty Mouse



Bamse a Swedish comics and cartoons about a bear who gets incredibly strong when he eats the special honey his grandmother makes. He is very kind and always stand up against bullies. He has two best friends. A rabbit called Lille Skutt who is scared of everything, but still usually manages to overcome his fears when he is needed. And the turtle Skalman who is an inventor knows everything, but always eats and drinks when his alarm clock says it’s time, which means he usually sleeps just when Bamse needs his help the most. I loved this comic! Especially the episodes when Bamse and his friends travel in time. I didn’t have Doctor Who as a kid, but I did have Bamse!



What are your Christmas movies?
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My electrical Christmas candles. "Everyone" has them in Sweden. Mine is 60 years old and inherited from my grandparents.

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Well, Christmas is almost upon us, so let’s have a few of my favourite Swedish Christmas songs. There aren’t in any way traditional. Mer Jul means “More Christmas” and is a love song to Christmas and how the singer just wants more and more of it.



Det är inte snön som faller (“It’s Not Snow Which Is Falling”), however, is very sarcastic.



Before the Swedish calendar was adjusted in the 18th century, December 13 was actually Midwinter. This is still reflected in Swedish Christmas traditions as this is the day we celebrates St Lucia. If you think it’s off a protestant country makes a big brouhaha of a Catholic and Sicilian saint, well, yes, that is odd. But there is a long Swedish tradition of a woman bringing light on Midwinter, so she is most likely the Christian makeup of a Pagan goddess. Several of our Christmas songs are about Lucis, like this one Så mörk är natter



The lyrics of the Lucia songs are actually surpisingly lacking of Christian motifs. They are all about the joy of finally getting the light back. Considering that Stockholm right now has about five hours of daylight, and in the north they have none, you can understand why this is something to feel joy over.

So dark is the night at Midwinter
But look, now Lucia approaches
She, the good one, comes with the light
She comes with tidings of the peace of Yule
She comes with candles in her crown
In the dark night of midwinter
We greet you, fair Lucia
Welcome, you good one who comes with the light.
Welcome with your tidings of the peace of Yule
Welcome, with candles in your crown.

Oh helga natt is simply the Swedish translation of Oh Holy Night. But no one sings it like Jussi Björling did.

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