December 31, 2008

Happy Silvester!


Another year has come a full circle and today is New Years Eve, or as we call it in Eastern Europe, “Silvester”. The New Years Eve is the ultimate yearly celebration; a bittersweet time, where one ending meets a new beginning.

There has been by now quiet a few such celebrations in my life, I have to admit. More than I like to remember actually. With the passing time, the years seem to become shorter, yet their significance grows. Today, my reflections go back to 2008.

In the past, there have been years that have defined me. Defined and changed me. Milestones, which brought my journey through life in a new direction. Moments in time, when I made decisions that would revolutionize my destiny. This year has been one of them. After a long period of slumber, I awoke to a new existence. I am forever grateful to life for bringing this long awaited change my way. I have never before felt so much alive as I have done these past twelve months.

This conversion brought on a chain reaction of events, which caused me to stumble upon a wonderful blog post, that lead me here and inspired me to start writing my own blog. This is another experience I would never want to have been without. I never knew there are so many talented people out there, not just talented but genuinely kind, smart and caring. And the phrase stating “things happen for a reason” has never made more sense to me that in recent months.

So, I raise my glass to all of you, who have made my visits here so enjoyable; may you have a wonderful evening and in 2009 I wish you, all my blog friends, the VERY BEST!

I am going to spend a few days "off blogging" and devote it to my two roommates; see you all after January 5th.;)

December 30, 2008

The Dancing Couple.


When I was visiting my parents in Prague about a year ago, I stumbled upon a little shop selling small aquarelle paintings. Or rather, reproductions. There are countless such stores all around the old town, most are designated for tourists. Tourists’ traps, if one can say so.
And I am no fool; I am fully aware of this and therefore very rarely buy anything there. However, I have made two exceptions, and this is one of them.
I have no idea who painted this, but I call it “The Dancing Couple”. The painting is small, and it immediately caught my eye and I just had to have it. I guess my affection for it was very obvious and my mother decided to buy it for me as a gift.

The picture is filled with atmosphere and loaded with emotions, additionally the color composition is unique. The grey and okra, and the black and brown. And then suddenly the red. The symbolic red dress. The setting amidst pouring rain on a foggy and wet Charles Bridge with a picturesque backdrop, makes it romantic and evocative. What I love about it most of all is the sensation of the couple, completely unaware of their surroundings, only existing for each other in one single moment in time. Or if one will, in a single dance in time.
And then there is the “Butler”, as I like to call him. Present as the only witness and as the guardian of the dancers, shielding them from rain. A silent chaperone, a sentinel of a candid passion, which is immortalized by a perceptive artist.

I have placed the painting in my hallway, just next to the stairs. At certain times of the day, the sunlight illuminates it and completes the romantic illusion. Or reality.

December 29, 2008

Grønlangkål.


It is interesting how people in different areas of the world adapt their cuisine depending on the climate. The winters in Denmark, although perhaps not very cold, are still cold enough, dark and windy and the Danish cuisine can be defined as heavy and hardy. Especially the cooking done in winter is renowned for its high energy content (or fat content) to keep the Scandinavians warm and strong.
In the old times, the main culinary problem with the long winters was the lack of vegetables for extended period of time. In Denmark people found a marvelous source of vitamins in a very interesting plant called "grønkål". It can be translated as "green cabbage". It is a cabbage like plant, with spinach like leaves, high in vitamins (A, B and C) and very hardy, surviving easily the cold winters this far up north. It is very undemanding and can grow anywhere, even on the sandy beaches around the North Sea. This interesting plant can additionally grow new leaves in the winter, if the weather turns slightly milder during a few days. In the past, people that could grow the “grønkål” would have significantly lower rate of diseases.

The cabbage is still today sold in stores, mostly frozen and precooked. It can be served as addition to other meals or as a dish on its own, so called "grønlangkål", where the finely chopped vegetable has been mixed with spices, salt, sugar and milk. It resembles a hardy, stew liked soup and tastes excellent when served with sausages and/or potatoes.
Grønlangkål is definitely one of my favorite meals comes winter.

December 28, 2008

Last Sunday Of The Year With A Tag.


It is the last Sunday of the year. I often get aware of things like that. The last month, the last week, the last day... It feels strange to think that there will never be another Sunday in 2008. Well, I guess there will never be another 2008 either and we only have a few days left in it...
But, it is still to early to be reflective and so my last Sunday is very relaxing. In fact, I have not done much today. I sitting here in my cosy red sofa, still in my big fuzzy, red and comfortable morning robe and keep watching "feel good" movies". Sometimes Sundays such as these are simply the best. Especially when I know that I have the whole week ahead of me free as well. No "back to work Monday" for me tomorrow.;)

I decided to post today a long overdue tag, which I actually inflicted on myself voluntarily. I am getting pretty good at that.;)
I found this one over at Valentine's place. Her wonderful blog is so very refreshing and she has a very unique style. Recently however she decided to tag me officially and I will be posting a response at a later occasion.

This tag is simply called:

13 random things found on my desk, identified and explained.


So here they are, in random order:


1. Computer
The most important thing on my desk is my computer, complete with a printer/scanner, modem/router and a set of cool speakers. My link to my family, friends and the man in Ireland. I can not imagine may life without it (or him).


2. Handmade Cup
Yes, a handmade pottery from North Carolina; beautiful, blue green. These days it holds an array of pens. I always need pens and I feel best if I have tons of pens around, any kind, in any colour.

3. The Globe
I really do not remember how I got hold of this, but I know it is also from the US. I like to look at it from time to time, as it reminds me how small the world really is.

4. Calculator
I use it all the time, especially when balancing my bank account. And also when doing simple math. I am ashamed to admit that I cannot even anymore add two and two without a calculator (almost).

5. Glass Paper Weight
I think it is suppose to be that. It is in any case made of glass, and it is really heavy. I got this when I was a teenager as a gift. It has a depiction of my astrological sign on the back.

6. Framed Picture of Me and My Sister
My favorite picture of us. I found it recently and decided to frame it and keep it on my desk.

7. Danish-English Dictionary
Yup, I still need it . Need it badly, I can not function without it.



8. Happy Promotion Card
I received this card from Ireland when I got promoted few months ago; the images are very funny and the sentiment behind it very appreciated.


9. One Coaster
One single coaster is always on my desk as I often drink coffee, when sitting there. It is a very childish one that I think came with some candy or cereal? I keep loosing it though constantly as my cat likes to play with it.;)


10. Calender
A home made calender, based on my own photographs. It is a planner and a decoration in one.

11. Post-It
Yes, I CANNOT live without post-it pads.

12. Mail
Bills, letters, commercials; anything arriving by surface mail find itself on my desk eventually.


13. Candy
A big container of lollipops purchased in Germany about 2 months ago and it keeps getting smaller by each day. (Pst, please do not tell my dentist;)

Anyone feeling up to this tag, please be my guests.;)))

December 27, 2008

Happy Continuation.


In Sweden, the days between the 27th December and New Years Eve are called the "in between days". Everyone there knows this term. The stores are open starting today with the "in between days sales", where all the Christmas merchandise and likewise the winter clothes collections is being sold to incredible prices. This also means the return and exchange of the Christmas gifts. It is also common to be greeting friends and acquaintances with a "Happy Continuation" greeting, which is used from now on until mid January. The meaning until New Years Eve is a wish of a good continuation of the Christmas Holidays, while after New Years it means simply "Happy New Year".


In Denmark though the greeting is not a custom at all. The big sales in stores start first after New Year and no one talks about "the in between days". Although the two countries lie in close proximity, their customs differ slightly.

My Christmas was spend in my house with very good old friends of mine, where the culinary traditions of Denmark and Slovakia were mixed. Weather vise, this Christmas was again "green", no snow to speak off at all. Christmas Eve was though sunny and clear and yesterday was one of the most beautiful winter days on record. Sunny, clear and bitterly cold. However completely wind still. We took a drive in the north part of the country, visiting an unusual peninsula. A strip of land stretching out into the sea, with wide, rocky beaches. A favorite spot for many locals, with a still functioning Lighthouse offered a breathtaking view of a very early, afternoon winter sunset over a turquoise coloured sea, which I managed to capture on film (please click on images to enlarge). Days like this one remind me how much I like the rugged, pristine and pure beauty of the north and reinforce my love for Scandinavian nature.
Happy Continuation Everyone!;)


December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas to all of you reading this; all of you that found it worth their while to stop by here and leave wonderful comments, today and in the past - may your holidays be lovely!


December 23, 2008

"The Day Before The Dipping Day".


When I was growing up in Sweden, the last day before Christmas Eve had a special and somewhat strange name. The 23d of December was called "Dan Före Dopparedan". Dopparedan is a shortage for Dopparedagen, which in translation means "Dipping Day". When the two other words; "Dan Före" are added, the meaning becomes "The Day Before The Dipping Day". Ok, so what is this dipping business all about? "Dipping" in this case is referring to a meal called "dopp i grytan" (transl: dip in the cooking pot), which was served on the 24th of December, on the evening of Christmas Eve, in the old times in Sweden. The left over broth from the cooking of the Christmas ham or sausages was reduced and spiced up, transferred to a big bowl and placed in the middle of the table. It was then served with soft bread, which was dipped into the spicy soup in the bowl. This is an old Swedish tradition, but I do not think it is very common to serve this meal anymore. However, the name is still widely used, especially describing the 23d of December in Sweden.
In many Scandinavian countries today is also called "Little Christmas Eve". Often a private Christmas is celebrated on this day by couples, with or without children, that are to spend Christmas Eve with their parents, grandparents of others members of their close or extended family.
Merry Little Christmas Eve to everyone in Scandinavia.

December 22, 2008

Christmas Candy.


My teeth are definitely suffering comes December. This is the time when all the companies we do business with at work send us tons of candy! Any kind; chocolate covered pralines, caramel, fudge and even chewy or hard candy. It is impossible to keep one's weight down. Or do any work. But, it is nevertheless delicious and makes us feel like kids, all over again.;)

December 21, 2008

Winter Solstice.


Today is the shortest day in the northern hemisphere. The so called "winter solstice" is taking place, when the sun is standing low on the horizon; rising at 8.53 in the morning and setting at 15.41 in the afternoon, where I live. Indeed, with today’s cloud cover, it is truly a gloomy and very dark winter day. But, there is something to look forward to. From now on, the days will on average become about 3 minutes longer. Comes June and the return of summer solstice, we will have about 10 hours more of light per day. What a difference six months can make.
The return of the sun in December has been celebrated and observed in many cultures throughout the times. Interestingly, this year the winter solstice comes on a 4th Advent Sunday, when four candles are lit in advent candle holders or advent wreaths, meaning Christmas is truly knocking on the door.

December 20, 2008

Christmas City Lights.


Today is weather vise one of those days I truly dislike. It is rainy and windy. Well, stormy would be a more appropriate term actually.
However yesterday was a wonderful winter day; sunny and calm, no wind to speak off. I took a walk through the city in the early evening to see this year’s decorations. I manged to visit a small Christmas marked as well and finally got to stand next to the enormous Christmas Tree in front of the City Hall, which I drive pass every day to work.
I always enjoy walking through the streets close to Christmas, especially when I do not have to feel the stress of purchases and preparations.

December 19, 2008

Snow Barometer.


Every year the Danes are with excitement preparing for Christmas and every year there are numerous polls, forecasts and prediction on television, in the newspapers and on the net, whether the Christmas this year will be white. And of course, here in Scandinavia, as everywhere else, we all want snow for Christmas. But we almost never get it. It is a common misconception thinking that there is snow all over Scandinavia, as often it is not. Denmark, thanks to the Gulf stream is in the temperate zone climate, meaning that the winters are not particularly cold, but very wet and very windy. With that said, we do get hit by snowstorms occasionally and even ice storms. Mainly in February and even March, exactly at the time when everyone is ready for spring. These are the never ending months.
This year, just like every year, there is the Snow Barometer counting down its prediction for "White Christmas", by showing the probability for such a Christmas in percent (right now it is 5% chance). As explained on the site, a Christmas to be called white has to be "country covering", which means there has to be snow covering the whole of Denmark. This happens rarely, about every 15 years. The last one was in 1995, meaning the chances are increasing, but we are not there yet. Partly white Christmas occurs apparently every 6 years, therefore with a bit of luck, some parts of Denmark can be looking forward to snow covered surroundings, comes Christmas Eve.

December 18, 2008

"All The Pleasure In Life..."


"...all the pleasure in life are nothing if we have no one to share them with..."

What a poignant sentence. Regrettably, I cannot claim the credit - it is not mine; an unknown person out there formulated it and typed it in the google search. And behold, they found themselves here, as my blog came up on top of the page. This sentence, by sheer coincidence, summarizes eloquently the essence of what my blog is all about. I know that grammatically the sentence is slightly off, but this is what someone typed and this sentence led him or her here. At least that is what the little tracker on my page told me. I hope they were not too disappointed in what they found.

I am amazed every time to find people from all over the world stopping by. Most of all I find it interesting to see how/why they found my place.
During the last month, it has been mostly because of this post. It seems that many people are struggling with one problem; what to write in a Christmas card. Many stumble upon my page by making a search for a combination of words "write" and "Christmas card(s)", although sorry to say, I do not offer any advice on such writing in that post.

So what do I write in my Christmas cards? It is actually very simple; I always write from the heart. I never write anything I truly do not feel. Coincidentally, staying in touch means sharing. Sharing wishes or sentiments about a season or an experience. And as someone put it so expressively; a pleasure is truly a pleasure first when we can share it with someone. So, a simple "Wish you were here..." will always be very appropriate.

December 17, 2008

For The Lonely And The Sad...


Christmas. The word in Slovak is "Vianoce" and in Swedish "Jul". In all these languages, the word evokes emotions of happiness, peace, love and joy in me. I have kept those feelings to this day and for that I am grateful.

I remember the sensation so well, the one that encompassed my whole being when I was a little girl and I awoke on the morning of Christmas Eve. This was the day in my childhood, when Christmas was celebrated with traditional dinner in the evening, followed by opening of presents under the tree. I recall the feeling of ultimate happiness and excitement. Sorrow and sadness were absent and foreign. I felt safe and loved. Christmas Eve was one of those occasions when the unconditional affection of my parents and my sister and the joy of being with my family grew more evident than ever.

I must have been in my late teens when I first became aware of the fact that many perceived this time as a sad time. This revelation developed into more than a fact a few years later as a result of listening to a song that was played on the radio one winter, long time ago. It was a Swedish song entitled “For the lonely ones…”, a beautiful melancholic piece. I was stunned and in disbelieve and I remember clearly the lack of comprehension in regards to the text. Indeed it was so beyond belief to me that someone could be sad at this wonderful time of the year, that I dismissed it from my mind and decided not to preoccupy myself with something I clearly did not understand, nor was I ever going to experience.

Today I am feel incredibly blessed by the fact that I really never needed to experience this. Life has - so far - indeed spared me heartaches and sorrows which would have forced me to live the sentiments of the lyrics I heard as a teenager. Over the years, I have more than fully gained a true comprehension of the text and developed a compassion for others that were not as lucky as me. Those to whom the holiday season means loneliness and poverty; whether the shortage is monetary or emotional.

I would like to, with all my heart, dedicate this post to everyone out there, whose Christmas is sad and lonely, whose heart is breaking and who cannot find comfort in the company of family or friends. To those, whose painful memories makes this a difficult time and to those, whose loved ones are far away or not around anymore. To those, who have the wish, but not the means to be able to give gifts or to provide a Christmas of their dreams. My wishes go to all of you, who the song I once heard long time ago, was about. May you have a Merry Christmas despite it all and may you find a moment of light in the darkness. May a kind word or an act of compassion disperse the feelings of hopelessness and despair for just a moment.
May you encounter love and joy, which is so representative of the season.


Chorus from "Till de ensamma" (by Mauro Scocco)

Det här är en sång för alla dom,
som aldrig hittat nån att dela sin glädje och sorg med.
En sång för alla dom,
som inte kommer hem till nångon som frågar hur det är.
Den här sången är till dom...

Translation:
Chorus from "For the lonely ones" (by Mauro Scocco)

This song is for all those,
that never found someone to share their joy and their sorrow with.
A song for all those,
that have no one who cares, to come home to.
This song is for those...

December 16, 2008

Earthquake.


This morning an earthquake hit Denmark. Not to worry, it was measured to be only 4.8 on the Richter magnitude scale, which is not really that much. However, it was the strongest quake to hit Denmark since 1930, which is almost considered never, as that is how long quakes have been recorded here. It managed to shake some people out of bed, throw pictures and paintings on the floor and break some china. And it made the headlines in the morning news (see picture). The epicenter was in south of Sweden, therefore the tremors were more evident in the eastern part of Denmark, and there people reported even cracks in the ceiling.
I slept gladly through it, which is highly unusual, as I am a light sleeper. Some twenty years ago I could sleep through anything, which was constantly envied by others. There could have been a freight train going straight through the room, and I would continue sleeping. I guess that is the privilege of youth. I have to say though, that I did awake suddenly around the time the quake was supposed to have hit. I remember this as I looked at the watch and was happy to realize that I still had an hour left in bed. People close to the epicenter also reported strange behaviour in animals and pets just prior to the incident. I have always found it fascinating, how animals can sense these occurrences long before we do.

December 15, 2008

A Family Clock.


I feel like it was yesterday that my father brought home this clock. However, thinking back, it must have been about 25 years ago. I have no idea where the time went. We have been living in Sweden for no more than a couple of years and I know for a fact that he spend a fortune on it.

The clock holds sentimental memories for me. It was hanging in the living room, when I was a teenager. On the wall opposite my room. In the night, if I accidentally woke up, the striking of the clock would tell me the time. I remember counting the strikes in the darkness. Low number meant I had plenty of time. High number was stressing me out.
I also remember the clock chimes when I was the only one up. When the house was still as I was sitting all alone in the night over books, trying to finish my homework or when I was preparing for tests. The clock was a constant, never changing presence, a sort of a reliable friend, yet reminding me of the fleeting time.

Two years ago my parents made a decision of a lifetime to leave the country they called home for over 25 years and relocated back to their country of origin. I am still in awe of them, as I know how much strain and stress such a big move means.
When they visited me last time before their final move they brought me a gift. They brought me the old clock. “Bim-bam” it said on the cardboard box, which made me smile. The clock was not working my father said, but it was not broken; it only needed cleaning.
I hung it up a few weeks after their departure and behold, the clock worked and the ticking sounds and the chimes would bring back a wave of memories.

Since then the clock works when it decides too. Sometimes, when I start the pendulum, it will go for days or weeks or stand still for equal amount of time. I actually do not care, to me just it’s presence is simply magical.

Little did I know those sleepless or lonely nights long time ago as a teenager, that one day this clock would hang in my own home.

December 14, 2008

Romantic Christmas.

My blog friend Hazel recently stated she feels old. Well, I have to say, that she is probably not feeling as old as I have done this past weekend. I am still recovering from a Christmas party held on Friday night at work. This just shows that I can simply no longer party as I used to.;)
So, this Sunday, on the 3d of Advent, I am sitting all curled up with hot chocolate, cookies and pile of happy, romantic, sugar sweet Christmas movies and of course a box of Kleenex.;)) And of course, the Batcat.
Here is my top 5 most romantic Christmas movies to watch, to all of you that find themselves with a pounding headache on those "after the party" days.;)

1.The Holiday
Starring Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet, as two successful women who trade their houses for Christmas Holidays in order to get over their broken hearts. Wonderfully romantic and sweet, very well made and with a perfect cast. I have to say it is much better than "Tara Road", a movie built on the same story.

2.The Family Stone
I always cry my eyes out watching this movie. A story depicted with humor but with very serious undertones, dealing with the grave issues and the dysfunction, which is evident, to some extend, in every family, especially around the holidays. I love this movie, as one can recognize so well the aspect of some of the problems. Yet in the end one can not help but realize that family is all that matters.

3. Serendipity
I can watch this movie over and over again; not one scene is boring. I have always loved Kate Beckinsale and she is perfect in this movie, as is John Cusack. Wonderful and so romantic film made for all of us that believe in magic and true love.

4. While you were sleeping
I love this movie, as it is a Cinderella story for grownups. I so identified with Sandra Bullock in this movie and always have. I watch this movie every Christmas, almost as a tradition.


5.Love Actually

This movie only gets better with time. I love that kind of English humor and I love that the movie consist of different stories, but they are all connected. Although naive and at times quiet unreal, it is still a wonderful movie to watch and packed with star actors. If for nothing else, at least for that touching opening scene at the airport, where it becomes obvious that all we really need, is love.

December 13, 2008

Sankta Lucia Day.


On the 13th of December, all over Scandinavia we celebrate the "Sankta Lucia Day", or "Saint Lucy's Day". It is a beloved tradition, which celebrates Saint Lucy of Syracuse, a young Christian martyr, who refused to marry a pagan and was consequently persecuted and sentenced to death by burning. However, the fire miraculously refused to take her. This is symbolically depicted each December in the Sankta Lucia processions, where a girl is selected to portrait the saint, wearing a white gown with a red sash and a crown of candles on her head. She walks ahead of an assembly of women, each holding a candle. Typically the women walk solemnly while singing a special "Santa Lucia song". These parades are common in schools and workplaces, plus there is always an official procession taking place and televised. At home, people have their own small gatherings and serve specially made "Lucia Saffron buns", called Lussekat in Sweden.

December 12, 2008

TGIF.


I love Fridays! Or TGIF's, a term I learned to use during my stay in the US.
Friday used to be -and still is- one of my favourite days of the week.
When I was in school, Friday evenings meant no homework, late nights in front of TV with my parents, usually with fun and favourite foods and snacks.
Once I moved away from home, Fridays, or particularly Friday evenings became what I used to call “sacred”. Or in translation “mine”. That meant no one was to share them with me. These were quality times I got to spend with myself.;) No matter what my girlfriends tried make me do and how they tried to persuade me to join them for a night out in the town, they always got a firm NO. On those evenings all I wanted to do was to curl up all wrapped in a blanket, forget all about diets and healthy food and watch favourite movies long into the small hours of the morning.
Today I still enjoy Fridays this way, perhaps not longing to be alone as much anymore. After a long working week, they are still precious to me, as I can finally relax, spending them not just in company of junk food, but also my two roommates.
So what does the word Friday mean? Well it seams that the word is derived either from the Nordic Freyja or the old English Frige, both love goddesses. In Latin languages the word is likewise derived from the name of the love goddess Venus. Therefore it seems to be a day dedicated to love.
So happy "Love Day" to you all! Have a wonderful, happy day to usher in the weekend, when we all get to relax and play.

December 11, 2008

Happy Blinking Badges.


I received these badges from my handsome Irishman and I just had to share this, as watching the lights twinkle makes me in such a good mood. I am truly young at heart and I do love Christmas (the little one is a snowman).;)

video

December 10, 2008

Salt and Pepper.


This weekend I was looking for a particulate Christmas ornament and I found a “salt and pepper” shakers set in one of my cabinet drawers. Well, I did not find it, as I knew it was there, but seeing it again brought back sentimental memories.

I was 24 years old when I set on a journey that took me not just away from my family and friends, but also my hometown, the country I grew up in and – away from Europe. I left the continent I called home and relocated to America. I do not think I was really aware of what I have done until the TWA plane landed in JFK airport on a cold January afternoon. I felt a bit lost. I remember clearly how alone I felt, when I tried to buy a soft drink at the airport with $50 bill. The guy at the stand stared at me suspiciously and finally handed me the bill back rudely and said that he only takes one-dollar bills. I said that $50 bills were all I had, as that is what the (stupid) bank gave me when I exchanged my currency in Europe.
My last salary I ever received in Sweden came to $300 and that was given to me in $50 bills. My plan was to live on this amount for the first few months after my arrival in North Carolina. Yes, that is what I thought. I think that money was all spend immediately as a deposit on setting up a bank account. But that is another story entirely. In any case, I had to go thirsty.

I was completely exhausted when the turbo prop I traveled on from NYC finally landed in Raleigh airport, where my new employer, who I never met and whom I only talked to on the phone a couple of times, picked me up.
In the morning the next day when I woke up in a hotel room I finally broke down when I unwrapped the last gift given to me by my mother; two cute pigs, making up a salt and a pepper shakers set.

In some odd way they remain to this day a symbol of the notion that life is what we make it. The meals life will serve us might at times –most of the time - taste of nothing. It is up to us to spice them up.
Someone once said, that in life we never get what we want the most of all. Well, perhaps that is true. I however firmly believe that we hold the power to spice up what ever we get.

December 09, 2008

Favourite Christmas Candles.

Being far up in the North means way too little light comes December. Just this morning there was a discussion on the Danish television that any light, even candlelight, is beneficiary during the long, dark Scandinavian winter.
Well, I do not have to be told twice; every evening I lit several candles and here are a few favourite ones of mine.

December 08, 2008

"The Christmas Girl."


In my house, every year during the Christmas Holidays, a special statue of a young girl is always on display in my window. She is dressed in red and holds a basket of apples in one hand and a candle in the other. The girl is sculpted according to a well known Christmas drawing by a famous Swedish painter Carl Larsson, representing his daughter Brita.

This is indeed a very familiar and traditional image to all Swedes and the name of the drawing is "Brita As Idun". Idun is the name of a Goddess in the Norse Mythology, which is indicative off youth or the forever young, thus the apple symbolism. Brita as Idun can be found often depicted on Christmas cards and printed on table clothes and other fabrics. Or painted on china and made into pottery or small statues, such as the one in my possession.

I was given this "Christmas Girl" as gift about 7 years ago while spending Christmas with my parents in Sweden. On the day of Christmas Eve, while my mother stayed in to prepare dinner, my father, me, my sister and her husband went to a small pottery shop that was still open; it was magical to be there. My father bought two of these "Christmas Girls" statues; one for me and for my sister. He and my mother already had one themselves; that is where the inspiration originated the previous day.

The girl has since then become almost a family symbol of the holidays. Gazing at Brita while she smiles and holds a lit candle makes me feel closer to my family, which is spread all over Europe. It warms my heart knowing that my family members are perhaps, in the same moment, looking at the Christmas Girl as well.

December 07, 2008

"With Every Christmas Card I write..."


Another tradition day in my white house on the hill is on the 2nd of Advent, which is today. As soon as it gets dark, I lit the candles and my fireplace. In North Carolina I would drink some eggnog, but that I cannot purchase here, so I settle for a glass of hot spicy red vine (gløgg) and write Christmas cards while listening to my favorite Christmas music. Ok, I know this sounds so corny, please do not hate me, but I truly enjoy this little tradition of mine. And yes, I am one of those people who still write cards, even in the age of Internet and emails. I personally love receiving cards and I will never stop writing them. I appreciate that someone takes the time to sit down and writes me a few lines, wishing me wonderful holidays. I usually take this opportunity to write to friends and family, who I have not spoken with for a while, letting them know that despite the distance, they are in my thoughts.

December 06, 2008

St. Nicholas Day.


Today is Saint Nicholas day.
St. Nicholas, or Agios Nikolaos, was a Turkish saint and bishop. He had a reputation for secret gift giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, and is now commonly identified with Santa Claus.
However, when I was growing up in Eastern Europe, St Nicholas day was celebrated independently of Christmas on the 6th of December. Gifts would have been delivered by Mikuláš, as St Nicholas was called in Slavic. He would be dressed as a bishop and would walk the street in company of an angel and a devil like creature.
This celebration is still very pronounced in central Europe and even though not celebrated in Scandinavia, I always think of presents comes the 6th of December.