Monthly Archives: December 2013

Swedish Course B Finished!

by Keith Turner on December 20, 2013

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This week I completed Swedish course B. I received an overall B for the four areas that were tested.  There was an oral test where I sat down with two teachers and had a conversation with them in Swedish. There was a section where I had to read and answer questions. There was a section where I had to listen to dialogue and answer questions. The last section was to write about where I live. I still struggle with things that are more than basic conversations but I see this as a major milestone on my way to becoming fluent in Swedish.

When I learned Spanish in high school and college it was not nearly as frustrating and emotional as it has been learning Swedish. When I was learning Spanish I did not have to rely upon my understanding of Spanish to integrate into where I lived. I also did not have to understand Spanish to understand simple things like conversations going on around me. One minute I feel good that I can see progress and then the next day I might feel completely overwhelmed at how little I still can understand. I am happy to have completed course B and I am looking forward to starting course C in January.


Luciatåg – Lucia Train

by Keith Turner on December 18, 2013

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Last Thursday we attended the Lucia Train at Charlie’s and Albin’s school. (Both Charlie and Albin are Vanim’s cute nephews) The tradition is that on the night before St. Lucia’s day their is a procession called a train lead by the Lucia.  At the school all of the girls were Lucia. There was also tomtar and gingerbread man.  They walked to where the group had gathered and then proceeded to sing jul songs. It was cute. The last song they sang was We Wish You A Merry Christmas in English. Not very traditional but the kids were adorable singing it.

I made reference in my last post to how it gets dark so early here in the winter. The tradition of Lucia is believed to predate Christianity and have its roots in the pagan past of Sweden. The 13th of December was seen as the darkest day of the year. The current tradition of picking a Lucia and the Luciatåg is probably about two hundred years old. Living so far up north one is very aware of the changes in the amount of sunlight from week to week. I can understand why a celebration of this type would continue to this day. Saint Lucia lived in Sicily. She was killed for her Christian believe in 310 c.e. It is possible that at one time there was two different traditions that merged into one here in the northern part of Europe.

Malmö Christmas Lights

by Keith Turner on December 17, 2013

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All over the world at Christmas time it has become traditional to put out lights. When it is dark by 3:30 p.m. having jul lights out to brighten the streets makes a big difference. Below are some pictures of the lights in Malmö. The one thing that was not so common in the places I have lived are the outside candles. I think that they add a nice touch to the outside holiday decorations.
The lights along the city streets in Malmö
Jul Lights in Gustov Adolfs Torg (Square)
Jul Spruce of Candles
Candles in Adolfs Torg (Square) 

Luciakröning – Lucia Crowning

by Keith Turner on December 7, 2013

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Today in Kristianstad was the crowning of the town Lucia.   St. Lucia’s day is on 13th of December. Before that day a Lucia is picked.  The candidates for Kristianstad were presented in the paper a couple of weeks ago.  People in the community were then allowed to vote on their choice for Lucia.  The winner was announced a couple of days ago in the paper.  This year’s Lucia is Hanna Sandberg. This happens all over the country. There is even a national Lucia picked for Sweden.

Lucia becomes the bearer of light in this Swedish tradition that takes place during the darkest part of winter. I have to say that before I moved to Sweden I did not really understand a season being dark. Living here now I have a much better understanding of darkness.  Today the sunrise was at 8:18 a.m. and the sunset was at 3:30 p.m. Here in Sweden you can see a noticeable difference from week to week in the changing sun. Something that was barley perceptible to me in the United States. There will be more about Lucia in upcoming blog posts.

Today there was a little parade around Kristianstad. There was a band.  Following the band was a horse drawn wagon carrying the Lucia and her attendants. Behind the wagon was a procession of people carrying candles and wearing red hats.  There is a couple of videos of the parade below. After the parade through the town center Lucia and her attendants sang some songs at the town little square. Below is also a video of them singing one of their songs.

Lucia procession into chuch

Later in the afternoon the crowing was held at the Heliga Tregaldighetskyrkan (Holy Trinity Chruch) in town. There was a procession of Lucia and her attendants through the church. The crowing consisted mostly of music being played. There was a beautiful piece Winter Largo by Vivaldi from the four seasons. This was my favorite performance. I really like Vivaldi’s four seasons though. Listening to the organ and trombone play O Holly Night was fun to hear in the church. There is something very intimate when listening to music in the church as compared to a large concert hall.

Lucia after crowning

The Lucia crown is basically a crown of candles.  The candles were lit and then placed upon the head of the Lucia by Kyrkoherde Louise Nyman. (Just as a side note kyrkoherde is vicar in English. The vicar is the head priest. I love the fact that the head priest here is a woman. Also the Archbishop of Uppsala the head priest in the Swedish Church is also a woman.) After the crown was placed on Lucia’s head her attendants lit their candles they were holding from her crown. She and her attendants than sang some songs. After the program was complete they processed out of the church. And yes Lucia walked down the church isle singing and wearing her lit crown of candles. I thought it was pretty awesome.

Lucia procession out of church


Tomten By Viktor Rydberg

by Keith Turner on December 6, 2013

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The last post was about the tomte.  This famous Swedish poem seen below is called Tomten by Viktor Rydberg.  It was first published in 1881. I found an English translation by Steven Michelsen.  (If you live in America or Canada and want to purchase tomten items you can check out his web-store.  He also sells a tomten poster.)  Below you will find a video of the poem being read in Swedish.

Midvinternattens köld är hård,
stjärnorna gnistra och glimma.
Alla sova i enslig gård
djupt under midnattstimma.
Månen vandrar sin tysta ban,
snön lyser vit på fur och gran,
snön lyser vit på taken.
Endast tomten är vaken


Deep in the grip of the midwinter cold
The stars glitter and sparkle.
All are asleep on this lonely farm,
Deep in the winter night.
The pale white moon is a wanderer,
snow gleams white on pine and fir,
snow gleams white on the roofs.
The tomte alone is awake.



Står där så grå vid ladgårdsdörr,
grå mot den vita driva,
tittar, som många vintrar förr,
upp emot månens skiva,
tittar mot skogen, där gran och fur
drar kring gården sin dunkla mur,
grubblar, fast ej det lär båta,
över en underlig gåta.



Gray, he stands by the low barn door,
Gray by the drifted snow,
Gazing, as many winters he’s gazed,
Up at the moon’s chill glow,
Then at the forest where fir and pine
Circle the farm in a dusky line,
Mulling relentlessly
A riddle that has no key.



För sin hand genom skägg och hår,
skakar huvud och hätta —
»nej, den gåtan är alltför svår,
nej, jag gissar ej detta» —
slår, som han plägar, inom kort
slika spörjande tankar bort,
går att ordna och pyssla,
går att sköta sin syssla.



Rubs his hand through 
his beard and hair,
Shakes his head and his cap.
“No, that question is much too deep,
I cannot fathom that.”
Then making his mind up in a hurry,
He shrugs away the annoying worry;
Turns at his own command,
Turns to the task at hand.



Går till visthus och redskapshus,
känner på alla låsen —
korna drömma vid månens ljus
sommardrömmar i båsen;
glömsk av sele och pisk och töm
Pålle i stallet har ock en dröm:
krubban han lutar över
fylls av doftande klöver; —



Goes to the storehouse and toolshop
Checking the locks of all,
While the cows dream on 
in the cold moon’s light,
Summer dreams in each stall.
And free of harness and whip and rein,
Even Old Pålle dreams again.
The manger he’s drowsing over
Brims with fragrant clover.



Går till stängslet för lamm och får,
ser, hur de sova där inne;
går till hönsen, där tuppen står
stolt på sin högsta pinne;
Karo i hundbots halm mår gott,
vaknar och viftar svansen smått,
Karo sin tomte känner,
de äro gode vänner.



The tomte glances at sheep and lambs
Cuddled in quiet rest.
The chickens are next, 
where the rooster roosts
High above straw filled nests.
Burrowed in straw, hearty and hale,
Karo wakens and wags his tail
As if to say, “Old friend, 
“Partners we are to the end.”



Tomten smyger sig sist att se
husbondfolket det kära,
länge och väl han märkt, att de
hålla hans flit i ära;
barnens kammar han sen på tå
nalkas att se de söta små,
ingen må det förtycka:
det är hans största lycka.



At last the tomte tiptoes in
To see how the housefolk fare.
He knows full well the strong esteem
They feel for his faithful care.
He tiptoes into the children’s beds,
Silently peers at their tousled heads.
There is no mistaking his pleasure:
These are his greatest treasure.



Så har han sett dem, far och son,
ren genom många leder
slumra som barn; men varifrån
kommo de väl hit neder?
Släkte följde på släkte snart,
blomstrade, åldrades, gick — men vart?
Gåtan, som icke låter
gissa sig, kom så åter!



Long generations has he watched
Father to son to son
Sleeping as babes. But where, he asks,
From where, from where have 
they come?
Families came, families went,
Blossomed and aged, a lifetime spent,
Then-Where? That riddle again
Unanswered in his brain!



Tomten vandrar till ladans loft:
där har han bo och fäste
högt på skullen i höets doft,
nära vid svalans näste;
nu är väl svalans boning tom,
men till våren med blad och blom
kommer hon nog tillbaka,
följd av sin näpna maka.



Slowly he turns to the barnyard loft,
His fortress, his home and rest,
High in the mow, in the fragrant hay
Near to the swallow’s nest.
The nest is empty, but in the spring
When birds mid leaves 
and blossoms sing,
And come with her tiny mate.



Då har hon alltid att kvittra om
månget ett färdeminne,
intet likväl om gåtan, som
rör sig i tomtens sinne.
Genom en springa i ladans vägg
lyser månen på gubbens skägg,
strimman på skägget blänker,
tomten grubblar och tänker.



Then will she talk of the journey tell.
Twittering to all who hear it,
But nary a hint for the question old
That stirs in the tomte’s spirit.
Now through cracks in the haymow wall
The moon lights tomte and hay and all,
Lights his beard through the chinks,
The tomte ponders and thinks.



Tyst är skogen och nejden all,
livet där ute är fruset,
blott från fjärran av forsens fall
höres helt sakta bruset.
Tomten lyssnar och, halvt i dröm,
tycker sig höra tidens ström,
undrar, varthän den skall fara,
undrar, var källan må vara.



Still is the forest and all the land,
Locked in this wintry year.
Only the distant waterfall
Whispers and sighs in his ear.
The tomte listens and, half in dream,
Thinks that he hears 
Time’s endless stream,
And wonders, where is it bound?
Where is its source to be found?



Midvinternattens köld är hård,
stjärnorna gnistra och glimma.
Alla sova i enslig gård
gott intill morgontimma.
Månen sänker sin tysta ban,
snön lyser vit på fur och gran,
snön lyser vit på taken.
Endast tomten är vaken.



Deep in the grip of the midwinter cold,
The stars glitter and sparkle.
All are asleep on this lonely farm,
Late in this winter night.
The pale white moon is a wanderer,
snow gleams white on pine and fir,
snow gleams white on the roofs.
The tomte alone is awake.


Tomten har kommit!

by Keith Turner on December 4, 2013

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Tomten have come.  Sweden has their own tradition of a being that brings gifts. In Swedish they are called tomte or tomten. Tomte comes from the word tomt which is a building lot or a homestead. Tomten are considered protectors of the homestead, farm animals, children, and the farm buildings. They are often described as being the size of a child but appearing as old men with beards. The tomte do not come through the chimney as Santa Clause does but enter through the front door bearing gifts. To please the tomte you must leave him a bowl of porridge with a pad of butter at Christmas eve.

Our tomte arrived last  Thursday. Usually when I come home for lunch I let Maggie and Seth out on the balcony where they hang out until I leave. Last Thursday when I opened the door to the balcony Maggie ran to the door and stopped right outside of the door. She crouched down, her fur stood up and she began to hiss. She than backed away slowly from the door and towards the bedrooms.  By Friday she determined the tomte was in the kitchen.  She still is afraid to go in the kitchen.  She was sure the tomte was hiding under the fridge or behind the kitchen door. Saturday night she determined the tomte was under our bed.

When Mona brought in the large tomte decoration (pictured above) into the house Friday night maggie had a complete meltdown.  She has since decided it is ok to walk past him. But for at least a day she would not pass him and thus avoided the living room and kitchen.  She is slowly calming down and making friends with the large tomte decoration. She has yet to make friends with the small tomte decoration (pictured to the left). Now I am sure that any number of logical reasons can be found for Maggie’s breakdown but I like the mythological.