To Americans the witch is associated with Halloween but here in Sweden it is associated with Easter (Påsk). The old traditional story is that on the Thursday before Påsk the witches fly away to meet up with Satan. On the 30th of April large bonfires are lite to scare the witches away so that they wont return. But that is for another post coming soon to a webpage near you. Nowadays children dress up as witches on the Thursday before Påsk and often seek candy from neighbors similar to Halloween in the United States. A traditional decoration for Påsk is to take birch branches and cover them in colored feathers. This is called Påskris. The påskharen brings godis (candy) which is an Easter hare instead of an Easter rabbit. Eggs are painted not dyed (äggmålning).These are just some of the traditions that make this a Swedish holiday.
According to www.sweden.se :
While in other countries Easter is specifically a religious holiday, it has become a secular one in Sweden. . . Many of the practices associated with Easter have religious origins, but this is not something that bothers Swedes much.
One of the first signs of spring in Utah is the arrival of the robins. In Sweden it is the arrival of the cranes or tranor in Swedish. From their overwintering place in Spain they arrive in the Southern part of Sweden in March and April before heading further north for the summer. The newspaper last week estimated that there would be over 12,000 cranes in Pulken this week.
Cranes are Europe’s biggest bird. They can be up to 1,3 meters high (4.2 feet) and weigh between 4 – 7 kilos (8.8 to 15.4 pounds). They can live between 25 to 30 years. The young can fly when they are about eight weeks old. The young will migrate south with their parents. They start to breed between four and five years old.
Every spring the cranes arrive in an area called Pulken just outside of Åhus. Pulken use to be a shallow lake but is now just a puddle hence the name Pulken. In order to prevent the cranes from spreading out through out the sounding farms and eating up all the winter wheat and newly planted crops they are fed grain every day while they are resting there before resuming their journey to the north.
I was unable to get any good pictures but I found a couple of videos. The first one is from Pulken. You get a good idea of what it is like going to see the cranes. You can hear the people talking in the background and the cranes trumpeting. In the second video you can better see the cranes but I am not sure where exactly the video was made other than somewhere in Southern Sweden.
Tvättstuga is basically a laundry room with a Swedish twist.Usually every apartment complex will have a room or two located in one of the buildings. They have two main differences from a typical laundry room in the United States. You schedule a time to use the tvättstuga and during that time period you are the only one with access. There is no upfront costs to operate the washer or the dryer eliminating the need to obtain large amount of coins. The tvättstuga is either part of your rent or part of the fees paid to a home owners association for condo maintenance.
Next to the tvättstuga is a scheduling board. There are set times for each day of the month. Each apartment has a special lock that they can then attach to the board in an open slot. It is then locked and your time is secured. No one can move your time slot without your key. While using the tvättstuga this special lock goes over the door lock preventing anyone else from ending the room during your time slot. Having the laundry room to yourself for a set period of time is perhaps one of my favorite things about the tvättstuga. Some tvättstugas now have more modern ways of scheduling using computers and key cards.
The complex I live in has three tvättstugas, two for regular laundry and one for big items like rugs or heavy blankets. The two regular tvättsugas each have two washers, one dryer, one drying cabinet, one flatwork finisher, one water extractor, two large sings, one table for folding, an iron and ironing board, two carts to move laundry around, and a contraption to assist in folding large items like sheets or blankets. This laundry room is better equipped than any laundry room or coin-op laundry I have seen in the U.S. unless you are Martha Stewart.
Before moving to Sweden I had never seen a drying cabinet or a flatwork finisher. A flatwork finisher is perfect for helping you fold sheets flat with perfect creases. I have only used it once and that was just to test it out. I have convinced Vanim that there exist a need to fold clean laundry. He most likely has agreed just to keep me from complaining. If I were to start wanting to use the flatwork finisher all the time he might just decide to abandon our laundry activity all together and leaving it just to me. I still prefer laundry being an activity we both participate in.
I have found that using the drying cabinet for heavy items like jeans and sweaters works really well. It also works for drying large blankets. The cabinet has a blower that circulates warm air in the cabinet. I have found that the clothes in the drying cabinet will dry almost as fast as in the dryer.
The Tvättstuga started appearing in Swedish apartment buildings after 1955. The most common conflict a Swed might get in with his neighbor is over issues concerning the tvättstuga. To learn a little more you can watch the video below. It comes from a popular Swedish television show where a group of American Swedes are chosen to come to Sweden and learn about Sweden in a competition. It will start at 13:04 and and the information will end at about 14:14 but feel fee to watch the whole show. Below the video there are pictures of one of the laundry rooms here.
Melodifestivalen is an integral part of Swedish culture. The winner represents Sweden at the Eurovision song contest. Songs are submitted to SVT (Sverige Television AB) which is the Swedish national public television broadcaster similar to United States PBS. There is then a process to narrow the songs down to thirty two. Those thirty two songs were then preformed during a period of four semi-finals. Eight songs were preformed at each semi-final. For each semi-final the winner was chosen by votes cast via cell phone SMS and phone calls. The first and second place song automatically went to the finals. The third and fourth place songs were sent to the second chance round. The two top songs at the second chance round were then sent to the finals.
Ten songs were preformed for the finals. There was a two point process to choose the winner. The first group of points were awarded by eleven international juries. These juries were made up of people in the music industry. Each countries jury cast votes and points were given as follows: 7th place, 1 point; 6th place, 2 points; 5th place, 4 points; 4th place, 6 points; 3rd place, 8 points; 2nd place 10 points; 1st place 12 points. This year the juries came from Italy, Germany, Israel, France, Netherlands, Malta, Russia, Great Britain, Estonia, Spain and Denmark. The second group of points were awarded by viewers votes via SMS and phone calls. The SMS and phone call votes were tallied and awarded according to the percentage of votes.
So if I lost you with the boring details of how the winner is now picked perhaps now I can regain your attention again. In 1974 the wining song of Melodifestivalen went on to win Eurovision. Later that year the song was released as a single in the U.S. and quickly climbed the charts to number six. That song was “Waterloo” preformed by non other than ABBA.
This years winner was Sanna Nielsen singing “Undo”.
This week for the second time in two weeks the subject of equality and equal treatment came up in my Swedish for Immigrants class. The first was a presentation on sexual health and the second was a follow up on a required class on bullying everyone was required to attend in December. Each time part of that discussion goes something like this, If a man likes a man it is OK and if they want to get married it is OK. If a woman likes a woman it is ok and if they want to get married it is OK.
Now these discussions do not just center around sexual orientation. They also include someone’s religion, skin color, education level, and other areas that could have the potential for inequality. This is not to say that Sweden is a UTOPIA, but Sweden has become committed to the idea of equal and made great strides in the direction.
This contrasts against my experiences in the United States. My career in the United States Navy came to an end in 2003 because of my sexual orientation. In Utah there always existed the possibility I could lose my job if my employer found out I was gay. When Vanim and I began our relationship I began to confront the realities of inequality on a very real and personal basis again. There was no way for me to obtain medical insurance for Vanim. In the end we ran into we ran into the big wall called DOMA that meant I had to immigrate to Sweden if we were going to stay together.
Really it is an extraordinary things for me when I hear the importance of equality and equal treatment in public institutions as a requirement not just a nice thing to strive for. It also brings a great amount of peace to know that Vanim and I are treated the same under the law as any other relationship here in Sweden. Since I have lived here in Sweden many things have begun to change in the United States. The United States government will now allow Vanim to obtain a visa if we are legally married. The prohibition against same sex marriages in Utah has been overturned by a federal judge waiting for appeal. It gives me a great deal of hope for a better brighter future for the United States when it comes to matters of equality.
I have struggled for the past month to write anything including blog posts. Last week when the weather was nice I took the opportunity to go out walking and found some signs of spring. With the daylight hours increasing and the beginning signs of spring approaching it is my hope that my writing will again begin to emerge from the hibernation of winter it has been in. The first signs of spring always bring with it signs of hope. It is this hope that keeps me going awaiting till the time when spring finally arrives.
These picture come from Isternäset Nature Reserve. It consists of about 107 hectares of grazed wetlands along the Helgeå River. Many birds use this area as part of their annual migration. Part of the Linnérundan trail which starts in Kristianstad centrum.
Today we had our first snow storm of the winter where the snow actually was not melted by the morning. You will notice in some of the picture that people are riding bicycles. Using bicycles for transportation is very common here even in winter and snow. This post also gives me a chance to use the gallery feature for the first time.
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.
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.