Monday, December 12, 2011

Swedish Christmas Part 2

This post is a sequel to Swedish Christmas Part 1.

Swedes celebrate Christmas for three days in a row. What kid wouldn't love that? My parents did a great job of each sharing their family's favorite traditions. What resulted was a wonderful and unique combination of celebrations. Now we've come to the next iteration of that plan. Our boys have the chance to celebrate Christmas with two sets of grandparents, in two ways, while each of those celebrations are in turn derived from what their parents, as in me and The Engineer, celebrated as children. Are you following? Today I'm going to share a bit about the Swedish version of santa – Jultomten. (Jul is Swedish for Christmas.)

As parents, The Engineer and I decided that we weren't going to tell our kids about Santa, The Tooth Fairy, The Easter Bunny, or The Great Pumpkin. Since we were already teaching them about Jesus, we didn't want Him to be lumped into the category of, “My parents said these people existed, but I now know that {insert fake holiday icon here} isn’t' real, then why am I to believe that Jesus is true? I mean, all the rest of that pack is pretend. Jesus must be, too.” We did our best to “let them in on the secret” since we didn't want them to go around spreading any “heresy”, or spilling the beans and in turn cause trouble for those kids who were taught differently. My boys were told not to share what we believe to be truth, and to just let those kids have their fun. I'm not so silly that I believe they never told anyone, but I do believe that what they took away from the whole situation is that their parents are truthful, and sometimes it's fun to pretend so we don't hurt anyone's feelings.

American kids grow up with Santa dressed in red and white, big white beard, sleigh, flying reindeer, and presents to everyone in one evening. Swedish kids of yesteryear grew up with santa looking more like the (completely annoying) Travelocity gnome. (I used to watch The Amazing Race and the worst product placement ever was making them carry around that &*^% gnome all over some country.) Swedish kids today are exposed to a Santa closely resembling the commercialized “American” version. I'm a history buff and was just fascinated with the story (which is most easily accessed at wikipedia) of the “evolution” of the Norse santa. Since I know all of you have time to spare this season, here's the link to Wikipedia if you care to explore. 

There's a lot more to tell, including The Swede's dad dressing up as tomten when I was a kid. However, I tend to get long-winded, so I'll pause the story here and share some of my favorite Swedish tomte decorations.  I inherited these from Farmor (“father's mother”) and am proud to display a piece of my heritage.

These little ones are hand-knit by my Farmor.  The guy jumping out of the candle holder is knitted and stuffed with scraps.  The short little guy is like a hat, and slipped over a cardboard toilet paper roll.  She made a lot of these, all to be donated to the church's yearly craft fair.  Remind me to post about that.  You crafty types might enjoy that.  The runner and the wall hanging you are seeing a piece of were made by my Farfar ("father's father")

This tomte is hand-made glass.  I have him hanging from my (hideous and I'm dying to replace) dining room chandelier as seen in the following picture.

This whimsical little fellow looks more like American santa.  A good transitional piece from history to what we have today.

This little girl is my favorite.  I have no idea how old she is, but she and her brother (who lives at Swissie's house) decorated Farmor's childhood home.

What Christmas objects are special to you?  Did you believe in santa as a child?  Did you tell your kids about santa?  I enjoyed the comments on my last Christmas post.  Always nice to hear how others celebrate.


mshatch said...

all I need is a Christmas tree with lights to make me feel festive. lovely pics :)

Brian Miller said... the little knitted people...3 days...really? i am missing out...and you have cool red fish too...smiles. nutcrackers invade our house, my wife having been a balerina...

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'm still chuckling about the "Travelocity Gnome!"
And that's a clever way to keep your kids believing in Jesus. Hopefully they didn't freak out any kids who thought Santa was real.
And yes - three days of Christmas sounds awesome!

Jenny said...

I love reading about Christmas customs. This just made me feel all warm and cozy.

Hart Johnson said...

I love how you've incorporated your beliefs. We had neighbors when my kids were little that were much like you. My own kids believed in Santa... well my daughter was 9... and I remember her best friend next door giggling when my daughter confessed. The neighbor girl had ALWAYS known, but had been such a good secret keeper about it she hadn't even told her best friend (my daughter). And I love that you can incorporate such concrete traditions from the various strands of your heritage.

I'm a mutt, so don't have those options. We DO make kifflings (a recipe from my husband's grandmother) and I have some childhood ornaments. Mostly, though, we are forging it fresh.