Christmas

A Swedish Christmas Eve

Twas a Swedish Christmas this year. It was a bit exciting for the entire family. Marcus hadn’t celebrated Christmas in Sweden for 3 years, I had never celebrated Christmas in Sweden and Baby hadn’t celebrated Christmas before all together.

So it was with great anticipation that we rolled out of bed at 8am on the 24th. Marcus and I showered and Baby got a diaper change. Once we were all dressed we went downstairs to have breakfast with the family at 9am. On the table was rice pudding (I guess that’s the best translation) with toppings: sugar, cinnamon, milk or berry juice (saft soppa?), as well as bread and sliced Christmas ham for sandwiches with toppings: mustard and beet salad. To drink was milk and of course julmust (a Swedish soft drink served for Christmas and Easter).

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After breakfast we all went to the basement, settled in the couches – Baby curling up in my lap – and we took turns reading aloud from the scriptures about the birth of Christ.  I really liked this tradition, as it really helped set the mood for the day and reminded us what we were celebrating – and why.

Then we had some fun family time. We got out the Wii, the candy, the cookies, the blankets, and spent the next few hours enjoying one another’s company. During this Marcus, Baby and I went back upstairs to change into our nicer clothes. Baby especially looked pretty in her new red dress, white stockings and tiny black shoes. Hello Shirley Temple!

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Nice watch, Santa!

At 3 o’clock sharp – and I mean sharp! – it was time to gather around the TV for From All of Us to All of You – or in Sweden better known as “Kalle Anka” (Donald Duck) (wonder which character the Swedes like the best…). This show was so important that Marcus messaged me on Facebook to stop whatever I was doing – I was nursing Baby – and come down immediately.

When Kalle Anka was over it was time for Christmas dinner! I was especially excited for this part. We entered the kitchen and was the dinner table completely covered in dishes with potatoes, meat balls, salmon, brussels sprouts, potato gratin, a dish called “Janssons Frestelse” (potato gratin with fish), herring, sausages, gravy… think I remembered everything. I know I’m gonna get this question a lot when I get back to Denmark, so I’ll just answer it right away: Swedish Christmas dinner was a lot better than I thought it was gonna be. I really liked the different meats and the potato gratin. I still prefer Danish Christmas dinner, but I’m definitely not gonna be sad to have Swedish Christmas dinner every other year.

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Once we had finished eating it was time for presents! We all gathered around the tree and enjoyed an hour of the joy of giving and receiving. It was really a great experience for me, being still the newest member of the family. Since money is a little tight at the moment we hadn’t provided very many of the gifts under the tree. But to me it was a true bonding moment sitting there watching presents being passed around and feeling the love in the room. These people are truly family to me.

Dessert was then served, delicious gingerbread cheesecake, and at last we all watched Svensson Svensson, which I am told is also a Swedish Christmas tradition.

I am surprised how little I missed Danish Christmas. It just testifies that Christmas is more about the people you spend it with than the food eaten or traditions kept.

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Christmas Favorites

Last week I was asked to do a post about my favorite Christmas songs. I’ve never been good at favorites, so I’ll do my top five. And try not to change my mind too many times. Here goes!

1. Silent Night

2. White Christmas

3. Baby it’s Cold Outside

4. O Come all ye Faithful

5. Uhm… Joy to the World!

 

Now we’re at it, I’ll list my five favorite Christmas movies too!

1. The Muppet Christmas Carol

2. It’s a Wonderful Life (Sorry Mom, it only made second)

3. Home Alone 2

4. The Santa Clause

5. Frozen (I just decided to add this to our list of must-sees each year)

 

Here’s a picture of the gingerbread house Marcus and I decorated today. It was the first one I ever did! Guess who did which side of the roof…

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I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas Eve with your families!

 

Going home for Christmas

Yesterday was the longest day in.. a long time.
Geographically, Stockholm is not really that far away, but for a small student family during the holidays who are trying to save money, we may as well have been celebrating Christmas in China.

We got up early, cause we were leaving at 6. My dear father picked us up, and off we went. Baby has never been much for car rides so we had been a little nervous about how her first drive out of town would go. Fortunately, she had only slept 6 hours so she was out like a light – we didn’t even have to sing or do the fairytale voices. Almost an hour later we arrived at the ferry terminal.

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It was a good feeling walking into the terminal that Marcus and I have both been at countless times over the last two and a half years. Dating, engaged, married, and now with a little baby on the arm. Despite having boarded that ferry so many times, I am still surprised every single time how long the trip across to Sweden takes. We had packed a lunch (or rather breakfast, dinner and lunch) … (made a LOT of tuna salad Tuesday night) which we took out as soon as we were settled in our seats at the front. Then the hours passed remarkably fast. Marcus got a little seasick, so Baby and I went exploring. We looked at all the other passengers (Baby not as discretely as me), looked out the window at all the water and did a few diaper changes. Later Baby took a nice long nap on Dad’s chest and I did some sudokus. By the time we reached Gothenburg Baby was awake and happy.

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The tram ride to Gothenburg central station was fun. Marcus who was holding Baby got talking to a very friendly lady. Always nice to meet friendly strangers!

We only had to wait for the bus to the airport for about 15 minutes. It was comfortable with not too many people. But Baby got a little annoyed that we couldn’t walk her around all of a sudden. So nursing it was!

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We arrived at the airport about 6 hours before our flight would depart. We checked in and tried to check in our baggage, but were unsuccessful. So we settled down in some uncomfortable airport chairs to wait out the time. We had some more tuna salad, nursed, we started reading A Christmas Carol, did some more sudokus, nursed again. It’s funny how, despite hard airport chairs, baby poop and no snacks, time flies when you’re with your best friend. I’m grateful to have had those hours with Marcus to just do whatever, people watch and laugh. I really want to prioritize always having time for that. Finally we could check our baggage and go through security. It was a fun experience doing all of this with a baby for the first time. Never have I been so thankful for being able to breastfeed! Don’t know how we would have survived that day dragging around bottles and formula.

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The flight was the part I had dreaded the most. Didn’t want to be stuck in a tiny crammed seat with a baby with painful ears. For that reason we had agreed to wait to feed her when we were on the plane, so she would be hungry enough to keep eating until we were in the air. Unfortunately, we weren’t permitted to board for 25 minutes and Baby was crying impatiently. Other than that the plan worked! She stayed on the boob for the entire flight and was the happiest little squirt when we got off.

Now, all that was left was the car ride back to Marcus’ parents’. It was a happy reunion in the airport with Marcus’ mom. It makes me so happy that our other family members are so happy to see Baby and seem to love her (if possible) as much as we do. Baby got packed good and snug in her car seat and off we went. She did great for the first 15 minutes due to my holding her hands and talking and singing in my high-pitched now well-trained mommy voice. Then she’d had enough. She screamed and screamed for about 10 minutes until she got tired of that. She settled for giving me ugly looks until she fell asleep.

And then we were there! After a 15 hour journey we arrived at the lightly snow-coated house shining with Christmas lights. Welcome to Sweden, Baby!

Getting the most out of the season of Christmas

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Since we celebrated Christmas last year in Hawaii – meaning no snow, no cold, no gloves, no scarves, no coats, no boots, no toasty thick socks, no snuggling up with a blanket on the couch .. you get the picture – I have been looking very VERY much forward to Christmas back here at home in Scandinavia. I’ve basically been talking about it for about a year… so now that 1 December finally came we planned a family night with hot chocolate, Christmas decorations, blankets and plenty of snuggles! Baby fell asleep pretty fast though, so Marcus and I ended up chatting for most of the time.

First, let me just say that I love Christmas – I know that’s very unique right? But every year when its over I feel like I could have done more to enjoy it and I promise myself that next Christmas I will make more of an effort. So I’ve been giving that some thought for a few weeks now, and so that is what we came to talk about tonight sipping our hot chocolate. How to get the most out of Christmas this year.

And it guess it really comes down to why you celebrate Christmas. There could be many reasons for that – gifts, family, FOOD! – but for me, as for many of you I’m sure, Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Christ. Or rather, it is about celebrating Christ and the spirit that He brings.

And it made me think of the things that I think make Christmas special. For one, I can’t help but notice how people become a little happier during Christmas time. You’ll get more smiles back on the street, you’ll be more likely to see gestures of kindness, and more than anything you see many more examples of service.

Oh my goodness! That’s what it comes down to! Christmas Spirit is really one happy circle of being excited and happy, leading to feeling thankful, leading to feeling humble, leading to serving others, leading back to feeling even more happy!

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(Get a load of those cheeks!!)

So to me it was quite simple. The way that we could get the most out of this month of Christmas is by enhancing and feeding that process. So for one thing we need to get happy and excited about Christmas – I’m putting up the last decorations while listening to Michael Bublé’s Christmas album tonight! We need to feel thankful and humble – it’s hard not to with that extremely cute baby lying asleep on the couch right there! And we need to try to serve others…

Now, great ways of doing that is finding a soup kitchen somewhere or making a Christmas donation… but since we’re poor young students and .. well I’m sure the soup kitchen thing would work for 45 minutes before the baby needed feeding again… I just really felt like we could be of service in smaller ways that might even make more of a difference – to others but maybe even more to ourselves. I mean the small unexpected ways that are just enough to light up someone’s day, like leaving a happy sticky note on someone’s wind shield, or smiling at everyone you pass on the street, or simply just making an effort to be happy and friendly when you’re around other people.

That way we would also reach our goal of getting the most out of our Christmas – because this would teach us to constantly be on the look-out for things we could do to serve. It would teach us to see other people through less judging and skeptical eyes. It would teach us to think happier thoughts and to stop wasting energy on gossiping and thinking angry thoughts. We would learn to just expect all people to have good intentions. Basically, it would teach us to be friendlier and happier people.

If I may be so selfish, I believe then we would be giving ourselves a better gift than any we would be giving away.

To get us in the right spirit we watched this short Youtube video.

Please, feel free to hit ‘play’ for instant Christmas spirit!