Christmas

SCANDINAVIAN CHRISTMAS :: Copenhagen // Flying House by Traveling Mama

Dear readers, this Christmas season’s final guest post is by none other than the Copenhagen-based Flying House blog. You might know her as Traveling Mama AKA Tina Fussell — you do follow her Instagram account @tinafussell, right? Tina’s graciously agreed to share a little about her experiences in the magical place that is Scandinavia at Christmastime.

Scandinavia has to be one of the most charming places in the world to celebrate Christmas.  For weeks the light of day grows dimmer and dimmer, like a great bear snuggling down for a long winter’s nap.  By three o’clock, darkness descends and candlelight flickers in the window of every home and shop.  It is everything you might imagine an authentic Christmas to be, as if every everyone and everything has been perfectly scripted into a fairy tale story.
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Click for more about Christmas Market shopping and the store windows, from Tina’s blog.

The days are filled with festive foods such as pebernødder cookies and æbleskiver, eaten while creating traditional handmade Christmas decorations, a craft that is passed down from one generation from the next, while the evenings are festive with parties and glogg, a warm mulled wine.  The shops are packed with everyone bustling about while Christmas music hangs in the air.
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Click for more about gløgg and the Christmas market at Tivoli, from Tina’s blog.

The Christmas markets sell a variety of wares, from seasonal teas to wool hats and gloves and the air is filled with the smell of earthy pine and sweet, sugary nuts being roasted and peddled by street vendors.

If you are looking for a quintessential Christmas experience, then Scandinavia is the place for you.

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Click for more about the pebernødder cookie, from Tina’s blog. 

Tina, thank you so much! And readers, for more of what Denmark has to offer, be sure to follow along with Tina over at the beautiful Flying House blog, as she takes you inside some of the best little spots in Copenhagen — and shares peeks of her cozy home! It’s one of my favorite reads, for sure.

Merry Christmas!

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Christmas

SCANDINAVIAN CHRISTMAS :: Sankta Lucia Day

Today, December 13, is St. Lucia Day! And today’s guest blogger, Linnea of Linnea in the Capitol, is here to tell you all about this wonderful Swedish holiday. -Gina

Growing up in a Scandihoovian (American-Scandinavian) household meant that Sankta Lucia day was an incredibly important part of our holiday season. Like my other favorite Swedish holiday, Midsommar, it involves wearing a fantastic crown and lots of singing!

How to Celebrate Santa Lucia Day at Home - Swedish Holidays

The Legend of St. Lucia

The legend – or legends, for I believe there are several versions – of Saint Lucia actually come from Sicily, Italy. A young maiden there, Lucia, chose to give away her dowry to the poor. This made her husband-to-be quite angry, and she was sentenced to be burned to death. The flames could not harm her, however, and eventually she was killed with a sword.

This tale was taken up to Scandinavia, where it melded nicely with local tradition and became a beautiful holiday and celebration. December 13th was the winter solstice according the old Julian calendar, and if you have ever been to Sweden in the winter you know how dark the days can be! Lucia brings light and hope (and often baked goods!) to the people on that dark, dark day.

Traditionally the eldest daughter in the family rises early and dresses in a long white dress with a red sash and with light on her head. She takes a tray of breakfast and goes throughout the home, waking the family with beautiful singing and bringing them breakfast in bed (at least that’s how we did it!)

Lucia programs are also put on in schools and throughout the community. One lucky girl is even chosen to be the National Lucia in Sweden each year. In some circumstances girls submit applications to be Lucia, and may be selected by a voting process. It is a wonderful honor to be selected as Lucia. Other girls make up the tärnor, a train which follows Lucia. The girls in the tärnor also wear long white dresses with sashes, and carry a candle in their hand. Often bringing up the back of the train are the stjärngossar (star boys), boys also wearing long white robes, wearing a tall pointed hat with stars on it and carrying a staff with a star on the end.

It is easy to celebrate Lucia at home! Here are the things you’d need:

Lucia and Light // St. Lucia Crown DIYs

While Lucia is often the eldest daughter, there is no reason that it has to be! In my opinion anyone can be Lucia, regardless of age or gender! (I often heard my brothers lament that they would never get to be Lucia. Being a star boy is fun, but in my opinion boys can be Lucia too!)

While traditionally Lucia wears real candles on her head, many people forgo this today in favor of battery powered candles. There are battery powered Lucia crowns for sale, but there are many other ways to represent Lucia’s crown as well that you can put together at home. One common solution is a wreath of silver tinsel around the head – it catches the light and twinkles in a wonderful way.

I found several great DIY Lucia crowns online, ranging from very easy (construction paper) to a little more involved (sewing.)

Lucia wears a long white dress, generally loose fitting – a nightgown works well, but any white dress will do. Tie a red ribbon around the waist and put some white socks on the feet and the outfit is complete!

Baked Treats and Hot Drinks // Swedish Lussekatter Recipe

Lucia brings a tray of yummy things to eat. You can put whatever you’d like on your tray, but if you’d like to celebrate like a real Swede consider making lussekatter (St Lucia buns) – a saffron yeast bun. Saffron is generally expensive, but gives such a distinct and unique color and flavor. I found my saffron this year at Trader Joe’s.

lussekatter via Vera H
Image Credit :: Vera H

Here is our family recipe, a combination of instructions from Första Kokboken, my great-uncle Stig, and my mother.

100-150 g. (10.6 Tablsp.) margarine or butter
4 dl (1 2/3 cup) milk
½ cup warm water (110⁰ F.)
50 g. yeast (2 Tblsp dry yeast – Kirsti; 3 packages dry yeast – Stig)
½ tsp. salt
1 – 1 ½ dl (1/2 cup) sugar
15 dl (6 cup) flour
1 gram (2 packages) saffron, also raisins
1 beaten egg to “pensla med” (brush onto the rolls before baking)

Melt the margarine in a sauce pan. Pour in the milk and warm until it is “finger warm”. Place yeast in mixing bowl and add ½ cup warm water and let dissolve. Add the warm milk mixture and flour, sugar, and seasonings. Put  the saffron in a small bowl with a sugar cube and crush them together. Then add to the dough mixture. If you have a mixer with a dough hook, use this to mix the ingredients together until the dough holds together and leaves the sides of the bowl. (It will be stickier than regular bread dough.) Place a towel over the bowl (or plastic wrap, easier to clean up) and let rise for 40 minutes or until it is light and porous. (This may take longer depending on your altitude.)

Dust flour onto the counter or a bread board. Punch down the dough, place some flour on your hands and knead with a light touch.

lucia shapes
Image Credit :: Första Kokboken

Pinch off some dough and roll into “ropes”. Then shape into “S” shapes, oxen, and other shapes. Place on greased baking sheet and let rise for 30 minutes. Decorate with raisins and brush on beaten egg (it makes the rolls shiny!). Bake at 425⁰ for 5 – 7 minutes, watch carefully because they burn easily. You may have to adjust for your oven.

Let your newly baked bread cool under a towel. Then it will be nice and soft.

Hot chocolate, tea, and coffee are great drinks to round out your tray.

Music for St. Lucia Day

There are many beautiful Swedish songs celebrating Lucia. Here are five of my favorites that would make a great Lucia playlist (click on the title to be taken to the song on Amazon).

You may also be able to find a Lucia program in your community to attend! If you are in near Washington DC, the American Scandinavian Association has their Lucia program this Saturday. (Find more information here!) I know there are also beautiful programs throughout the country, try googling “Swedish Lucia Festival [your area]” or something similar and see if you can find one near you! (This not-so-great quality photo is actually me as Lucia last night at the Ambassador’s Christmas party at House of Sweden.)

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You are beautiful, Linnea! Thank you for this great post. I can’t wait to have you back in the summer when we’ll talk more about Midsommar. :) Readers, be sure to add Linnea’s blog to your bookmarks!

Christmas

SCANDINAVIAN & NORDIC CHRISTMAS :: 3rd Annual Open Call for Christmas Submissions

NOW ACCEPTING SUBMISSIONS for the 3rd Annual Scandinavian and Nordic Christmas Series on the Oaxacaborn blog! (Carl Larsson image) 

It’s October, and already, I’m seeing a big spike in Christmas-related searches. (You all really, really love Christmas posts.) Can you believe it’s almost time for the Third Annual Scandinavian & Nordic Christmas Series? It’s crazy that we’ve been doing this together for three years now!

If you’re a new reader, every year in November and December everything goes Christmas here on Oaxacaborn. And not just any Christmas. We celebrate all things Scandinavian and Nordic, and during these next two months the blog will be full of Jul with brilliant guest posts by bloggers, photographers, writers from around Northern Europe.

We’ll talk about advent calendars (julkalender and adventskalender, that is), traditional celebrations and foods, wrapping paper, decorations, meals, dinner parties, ornaments, and Christmas trees. We’ll delve into snowy winters and traditions and we’ll light candles in the windows and we’ll deck the halls with red and white (and blue and yellow, and blue and white, too).

The most amazing part to me about the Annual Scandinavian & Nordic Christmas series is how all of you — all of us — come together to make this happen. For the last two years, people from all over Europe and the US and have shared beautiful Decemberish photographs and words with Oaxacaborn readers, and it’s you who have made this series the success it is today.

If you participated before, you’re welcome to share again! If this is your first time, we’re so happy to have you. (You don’t even need to be Scandinavian or Nordic…just a lover of Christmas and the northern traditions.)

Maybe you have a tutorial on how to create a Swedish heart. Maybe you want to share how your family celebrates Finnish Independence Day. Maybe your Christmas dinner table last year was stunning, and you want us to see. Maybe you live in a Scandinavian or Nordic country, and you want to send photos of your town’s or family’s celebrations. Maybe you have a memory of your grandparents and how they passed down the traditions to you. Maybe you’re an absolute pro at curating images, and you want to send a round-up of (properly credited) Christmas images. Maybe you’re a knitter who creates Icelandic sweaters. Maybe your Norwegian heritage shows proudly every time you get out the Christmas decorations. Maybe you want to show how the streets of Copenhagen look in December. Maybe you want to share some Christmas legends and lore. Or maybe you have a killer mantle display and want to share the wintry beauty.

Remember, we’re celebrating all things Nordic and Scandinavian, all November and December. So in addition to Christmas (of course!) this series also aims to showcase any national holidays or celebrations happening during that time leading up to Christmas, too.

So what are you waiting for? Check out the previous Scandinavian/Nordic Christmas posts here, and then email me, oaxacaborn@gmail.com.

(Content which you’ve already published on your own blog is perfectly fine. And remember, the posts don’t have to be lengthy – a single inspiring image is excellent, as well.)

Can’t wait to hear from you. :)

Hyvää Joulua! God Jul!