Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas! Весела колада! God jul!

This year, I am in Sweden for Christmas. Jönköping with my mother's Swedish sister, Marie, and her family. In high school, Marie lived with my mom down in Georgia. They've stayed in contact and close friends over the years.

It is my first Christmas away from my family. A first of mixed feelings. Sweden is incredible. Not seeing my family is hard. The family here has taken me in as their own. It is still not "my" family. 

Me and Marie
Sweden is a marvelous place. It is ordered and polite. Shining and clean. Progressive and stubbornly traditional. Short winter days and long, sleep filled nights. And a terrifying amount of Christmas Food that needs to be eaten! I'm helping with that task.

Traditional ginger bread in the shape of pigs. Guess which tray is mine?
Yesterday, we went to Marie's parents house. It was a day of feasting, opening presents, playing games, and talking. Lots of talking. I have not gotten the chance for such good dinner conversation in ages. We sit at the table and talk politics and history and stories from Marie's time in the USA and my vague memories of my first visit to this city 20 years ago.

900 year old church for Midnight Mass
One of the interesting pieces of Christmas abroad is hearing all the terrible music the USA has exported for this time of year. Even in Bulgaria, I hear "Santa Baby" but my students do not know words to "Away in the Manger". Last night, I got to rectify this problem by attending a Midnight Mass. I got to hear my favorite hymns in Swedish and learn a few more. We took communion, a reminder of the story that actually runs through this whole day. Then a man played "Oh Holy Night" on a trumpet. I let the words run through my mind:

Long lay the world/
in sin and error, pining/
till He appeared/
and the soul felt/
its worth/...
the weary world rejoices/
for yonder breaks /
a new and glorious hope.

That is a Christmas song. 

Floorball. My "Cousin" Victor's team.

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