Even though we are in Switzerland (which is easy for us Americans to confuse with Sweden), we nevertheless uphold proper Swedish traditions during Christmas. So what does that mean?
First of all, Swedes, like much of the rest of Europe, celebrate Christmas on the 24th, Christmas eve. This is a fairly strange custom for me, although I am used to it now. My family, of course, always celebrates on Christmas day (i.e. opening presents, eating a big dinner, etc).
Christmas eve here is quite nice, however, and begins with a traditional Swedish dinner. As a starter, we have smoked salmon on tunnbrÃ¶d, a kind of large, round cracker made from flour, and topped with a tangy dijon-dill sauce. This is also accompanied (for those who can stomach it) pickled herring with a small glass of beer (Swiss, in our case). Next we have cold, sliced ham with mustard (very traditional), savoykÃ¥l which is chopped cabbage baked in crÃ¨me fraÃ®che, different kinds of cheese along with fresh-baked bread, and homemade apple sauce. Finally, we end the dinner with hot Swedish meatballs, which are absolutely wonderful. For dessert this year, we had figs and cracked walnuts.
After the dinner, comes the gift-giving part of the evening. This is my favorite part. The Swedish tradition is to write a short poem for each gift that hints at what’s inside. Usually, one leaves out the last word which rhymes with the last word from the line before, and which gives away the gift. Some examples of the evening were:
A cd of Xavier Naidoo for Anna:
Top of the crop,
Best in German ___.
An ipod shuffle for John’s mother, Britten:
Small and hip with a convenient clip.
And the accompanying flashlight keychain:
When you shuffle around at night, use this little ___.
For the French novel by Balsac, Illusions Perdues:
Weeks in Verbier with no frost,
Talk about illusions lost.
And my favorite, for a book on evolution called The Ant and the Peacock:
How a roll of the dice,
And the fight against lice
Can get you stuck in a rut
And give you eyes on your butt.
I think Marcus got a kick out of the last one, although you’d have to read the book for it to make sense. Something about how lice messes up the symmetry of the eyes on a peacock’s tail, which makes it harder to find mates…etc.
Finally, after the excitement of the day and despite the early hour, it’s off to bed in preparation for another long day of skiing.
Actually, the days haven’t really been long of skiing due to the lack of snow, but that’s another story.