Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Advent traditions

Every year in December I feel displaced. Nothing about Florida says Christmas, and if you come from a cold and dark country, Christmas lights in palm trees is just plain weird. This will be my sixth holiday season in the US and it's less peculiar now than the first year, but it's still weird.

Before I go any further... When I say Christmas, I don't mean it with a religious connotation. For me, the word describes the holiday season regardless of religion. In Sweden we celebrate "Jul" and this is a religiously neutral word.

Anyway, my holiday rhythm is out of sync with the Americans. Christmas here seems to start in September. Not just in the stores; I saw Facebook posts about friends putting up their Christmas trees in late summer. Time passes so quickly anyway, why try to hurry it up?

In my family, you could put up some decorations and lights in the windows for Advent, but everything else had to wait until December 23rd. In the evening of December 23rd, Christmas should be ready. (We celebrate the 24th. The 25th and 26th are days off from work when people relax and play with their presents.)

What's advent? It is the four Sundays preceding Christmas. On the first of Advent (late November or early December) most cities have Christmas markets. This is when the holiday season really rolls out. Below are three images of traditional advent decorations. =)

This is an "adventsljusstake" - an electric candle contraption found in
virtually every house and workplace in Sweden during December.
We don't decorate the houses with lights as much as people in the US,
but the advent lights is a big deal. Most of the country is really dark in winter.

The four Sundays before Christmas Eve, many people use one of these.
You light one candle each Sunday. =)
The lit star is also a tradition. They're usually made
of straw or paper, and spread a beautiful light. =)

The reverse problem comes when it's time to take stuff down. In my world, Christmas stuff stays up until January 13th, when you have a party taking everything down. Here, everything comes down right after New Years, and my husband hangs his head in shame as we're the only house on the block with all the stuff still up.

I say, "You can take it down if you want, but I'm not doing it until Tjugondag Knut." The Swedish expression alone is enough for him to walk away and shake his head. Poor guy. LOL.

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