November 29, 2011

A Swedish Christmas feeling

The winter night cold is hard,
The stars glimmer and blaze.
All are asleep on the lonely farm
Deep in the midnight hour.
The moon wanders its silent course,
The snow shines white on pine and fir,
The snow shines white on roofs,
Only the gnome is awake.

Viktor Rydberg

Last week a Swedish friend of mine took me off to explore the Christmas bazaar at the Swedish Church of Paris. I admit I have a soft spot for the Swedes and their design. My mother used to collect hundreds of little wooden, hand-made Swedish Father Christmases and every year she added a few to her collection. We definitately had more Father Christmases on the table than food on Christmas day!

In Sweden, like in many of the Nordic countries, it was someone dressed up like a goat that originally distributed the Christmas gifts. When Viktor Rydberg wrote the poem Little Vigg's Adventure on Christmas Eve in 1871, the Tomte - a small, benevolent elf-like creature - he commissioned a less ugly-looking Santa as an illustration from an 18-year-old artist. Jenny Nyström (1854 - 1946) used her father as a model and gave her "tomte" the body of an old Lapplander. She created the image of the modern Swedish Santa and as she continued to draw him for 70 years, her "tomte" was firmly established in Swedish Christmas traditions.

In 1933 her son, Curt Nyström Stoopendahl, followed in her footsteps and also became a popular postcard and poster artist, staying very close to his mother’s artistic style.

No Swedish church would be complete with the portrait of their King and Queen. Below a smaller photo of the Swedish Crown princess Victoria and her husband.

Swedish food ... lots of it! I chose the Glogg (Swedish mulled wine)

Hand crafted goods with a Swedish touch

Little wooden Father Christmases bring back warm childhood memories

The most memorable part of this outing, however, were the beautiful National costumes the ladies behind the counters were wearing.

These charming, committed Swedes revealed that each costume comes from a different part of Sweden 

Each costume is hand made and has its own history I was told.

This one topped them all!

My aquisition: a Swedish version of an Advent wreath 

The Swedish Post receives some 35 000 wish lists and letters addressed to Santa each year. In the past volunteers at the old postal office at the Skansen open air museum wrote the replies but now ten extra staff take care of that at the Post sorting facility at Tomteboda and you can also reach the Swedish Santa through his email at

Go ahead, give it a try! 

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