I heard on the news this morning that the very label of what we do in December is focus for discussions not just here in Sweden, but also in the USA- Christmas or ”Winter Festival” , that is the question…
As a child I always anticipated Christmas time at school since I knew we would soon be off for our long Christmas Holiday, but also because many of the school activities were a lot more fun then. I was nine years old when I for the first time sang in a school choir and since I enjoyed it very much, that was the start of a tradition in my personal life. Later I sang in a choir with girls only and we performed Lucia concerts every year from early December until Christmas. As a teacher my own students were involved in similar activities and many of them also played instruments. We all enjoyed the concerts and evening activities when parents were invited and often we also had fika. Please read more about fika in a previous blog post:
Swedish schools have a long tradition in celebrating Christmas in many different ways. Long ago it was closely connected with the Christian Christmas celebration and I remember many events held in church with priests involved. I also remember how my class and I would build our own crib in the classroom and read stories from the Bible. Nowadays schools seem to avoid church activities for the reason that school in Sweden is non-confessional and thus Christmas is slowly changing into ”winter”-celebrations rather than ”Christmas” in particular. When I think back of all the songs we usually sing for Christmas, I hardly know one with a non-religious meaning… yes there are a few with just ”winter” theme, but really, most of them are based on a Christian belief. What will happen if we just refrain from singing them? Will they be forgotten? I don’t think so. I think music is an everlasting expression of emotions that we need to cherish no matter what. I also think that in the secularized world today, we sometimes need to focus on cultural aspects of traditions as well. Even if many people in Sweden not openly confess to any religion in particular, they may enjoy old traditions such as Christmas songs although the lyrics are written from a Christian point of view.
This year, the winner of the Swedish Idol contest, Martin Almgren has recorded an old traditional Christmas song called O Helga Natt (or Adams julsång). This version is really good and I advice you to follow the link and listen! Let’s celebrate the connections that are possible to make through MUSIC and if you are among those who cannot stand religious music, then let’s hope you don’t speak Swedish…since this is sung in Swedish;
or if you prefer a more profane greeting;