Four hundred and seventh åsic- Saint Lucia brings the Light in the Dark!

Lucia-13.12.06.jpg (874×691)

Saint Lucia or Saint Lucy of Syracuse, from round 300 AC, is today’s protagonist in many different settings… The legend says that Saint Lucia was born in Italy in Syracuse. She was of noble family, but since her father had died Saint Lucia and her mother didn’t have any other solution to support themselves but for the young Lucia to marry a rich man. Lucia, however, had already dedicated her heart to God and did everything in her power to prevent a marriage. According to the legend, Lucia’s eyes were very beautiful. She even tore her eyes out and gave them to one of the men who came to propose, because she wanted to discourage the man. When Lucia was buried her eyes had been restored through miracle and that was also why she was honored as a Saint during the Middle Ages (1).

Why would a country like Sweden celebrate a saint from Italy, you may think? In the winter Sweden and the other Nordic countries long for the summer not only because of the cold and snowy winter, but also because of the darkness. Saint Lucia is celebrated every year the 13th of December and in Sweden the tradition is still very important for Christmas celebration. Many of the traditional songs are sung not only the 13th, but also during Christmas.

Lucia processions are organized all over Sweden and throughout all different sectors in the society. Kids celebrate in pre-schools or schools and adults celebrate if they are choir members for instance. Many towns or cities i Sweden have their own Lucia processions and on TV they show the official Lucia show of the year.

As a young girl I was in my first Lucia procession when I was a few years old. As a teenager I started to sing in a girls choir called Bjursåsflickorna. We gave many Lucia concerts every year. One of the years we were asked to perform at a dinner in the Royal Castle in Stockholm. It was very exciting and a memorable moment. Princess Madeleine who is now a Mom herself, was climbing on the chairs and crawling under the table and was quite an active little girl at the time. The very same choir also performed a traditional Lucia concert at Lugnet’s sports stadium in April… We were pretending it was winter, because of some honorable guests from the International Olympic Comittée. One of them was the chairman at that time, Juan Antonio Samaranch. The idea was for us to sing to bring the Olympic Winter Games to Falun… Obviously that was a  mission impossible. Falun lost.

Singing for Lucia in strange places seemed to be one of the habits of this choir. I remember we even sang in the Falu Copper Mine, in almost complete darkness and with the damp vitriolic scent in our noses, helmets on our heads and just a candle to light our way down there. Very exciting and completely unique at that time. I know that later on, many other choirs have sung in the copper mine, too. Nowadays I come across Lucia processions ”by accident”, like for instance today when I visited the shopping mall Kupolen in Borlänge, or when students at school perform. I have also accompanied my own children on different occasions, but for myself, I would say my celebration of the Saint Lucia is found in memory lane…

Before I let you go, let’s just glance at a picture of a typical saffron bun, called ”lussekatt” in Swedish.#lussekatter, #asaole

But hey… Why invent the wheel??? Please check this link from youtube in order to finally understand this topic!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Lucy

The three hundred and eighty-ninth åsic- From Påskkärring to Tomten in Twenty Minutes!

A recycled blogpost from my visit in Pitman New Jersey 2014!

I have had another interesting day in Pitman Middle School busy with interaction with students and teachers. Today’s topic was a bit different from the other days, since one of the students wanted to know how we celebrated Halloween. I quickly commented on that, but then I shared photos of the tradition from Easter Thursday which is more like the American ”trick or treat” than anything else in our tradition. Kids dress out as witches, but not EVIL witches. They are supposed to be more CUTE than evil or ugly. A påskkärring is supposed to be a witch soon going off to ”Blåkulla” on her broomstick. The idea for the kids is to draw or write nice cards saying ”Happy Easter” and then walk from door to door with these greetings. If they are lucky people give them a little treat in return, but there is NO tricking…just the treat… They will keep the collected treats either in an old coffeepot or in a basket.

inbjudning-8-300x232.jpg (300×232)

I then got the question whether there were any other Holidays I would like to mention. I picked Midsummer, since that may be interesting if you haven’t experienced it. First of all, Midsummer is a fantastic time of the year anywhere in Sweden, thanks to the Nordic light, but in the Northern part of Sweden the sun doesn’t set at all for a couple of days, which gives your summer’s night a magic touch. Midsummer can be celebrated in many ways, but traditionally we would gather to raise a maypole covered with leaves and flowers and then dance round the maypole, both old and young. One of the most popular song has very easy lyrics and we all sang it as kids. It is called ”Små grodorna” which means ”The little frogs”.

It is said about Midsummer that you dream of your spouse to be if you gather seven flowers and jump over seven fences. But you have to be quiet if you don’t want to break the spell! You pick the flowers, put them under your pillow and in your dream you will meet the very person who will be your husband or wife. 

torsdag+011.jpg (320×240)

Suddenly someone wanted to know whether it was true that our Santa Claus doesn’t look quite like the American… so then we talked for a while about Tomten and the tradition of celebrating Christmas on Christmas Eve rather than  on Christmas Day.

20772452-origpic-bc1600.png (393×381)

I was happy to have a computer to use to show pictures and talk about different details and finally I shared what TV-show most families watch on Christmas Eve. Kalle Ankas julafton… Donald Duck!

Glad påsk! (= Happy Easter)

Glad midsommar! (= Happy Midsummer’s Eve!)

God Jul! (=Merry Christmas)

One Hundred and Ninetyninth Asic- Unforgettable!

b088e-stearinljus-bmp

Natalie Cole in Memoriam

Natalie Cole had a wonderful voice and her musicality was extraordinary and caught my attention long ago, although her music was not at all what I would typically listen to at that time. What first made me interested was the spectacular virtual recording with herself and her late father Nat ”King” Cole. ”Unforgettable” made me realize just how very good both singers were:

Unforgettable with Nat King Cole and Natalie Cole

I enjoy many of her recordings for several different reasons and one of my favourites is Paper Moon for the reason that the musical arrangement is so joyful and catchy as the refrain starts and also because the lyrics are quite nice:

Papermoon

We have just passed Christmas 2015 and I always listen to Christmas music because it makes me in a certain ”Holiday Mood”. I always pick Natalie Cole’s recordings for Christmas because she sings with such emphasis and joy in each and every song. There is no way I would pick ”Joy to the world” as an example of this, since the sad news about Natalie Cole’s death is bringing me in a sad mode. Instead I choose Silent Night, for the reason that I will probably spend time this evening silently thinking of how sad it is that this wonderful artist had to die so young.

Silent Night

Without Natalie Cole and her music I would probably not have listened to jazz as much as I do. You are unforgettable, Natalie! RIP

One Hundred and Eightyfourth Asic- Christmas Time at School

b088e-stearinljus-bmp

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:

http://wp.me/p4uFqc-cb

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;

Merry Christmas!!

or if you prefer a more profane greeting;

Happy Holidays!!!

 

 

The eightyninth åsic- From Påskkärring to Tomten in Twenty Minutes!

I have had another interesting day in Pitman Middle School filled with interaction with students and teachers. Today’s topic was a bit different from the other days, since one of the students wanted to know how we celebrated Halloween. I quickly commented on that, but then I shared photos of the tradition from Easter Thursday which is more like the American ”trick or treat” than anything else in our tradition. Kids dress out as witches, but not EVIL witches. They are supposed to be more CUTE than evil or ugly. A påskkärring is supposed to be a witch soon going off to ”Blåkulla” on her broomstick. The idea for the kids is to draw or write nice cards saying ”Happy Easter” and then walk from door to door with these greetings. If they are lucky people give them a little treat in return, but there is NO tricking…just the treat… They will keep the collected treats either in an old coffeepot or in a basket.

inbjudning-8-300x232.jpg (300×232)

I then got the question whether there were any other Holidays I would like to mention. I picked Midsummer, since that may be interesting if you haven’t experienced it. First of all, Midsummer is a fantastic time of the year anywhere in Sweden, thanks to the Nordic light, but in the Northern part of Sweden the sun doesn’t set at all for a couple of days, which gives your summer’s night a magic touch. Midsummer can be celebrated in many ways, but traditionally we would gather to raise a maypole covered with leaves and flowers and then dance round the maypole, both old and young. One of the most popular song has very easy lyrics and we all sang it as kids. It is called ”Små grodorna” which means ”The little frogs”.

It is said about Midsummer that you dream of your spouse to be if you gather seven flowers and jump over seven fences. But you have to be quiet if you don’t want to break the spell! You pick the flowers, put them under your pillow and in your dream you will meet the very person who will be your husband or wife. 

HVT26Midsommarmat.jpg (510×571)torsdag+011.jpg (320×240)

Suddenly someone wanted to know whether it was true that our Santa Claus doesn’t look quite like the American… so then we talked for a while about Tomten and the tradition of celebrating Christmas on Christmas Eve rather than  on Christmas Day.

20772452-origpic-bc1600.png (393×381)

I was happy to have a computer to use to show pictures and talk about different details and finally I shared what TV-show most families watch on Christmas Eve. Kalle Ankas julafton… Donald Duck!

Glad påsk! (= Happy Easter)

Glad midsommar! (= Happy Midsummer’s Eve!)

God Jul! (=Merry Christmas)