Monthly archives: December 2011

What a year!

My nails are painted and I did my hair… almost time to head to the party!

Holy moly, is it really almost 2012? I can’t believe what a year it has been.

A store in Malmö getting ready for the new year! Photo: Kate Reuterswärd

This time last year, I was in Washington DC, celebrating New Year’s with some of my best friends in the whole world. This year, I’m in Sweden, looking forward to a night of good food, drinks, fireworks, and of course—great friends.

As 2011 draws to a close, I’ve never been happier in my life. I have a great day job, I have this amazing job blogging, I’m married to the most fantastic person I’ve ever met, and I feel at home in my little corner of Sweden. It feels like a dream, but no—apparently it’s real. Read more » >>

You’re Celebrating on the Wrong Day!—and other things you didn’t know about Christmas in Sweden

It’s the night before Christmas, and all through the mouse, not a beach chair is stirring, not even a louse.

Wait, what!?!

Celebrating Christmas abroad can make you feel like things are, well, a little topsy-turvy.

You may have read about the way people celebrate in the country you’re living in, or you might be going into the day free of any knowledge or misconceptions. Regardless of which category you fall under, there will come a point in the day when you look around you and think to yourself:

Now what exactly is going on here?

Last week, I was invited to be on a radio show with two Swedish comedians to talk about the differences between American and Swedish Christmas traditions as I perceived them. I had some thoughts at that time, but now that I’ve actually experienced my first Christmas in Sweden, I’m ready to tell it like it is.

You’re celebrating on the wrong day Read more » >>

35 Essential Swedish Words for Christmas

Celebrating Christmas in a foreign country is tough, right? You miss your family. You have no idea what’s going on. To top it off, Swedes can’t even figure out what day they’re supposed to celebrate on. The whole thing is cockamamie.

Fortunately, even though this is my first Christmas in Sweden, I’ve had some practice with Sweden’s other holidays, namely Springtime Christmas (Easter), Summertime Christmas (Midsummer), and Patriotic Christmas (National Day).

These holidays have been wonderfully rich experiences, yielding both memories that I’ll treasure forever and valuable coping strategies for situations in which the rules of play are unknown and running away is not an option.

Coping strategy number one: Focus on the food.

Coping strategy number two:  Do not be afraid of the wine.

Coping strategy number three: Study the relevant holiday vocabulary in advance.

Seriously. It doesn’t matter how lovely and wonderful your significant other is or how unafraid you are of asking for explanations, by the time you interrupt a conversation mid-flow for the tenth time to ask what a word means, you will feel like an idiot and want to slink off to a corner to hide for the rest of the day.

Either that, or you and I do not react to this kind of stress in the same way, in which case, you probably do not these coping strategies in the first place.

In any case, how you handle the day once it’s upon you is out of my hands. What I can help you with, though, are the words. Read more » >>

Expat Holidays: How to Create Holiday Spirit on the Cheap

We’ve been to glögg parties; we’ve decorated our friends’ trees. Finally, it was time to bring the holiday spirit to our own home.

During the last two years of living abroad, I’ve avoided buying a Christmas tree for myself and just waited until I went home for the holidays to bask in its yuletide glory. I’m spending my first Christmas in Sweden, though, and now we’re married! I was very convinced that we needed a tree of our own.

We built a funkis gingerbread house! Photo: Kate Reuterswärd

The thing is, despite the holidays, the two of us are trying to save money. What’s more, we’re moving to a new apartment on January 3, so any decorations we put up are going to have to be down and packed away (or tossed) by New Year’s. This was clearly not the year to invest in beautiful candles and delicate Christmas tree ornaments.

Solution: homemade gingerbread ornaments that we would decorate ourselves on the cheap and not feel bad throwing out before the move. Read more » >>

Happy Lucia Day!

Happy Lucia Day from Sweden, where you’re never more than two months away from a major holiday, and only a few thousand years separate a beautiful modern tradition from a brutal (and widely forgotten) historical event.

Around the country today, parents were woken up by their children dressed in white and serving them breakfast in bed. (This holiday will most definitely be celebrated in our family when, a very long time from now, we have kids.) Then it’s off to school, where the children will participate in at least one Lussetåg, or Lucia Parade. They may even visit hospitals and local businesses, and many children’s choirs do public performances in the local churches, which will probably see as much or more public on Lucia Day as they will on Christmas or Easter.

I have to admit, from an outsider’s perspective, the Lussetåg looks like a slightly cultish Halloween parade. Both the boys and the girls are dressed all in white, but the girls wear wreaths on their heads and carry candles while the boys have bedazzled cone-shaped hats perched on their heads and carry what look like wands with stars shooting out of them. The boys look a lot like Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice… magic wizards! Read more » >>