Friday, December 28, 2012

Swedish Christmas: God Jul!

I have celebrated Christmas in several places over the years - singing Koliadu and eating kutia in Carpathian mountains with the grandmas, opening up presents from a big red-hooded man and eating oysters, fois gras, and caviar in France with my mother, freezing by myself at the Monchsjoch Hut during my crazy solo stunt in the Bernese Oberland.  Different ways, moods, and aspirations.  This year it was time for something new again.

Jonas's family farm in Boviken, lived in for eleven generations

In my never-ending quest, I ended up up North this year, all the way in Sweden for this celebration. A beautiful winter tale for me, white Christmas, full of discoveries, new tastes, and inspirations.

One of the discoveries concerned the Swedish food - it is very good indeed, especially during this time of the year when stomach is celebrated as the center of the universe, the hero of the day.  I appreciated especially the fish very much, discovering such dishes as Johansson's temptation (Jansson's Frestelse with anchovies); a variety of herring preparations; Swedish orange-colored variation of caviar called Löjrom harvested in the Bothnian bay, and best tasted on the Ljusugnsbröd with cream, onions, and avocado bytes.  There is also the Röding, the best fish ever, also called arctic char, and not to forget gravlax, or raw salmon cured in salt, sugar and dill.  The word actually comes from the mix of grave and laks, salmon, as in the Middle Ages Nordic fishermen used to preserve the fish by burying it in sand at the seashore.  A similar dish, called lox, was popularized in New York by the Ashkenazi Jews in combination with cream cheese and capers.


Pickled herrings at the Stiftgarden's Julbord

All of these goodies can be tasted at a Smörgåsbord, or a buffet served at a restaurant or at people's homes with first a self-serving of cold fishes, then of meats, and then sometimes of warm food as well.  For Christmas, Smorgasbord becomes an even richer Julbord, usually started with bread dipped in ham broth (hard to really appreciate for not properly initiated foreigners like myself), that then follows the normal fish/meat/cheese/desserts order.  And yes, never to forget the desserts - in Sweden very well accompanied by various berries of the land, starting with the more well-known blueberries, raspberries, and black currant, then venturing into the unknown territory of Hjorton and Åkerbär that go very well with ice-cream, cheesecake, or a parfait, in color and in taste.

And if you are tired of cooking, invite guests for a tea or gluhwein or glögg ceremony, where gingerbread can be served with Philadelphia cream cheese and the ever-present lingonberry to everyone's delight.

Glogg and tea-time at Lindbergs'

The actual Christmas celebrations started with a sermon on the morning of the 24th, to be continued by watching Donald Duck at 3 pm - what I am being told is a very important Swedish tradition going back to the times when the first TVs were adopted by the households here in the 50ies.  And what Christmas could happen without a Santa, especially here up North, supposedly one of the places where he actually might live?  All three of them arrived to our house on...a snow-mobile (how else?!) and dutifully delivered all the presents except one still to come...:( (damned post office).

3 Santas delivering presents in Boviken

After having snowed for every day in Umea and Skelleftea since December 2nd, the weather finally changed for a day, and allowed us to go for a skiing trip with not-so-cold temperatures to Bygdsiljum.  The best Christmas gift happened when the sun came out to provide us with the much-needed Vitamin D and the beautiful views on the pine trees and the valleys below.

Mid-day northern sunset at Bygdsiljum

And the moon rise soon afterwards


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all from the North :)


All pictures (and inspiration) by Jonas Wiklund.

2 comments:

Michel said...

Great post

uasunflower said...

Thanks! :)