Monday, December 10, 2007

Jul i Stockholm

It’s been awhile since I have mentioned Sweden’s largest and most well known city (notice I did not say “best,” Linköpingsborna) and there is no better time to welcome Stockholm back to Linköpinglivin’ than during the Christmas season. In what has quickly become a personal tradition, I spent this past weekend taking in the sights and sounds (Handel’s Messiah at Storkyrkan – Americans just can’t get enough concerts in cathedrals) of the holiday season in a city that just grows on me more and more, and it started pretty high on my favorites list.

I consider Stockholm the first stop on my European holiday adventure 2007 – 08 that will take me through continental Europe during the upcoming Christmas and New Year’s holidays. A quick shout-out to my Mom who has just been awarded “World’s Best Mother-2007” for supporting this decision of mine to be away from home during Christmas for the very first time in 34 years…

The experience of Christmas in Stockholm is centered, not unlike other European cities, on the lights, the Christmas markets, delightful window displays (though NK’s is arguably the best!) and the ever-present and merry food and drink, gingerbread cookies and hot mulled wine (pepparkakor och glögg).

While anywhere there’s capitalism there will be commercialism at Christmas, Stockholm’s representation of the season is understated, refined and always carries a nice mix of class, wintry magic and childlike delight. There are lights, but they are not blinding. There are festivities, but not overwhelming carnivals. There is shopping, but you can get away from it if you want. Finally, there is way too much pepparkakor och glögg, but no one is complaining about that!

For a Christmas season spent in Europe, Stockholm is a fantastic first stop.

I continue to realize that I was born into the right family in the wrong location. There’s just something about the beauty and sparkle of light during wintertime this far north that makes me appreciate this season all the more. Fire and ice, which are everywhere in their various forms this time of year, bring with them such a romantic, almost-mystical atmosphere. If only the snow would come back…

The sun is setting during the 3pm hour in southern Sweden these days. It rises at approximately 8:45am. When the days are short, it must mean Lucia is somewhere close by…

Pictures above:

1. Even in Stockholm, the larger-than-life Christmas tree welcomes incoming cruise ships to Stockholm Harbor.

2. The saffron bread sold at a classic Swedish julmarknad in Stockholm’s old city of Gamla Stan.

3. If Sweden is a fairy tale, which some have proposed in the blogosphere before, then Skansen during Christmas is the height of that fairy tale….

4. The most well known department store in Sweden is Nordiska Kompaniet or “NK.” I had recently heard all about their window displays during the Christmas season, and from very objective sources, so I decided to go find out what all the fuss was about….

5. Expecting nothing more than creative commercialism, what I found was nothing less than a creative and artistic achievement of colors, themes, games, goodies, surprises, decorations, fun and visions of sugar plums dancing in children’s heads. A must during any visit to Stockholm this time of year.


Todd said...

Top 5 reasons why Sean skipping an American Christmas will benefit me:

5. More ham, cheesy potatoes, coffee cake, breakfast casserole, egg nog and wine for me.

4. The most obvious...more gifts for me.

3. Don't have to listen to you go on and on about how much better your damn stocking is than mine. (Remember, it hangs directly over the sorry about your charred stocking , Sean)

2. Don't have to put all your lame ornaments on the tree. Say goodbye to that ugly elf thing from Turkey!

1. This Christmas will clinch my spot as the favored one among our entire family!

(not too late to jump on a plane!)

Merry European Christmas!

Todd said...

Merry European Christmas!

Top 5 reasons why Sean skipping an American Christmas is a pain in my ass:

5. Your gift - I could send a box full of air to Sweden and it would be twice as much as I normally spend on you.

4. When I'm at the bottom of a Michael and Sara dog pile, I can't say "Go Attack Sean."

3. Instead of you...I will have to attempt to explain to family and friends what the hell you're doing in Sweden. (you're going to need to prep me on this)

2. Even though you aren't there, Mom will make me put all your aforementioned lame ornaments on the tree.

1. Who cares what a pain in the ass all this is, I'm still the favored one!