Thursday, December 3, 2015

Unpacking Christmas

Live Christmas tree from Smålandsgran in Stockholm  |  Unpacking Christmas on afeathery*nest  |

It's that lovely time of the year again, when Sweden shows its best side. Last year, when I experienced my first Christmas in Stockholm as a resident (versus previous years when we flew here together from NYC, or before that when we met here, traveling separately from NYC and Sicily before we were married), I marveled at how (comparatively) uncommercial, simple, natural and warm the Swedish approach to decorating for and celebrating Christmas was:

"Growing up in New York and coastal Virginia, Christmas decorations were heavy on the multi-colored strings of lights and lit-up figurines of Santa Claus, his sleigh and reindeer, and a bevy of spectacularly-wrapped presents. There were also nativity scenes and Bethlehem stars and sweet candles lighting up the windows, but on the whole, the decorating styles were equally represented or perhaps a little more than slightly edging towards the kitschy side.

But one of the (many) things I adore about northern Europe is how it dresses up for the holidays—there's a bounty of white lights (my favorite), Christmas markets in the shadow of buildings constructed hundreds and hundreds of years ago filled with loads of handmade and locally-crafted gifts, and the majority of decorations embrace and celebrate the wintry landscape: miniature bulbs that flicker on and become animals that roam mountaintops and snow-covered woods, rustic straw figurines of goats, oranges studded with cloves hanging from doors and windows, and paper stars that look homey instead of glamorous are everywhere you look.

It feels so festive and more in tune with the solstice, hibernation, and the way generations before us survived the darkest months of the year versus the commercialized aspect (which of course still exists here, but it doesn't feel as strong to me, or at least not yet).

My family's tradition (which R and I followed living in New York) was to bring down all the Christmas decorations from the attic and carry home our Christmas tree from the "farm" (the local grocery store's parking lot) on Thanksgiving. While R's family's tradition is the same as ours in that they also always have their biggest celebration on the 24th, they don't bring home their tree until the week of Christmas, Swedish-style." 

Carrying a live Christmas tree on the subway in NYC  |  Unpacking Christmas on afeathery*nest  |

Here in Stockholm we decided to continue the inherited tradition we followed in NYC of bringing home a live tree a few weeks before Christmas so we could sit in its cozy glow and enjoy that heavenly scent for a few extra weeks.

While before we'd gone to Brooklyn to pick out a tree and cart it home on the subway as seen above (much to the delight of our fellow passengers, less so to the 6'4" man carrying our tree), this year that wasn't exactly an option. Mostly because trees aren't really for sale just yet and also because our subway stop isn't conducive to carrying trees home from. So: we looked online and found Smålandsgran, a company in the south of Sweden that delivers trees to Stockholm and Göteborg for very reasonable prices.

It arrived earlier this week and is now set up before our windows, overlooking the boats sailing by. While playing Christmas carols and sipping the season's first glasses of glögg and munching its first pepparkakor, we spent the afternoon unpacking our box of Christmas goodies and setting up all our flashes of red and gold and white.

Decorating a Smålandsgran Christmas tree in Stockholm  |  Unpacking Christmas on afeathery*nest  |
Our tabletops are covered with crimson runners; we have craft paper-wrapped pots of poinsettias and amaryllis in our windows; and our tree is decorated with a mix of simple white, silver and gold balls, a small selection of my childhood ornaments, and a handful of clove-studded clementines that smell divine. With beautiful white Advent stars glowing in our windows and pillar candles twinkling from our black metal lanterns, we're all set for the coziest of Christmases.

And for a very special guest to arrive.

Swedish Christmas decorations clementine clove pomanders  |  Unpacking Christmas on afeathery*nest  |

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