Sunday, November 29, 2009

First Advent

I've been complaining a lot about how lonely it is in this country and how it's so hard to make friends cuz the folks here are, to put it politely, reserved. To put it bluntly, Stuck Up.

But today I was reminded of how blessed we are to be here.

Today was the 1st of Advent. For a not-too-religious country, they sure take the four weeks leading up to Christmas very seriously. I don't know of anyone, save us, that doesn't have four advent candles (on my shopping list). Every Sunday a candle is ceremoniously lit in every house until Christmas Day; here's it's the 24th, when all four are glowing.

Swedes are big on tradition. Today we were invited to spend the day celebrating with our adopted Swedish family and their real family. We celebrated a daughter's birthday, a cousin's immigration to Sweden from Armenia and the 1st of Advent. As is customary in the weeks leading up to Christmas, the food was "Julbord", which means Christmas Table. An array of yummy foods including ham, this amazing scalloped potato dish called Jonsson's Surprise, pickled herring (it was seriously to.die.for), red beet salad and of course, meatballs. And those are just the highlights.

There were too many of us to count.

And after we feasted, we migrated along with the rest of the townsfolk, to the botanical gardens to witness the annual 1st of Advent firework display. Even amidst a heavy fog, it was impressive. The little guy was in awe.

These reserved Swedes truly astound me when it comes to preserving age-old customs and celebrating as a community. I should also mention we partook (is that a word?) in "Julmarknad", which means Christmas market, in downtown Uppsala yesterday. "Since 1287". Yup, that's how long they've been doing the Christmas market. Outdoor Christmas Craft Fair with pony rides and a petting zoo for the kiddies. Well worth shivering for.

But it wasn't the Jonssons or the fireworks or the white pony or even the wine. It was being a part of centuries worth of tradition with our Swedish family. As they have for over 10 years now, they wrapped us up in their inner circle. We were the only non-family there and that, my friends, was a very special blessing. Today we were far from lonely.


Den said...

Wow Jen, what an amazing day you've had. Particularly jealous of the fireworks! So great to think of you feeling wrapped in the comforting warmth of friendship and feeling part of something. Special folk deserve special blessings... Happy Advent! X

septembermom said...

That does sound like a special day. I'm glad that your family enjoyed it. The Christmas market must have had a lot of interesting things. Enjoy this festive Advent season!