In English, Happy Twentieth Day Jule! Tomorrow is January 13th, the 20th day of Christmas celebrations as observed by my mother-in-law's Swedish side of the family. As decreed by Denmark's King Knut many centuries ago, holiday celebrations were to last 20 days, from December 25th to January 13th. As a child, my husband loved hearing his mother's stories of King Knut's Day. Family would gather on the 20th day, eating traditional Swedish foods, with the adults drinking glogg, a spiced-mulled wine. I remember the first time I tasted this drink, and realized immediately it was much too strong for me! My husband loved the almonds and raisins that sank to the bottom of the bowl, and remembers how quickly the drink would warm him. His Mormor (Mother's-mother in Swedish) would serve her special swedish breads and meatballs. During the 20th day, as the adults enjoyed the merriment of the Christmas season for the last time, the children were put to work UNdecorating the tree and house.
As a naturalized American, Annie, my mother-in-law, embraced many new customs here, as well as observing some traditional Swedish and Danish traditions. I distinctly remember the stories of Santa Lucia, and even as a young adult, was amazed that a wreath with lit candles would be placed on even the eldest daughter's head! My husband went with his Mormor to several Swedish-American Christmas parties, where young girls were dressed in the traditional white gown, carrying a star topped staff, and one lucky girl wore the wreath with candles. By this time though, the candles were battery operated, with no threat of hair going up in fire! Unlike the way Americans find a corner or window to place the Christmas tree in, the Swedes would give their trees a place of honor in the center of the room.
I received some very Swedish Christmas ornaments from Annie, before we lost her some 20 years ago. Straw rams, hearts, and woven wheat ornaments decorated our tree for years. While not specifically Christmas decor, the Swedish Dala horses were also brought out, wearing brass "yokes" with lit candles. My children are blessed to each have a Dala horse from their Farmor (Father's-mother in Swedish).
Although a day early, we undecorated our tree today, taking advantage of another snow day here in the mountains. As we observed King Knut's Day, we all remembered Annie, Mormor, and the Swedish customs that still touch our lives today. As I am writing, our reminiscing has caused my husband to bring out the Swedish book The Tomten, which he read frequently to our own children years ago. While he has no glogg for our Knut Day, some egg nog, along with his memories, will warm him.
A warm country hug to all,