Christmas Neighbor Gathering
As a city girl turned country gal, I have been introduced to some very lovely customs here in our little corner of the Swedish countryside. We originally bought Gullringstorp to be our retirement property, when my husband retired. We had been living on a small island just outside the capital city of Stockholm. There in the city we enjoyed all kinds of social events, from Rotarian breakfasts with interesting guests giving talks to dinners with the Estate Owners Organizations, which included some black tie dinners. I have attended functions where the King of Sweden was also in attendance. We attended the ballet on the same evening the Royal Family were celebrating the Queen’s birthday and we sat very close to the Royal Box. That was my city girl life.
When we moved to Gullringstorp, we were met with the warmth and charm only a tiny village could offer. Our front door was constantly knocked on by our near-by neighbors bearing gifts of welcome. This was so lovely and so unexpected by this once city girl. We received items such as strawberry plants ready to go into the ground, flowers, and items in which to decorate our new home. All came with a casual yet formal introduction and welcome, from each and every near-by neighbor.
As we settled in, I came to love Gullringstorp and our small yet very close-knit farming community. We began to receive the neighborhood announcements of gatherings. Every small community or village has its own special way to spend time together. Here in our village, we have neighbor parties. I have only been in the house of one neighbor and that was for a birthday party, providing a sit down dinner for all the neighbors. What usually happens is, there are organized events to participate in somewhere on the person’s property, prior to a meal served in a tent or large garden room built for the expressed purpose to entertain guests and neighbors. Adults and children alike enjoy the competitions that could range from walking a certain distance with a spoon holding an egg in your mouth without dropping the egg, to tossing a ring around a well handle. There is always laughter and fun to be had by all.
One very special event or events that we all enjoy, all through the year , in addition to the neighbor parties, is a night at the Pub. The Pub is just that an area above the workshop of our nearest neighbor Bosse. He is known as the “Spis Doktorn” (Stove Doctor). He repairs cast iron stoves and fireplaces. Everyone in the district know him and his work. His Pub has been the place of many a fun night. You may feel you have done some kind of time travel when you enter. There are vintage containers stacked everywhere, vintage album covers can be seen on the ceilings and there are various vintage implements and tools plus a large collection of various beer bottles from all over the world. Many of the activities there have been outdoor activities followed by a fun time in the Pub. We have been there for wheel barrow races during the warm months and pumpkin carving and competitions in the fall months. We always meet there for our annual Christmas Gathering. We each bring a wrapped Christmas gift that goes into a large bag. Before we have the drawing for the gifts, we just chit-chat have drinks and enjoy each other’s company (umgås) . People catch up on what’s happening with each other. There is talk of fields, crops, grain, trips taken, health issues and always the weather.
We all drink and toast each other with Glögg. Glögg is a traditional Christmas (Jul) drink. This is a delicious mulled red wine that has wonderful aromatic Christmas spices infused in it. This beverage is drunk hot with almonds and raisins. You are always served a tiny spoon to gather up the goodies at the bottom of your glass or cup. We all love and enjoy the serving and drinking of Glögg during the holidays. It is offered everywhere throughout Sweden, from private home parties to business meetings and other social gatherings. We also eat tiny heart-shaped crisp cookies known as “pepparkaka” with a soft ginger taste, similar to gingersnaps. they can be found everywhere in Sweden, especially during the holiday season. They can also be delicately decorated with white sugar icing.
As the evening progresses , after we have all had a cup or two of Glögg while a soft mix of Swedish and American traditional Christmas carols play in the background, Bosse’s daughter arrives wearing her Tomte hat (Santa) and distributes the Christmas gifts as the numbers are called out. She is always happy to fill this role for us and we all expect to see her every year. Her happiness just adds to all of our joy . The fun begins as we unwrap our gifts and we hear ,”oh that’s what I brought”, or ” this is so cute!” or “look what I got!”
It is really a magical evening to share with neighbors all of whom have touched each others lives more than once during the year. In attendance is a member of our local fire brigade, the iron stove repair man, the big excavator machine operator who came to our rescue when we had trees down after a bad storm, the farmer who also helped with our large straw delivery among many others. All the wives have come and the children, whom we have watched grow up, are now too old to spend time with the adults, they have their own holiday parties to attend.
Our Christmas Neighbor Gathering: