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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:

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Our host Bosse

Our host Bosse

My husband greets the man who operates the big excavator machines

My husband greets the man who operates the big excavator machines

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We all picked numbers from a container for the gift drawing

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What fun to choose a number. Thanks Kiki!

How did we do that? My husband and I chose consecutive numbers!

How did we do that? My husband and I chose consecutive numbers!

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Our hostess Irene in the black sweater and Magnus our local fire brigade member and supplier of grain for our goats

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Our heavy machine operator who came to our rescue a couple of years ago after a big storm

Our host's daughter Sabina is our Tomte (Santa) for the evening

Our host's daughter Sabina is our Tomte (Santa) for the evening and distributes the gifts from the large bag

We have a price limit on our gift purchases. We all enjoy whatever we have chosen from the bag.

Even though we have a limit on the amount we can spend on our gifts, we all leave with something special and memorable of this evening spent together

I enjoy looking at my neighbor's smiling faces!

I enjoy looking at my neighbor's smiling faces!

The gifts are always wrapped with care!

The gifts are always wrapped with care!

The fun of unwrapping Christmas presents, never grows old

The fun of unwrapping Christmas presents, never grows old

Our hostess Irene, gently adjusts the hat for our Tomte Sabina

Our hostess Irene, gently adjusts the hat for our Tomte Sabina

Our hosts, Bosse, Irene and Sabina

Our hosts, Bosse, Irene and Sabina

Gustav our farmer neighbor who supplies hay, straw and wheat for our little herd

Gustav our farmer neighbor who supplies hay, straw and wheat for our little herd

My husband chats with Bosse

My husband chats with Bosse

Bosse's collection of öl (beer) bottles from around the world. We have contributed beer bottles from Prague, USA, Sardinia, UK an

Bosse's collection of öl (beer) bottles from around the world. We have contributed beer bottles from Prague, USA, Sardinia, UK and USA

More öl (beer) !

More öl (beer) !

Marilyn Monroe is big in Sweden and can be found many places. Bosse's Pub is no exception

Marilyn Monroe is loved in Sweden and photos can be found many places; Bosse's Pub is no exception

Jul Must is a Swedish  traditional cold holiday beverage that has a taste that resemble root beer

A vintage sign advertising Jul Must, a traditional Swedish cold holiday beverage that has a taste that resemble root beer

It is a tradition at our Pub Evenings to be offered hot dogs served from the bar, as the evening continues

It is a tradition at our Pub Evenings to be offered hot dogs served from the bar, as the fun continues

That's my hot dog! Yummy!!!

That's my hot dog! Yummy!!!

A late comer, our pump man

Two of our neighbors finally arrive after a long work day

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On one side of the Pub, behind the seats Bosse has built a little woodland village with tiny inhabitants. They are Sweden’s mythical vättar. We know them from the fairy tales books as trolls. In Swedish mythology, these tiny creatures live in the forests and sometimes in the plants near your home. They can not really be seen, but everyone knows they are there. They have their lives in the woods and bother no one. They live in the moss patches, under rocks and under the large red and white mushrooms. Tradition has it that when a housewife would toss out her washing water from the window, she would have to shout or sing to alert the tiny vättar, so they could get out of the way. Some continue this practice, even today.

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Here are the gifts we were happy to get;I love scented candles, so they were really a welcome gift. I love the little hanging heart with Tomte in the center that says,                                    “Now it is Christmas again!”! Thank you!!

Our Holiday season would not be the same if we could not spend this time with our friends and neighbors at Bosse’s Christmas Gathering. This is an annual event both my husband and I always look forward to. As a city girl turned country gal, I am so lucky to be a member of such a warm and welcoming country village!

6 responses

  1. Wow, reading your post, I could feel the warmth and friendship offered by your neighbors. It’s a lot like that in the countryside where my MIL (mother-in-law) lives. On my first visit there, we were invited to coffee at each neighbor’s home which consisted of tons of home-made (and absolutely lovely and delicious) baked goods and good strong coffee. Unfortunately, I didn’t understand any German and they no English but they made me feel welcome all the same.
    I find it hilarious that Sweden’s word for ‘beer’ (öl) is the German word for ‘oil’!. Wouldn’t that be a hoot in the foodstore for me!
    Really enjoyed your post, gives me a ‘fly on the wall’ perspective of life in Sweden – at least from your viewpoint. Looking forward to reading more.

    December 14, 2011 at 13:08

    • Hej from Sweden,

      I am so glad that you got such a warm feeling while reading about our little country village. This is exactly what I hoped would happen! You welcome experience sounds equally as lovely as mine and I am so happy to hear that. Austrian pastries are to die for, you lucky lady! You make my mouth water just imagining the delicious yummies you have had.
      Swedish is very similar to German in many ways. I had taken German in college 30 years or more ago and unfortunately, it has not helped me very much in my learning. I found learning a new language after 50 quite the challenge! Anyone with German as a mother tongue will have no problem picking up Swedish. How is your German now? Have you gone to classes and do you feel comfortable with the language. Now, as I ask these questions, I realize the answers may be in your blog. I really am looking forward to enjoying your blog, top to bottom!
      I am glad you have enjoyed what you have read of my blog. Please you are most welcome back!

      December 14, 2011 at 17:50

  2. Yup, most of the answers are there and, while I hope you’ll read it, I’m happy to answer your questions. I am taking classes and am fairly comfy but every once in awhile I get a wake up call that 2 months of class do not a bilingual make, lol! However, I’m surviving and thriving and loving it all. Sometimes I can’t believe I’m in this wonderful city and living this life (I keep expecting to wake up – it’s that good).
    My pet peeve is that there are so many English words in German that when I don’t know the German word, I pronounce the English term in a German accent and of course, that’s when they have an extremely difficult and foreign word for it! It’s one of those wonderfully funny things and I’m so glad to have ‘met’ someone who understands the humor of it all

    December 14, 2011 at 23:41

    • Hej from Sweden,
      Learning a new language can be a real challenge. It can be both frustrating and quite rewarding at the same time. Two months was not nearly enough for me. After nearly 10 years I can not claim to be fluent. I am proud to say I can hold my own now at parties and gatherings, in shops and I really feel great when traveling and I hear Swedish and understand what I am gearing. During my early learning months, I had some lovely new friends learning with me from Iraq, Iran, Eritrea, and Central America. We were all English spoken and made comparisons between the two languages, the entire class and were always asking “why?” with everything. I know now that blocked our learning process. It wasn’t until later when I took classes at the university, did I realize I had to stop asking “why?” and just accept the language as it is. This made learning much easier for me. Once I stopped comparing sentence structure, grammar and every aspect of the language to English, I was able to let my mind open up to the unusual patterns and quirkiness of my new language.
      I too am pinching myself that this is my life. Here on our once horse ranch now goat farm, I am living my childhood dream in such a beautiful place. My life here has been so full of the most wonderful and extraordinary experiences, along with some of the most frustrating. but this is life , no matter where you live.
      Welcome back to my blog!

      December 15, 2011 at 11:31

  3. Christmas Neighbor Gathering gullringstorpgoatsblog is an outstanding share. Thank you for this article.

    January 12, 2012 at 01:49

    • Hej from Sweden!

      I’m so glad you liked my Christmas Neighbor Gathering! We all had a great time and celebrated the coming holidays, together.
      It is a charming custom found in our part of the Swedish countryside.
      I hope you had lovely holidays and I wish you a very HAPPY NEW YEAR!

      January 17, 2012 at 19:54

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