Julafton med familjen

I was very pleased to be able to spend Christmas Eve (the main celebration day) with my Swedish cousins near Göteborg, in Swedish! I’d met Udo and Alexander in August; this time I also got to meet Udo’s daughter Lina and ex-wife Susan, since their tradition is to celebrate the holiday together. They were all wonderfully welcoming and I felt warmly included, not the least bit like an awkward orphan. Plus, although I don’t necessarily understand every word all the time, conducting entire days in Swedish makes me feel all accomplish-ful, so I am especially grateful to the friends who are willing to roll with that.

We had a lovely afternoon together: a festive dinner, a nice long walk, gifts under a tree and lots of snacks — all just like my other family! Though, one prominent difference of tradition: the parceling out of parcels. In my mom’s family we have an evidently unusual system of opening presents — the labels are hidden; each person, in order of age beginning with the youngest, takes a turn choosing a wrapped present from under the tree; the selecter then identifies the intended recipient and hands the present over for that person to open; repeat until the supply is finally exhausted. This year we began instead with an interesting discussion about who gets to be the tomten (Santa Claus, more or less) this time and hand out presents, based on who is the beard-iest. (Alexander won.)

Contrary to the predictions from school, it turns out that not every household in Sweden watches Kalle Anka (Donald Duck, the 1958 Disney Christmas special thereof) on Julafton after all: we didn’t. Though the subject did come up.

Over dessert, we observed another tradition: the scratching off of lottery tickets, two apiece as a gift from Udo. (My tickets didn’t win. Two of the tickets won 30 SEK, which is the price of a ticket — so although we can tell who’s really winning here, it was still fun, so there.) And then we played Yahtzee and Connect Four until it was suddenly time to go home.

Lina and Susan and I all took the same train back into town. They invited me to join them also on Christmas day, but I had a prior engagement because Mills was already on his way here!!

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