Traditions, not all food-related

Not all, but most.

We spent our morning learning about Christmas traditions from our special guest scholar, Gunnar Ahlbäck. He brought us an entertaining multimedia lecture that featured poems, stories, audio recordings, and a considerable stockpile of images. He also included some text slides about how and why and when the holiday is celebrated in Sweden, the origins of the Lucia observance (ties to both Lucifer, via Lussi, and a Sicilian saint), the etymology of Jul, and lots more after I abandoned my attempts to take notes. Personal favorite find: a Christmas song I’ve only sung in Latvian (“Ak tu priecīga”) is also sung in Swedish (“O du saliga”), came to both through German, and traces back to Sicily.

Most of the afternoon we devoted to a grand baking extravaganza. We’d assembled a (fairly extensive) list of everyone’s favorite seasonal treats, then had a little meeting in which no item was ultimately rejected, then compiled a list of needed ingredients. It turned out we were unleashed for the afternoon in the main kitchen, with minimal supervision and a supply of (almost) all the requested supplies, to realize all of those grand plans. I made a few of the struvor, and now I want to live somewhere where deep-fried dough snowflakes dipped in sugar are a holiday tradition. Our labors culminated in a beautifully arranged table for a photo opp, immediately followed by the ingestion of copious quantities of sugar. It was suitably celebratory.

We (by which I mean other people) also made a special personalized giant pepparkaka (gingerbread cookie) for each of our head teachers — nyckelharpas for the music teachers, dance shoes for the dance teachers.

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