I’m filled with Christmas cheer. Because yesterday, we brought in the Christmas tree, and had a peaceful time with the family wrapping the Christmas gifts. While still in this mood, I want to tell you about my mum’s Christmas on a small farm name Månstuga in the deep forests of Värmland, in Sweden.
She lived in a red wooden house, together with her mum and dad, her elder sister, and her grandparents. They had no electricity in the house, no warming other than fireplaces with firewood from the forest nearby. Water had to be carried in buckets from the well close to the barn.
They had three cows that gave them milk, and three pigs that were slaughtered before Christmas. The food consisted of potatoes that they grew themselves, pork, and salted herring. Also some wheat bread. They had no fridge, the food was stored in a stone cave outside. The privy was in a little house next to the old chicken coop, and it was cold, cold.
The snow could be one meter deep, but every morning her mum had to go up at 5, to milk the cows. It can get down to -20 or -30 in those parts of Sweden, but it’s beautiful. The stars are twinkling on the black sky. It’s dark, and they had very little light in the house. Just a kerosene lamp in the big kitchen, which was the place where everyone spent their time inside. Sometimes the only room they kept warm and cosy.
Every day except Sunday, the rest day, her father took their horse, whose name was Joy, to the forest cutting down trees that was used for the fires. It’s hard to keep warm when it’s cold outside.
On the morning of the Christmas Eve, they harnessed their horse Joy, and everybody sat together in the sleigh riding the six miles to the church. They had wooden torches, or small kerosene lamps on the sleigh, to show their way, and small bells on the horse’s harness. When everybody went into the church, the horses waited with their sleighs outside, covered with a woollen blanket on their backs to protect their sweaty fur.
After hearing the preach about the baby Jesus, they went back home to the farm. On Christmas they were allowed to eat as much as they could. A huge table with fat meat, exclusive fish (salmon) and the head of a pig was served. After the dinner they filled a bowl with porridge and put outside for the elves. Preferably it should be a piece of melted butter in the middle of it. The next morning, the children hurried outside. If the bowl was emptied, they knew the elves had been there.
These elves were small and many. Some just three decimetres high, or maybe up to one meter. They helped to take care of the farm, and could actually be seen sometimes. They were kind, but only if you were kind to them.
If you ever visit Sweden a cold, snowy Christmas, keep an eye open because if you are lucky, you might catch an elf sneak around the corner of a barn. That is when you know, you are experiencing a true traditional Swedish Christmas!