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Merry Christmas! We hope you are well and enjoying a festive season with friends and family! We certainly are, which is why it has been so long since we have sent out an update. I’m sure you were constantly refreshing your inbox waiting for the next edition of 300 Cinnamon Buns…
We have finally reached the season that I imagine all new arrivals to Sweden fret about: winter. For a long time, when I talked with locals, I said something to the affect of “Everyone complains about the weather in Sweden, but so far, we haven’t experienced anything worse than San Francisco weather”. Well, all that changed about a month ago. December in Stockholm has been nothing like San Francisco. In a way, it’s been really good. We got a little taste of what Swedish winters are like. Earlier in the month, we had cold weather around -5˚ C plus or minus. So we got to get used to the temperature. Then over the next several weeks, it got progressively colder, bottoming out at -17˚ C. Our school kindly sent out an email entitled “Dressing For Cold Weather” which outlined a 7 step process to dress for cold weather. Plus a list of a half-dozen “tips and tricks”! We freaked out, of course, and I ran out and bought all kinds of cold weather gear for the kids. There are no snow days, and kids have twice-a-day recess in weather down to -10˚C. Between -10 & -15˚, they evaluate the weather on a case-by-case basis to decide if they would play outside. Mercifully, there is no outside play below -15˚.
Believe it or not, we have not only adapted to these temperatures, but thrived. The Cinnamon Sticks have become champs at wearing the appropriate clothes - although it takes them forever to get ready. And the outdoor clothing (no surprise) is very well made for winter. They have become a living example of “there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes”. We have been out in sub zero temperatures, rain, snow and wind. And they love it! Mrs. Cinnamon Bun, in her Mother of the Year style, even found sleds for the girls on-line during the first big snow. They were sold out locally in the city center, so I had to schlep to the blurbs. But after school, they got to sled:
They may look simple, but those sleds are deceptively fast! On one particularly large hill, the girls flew down the slope at a bazzilion miles per hour, hit a bump and shot 5 feet into the air. They both survived. Once we got back up to the top of the hill, one of the mothers of a classmate said dryly, “They should really have helmets if they are going to ride those here.” We now have helmets, as do most children, and we have enjoyed many, many hours of sledding in the parks around town, and we look forward to many more.
It’s not just the cold that is challenging in winter, it’s also the dark, which currently lasts about 18 hours a day. We haven’t really minded that so much. Living in the city, things are pretty well lit, so we are still out and about a lot. I expect we will feel differently towards the end of February, after dealing with it for a couple more months. Here’s our park to give you a sense of the light, note the long shadows, it was taken at 11:00am:
But the cold and light have been secondary concerns. Because it is Christmas time! Stockholm is a beautiful city under any circumstance, but is exceptionally beautiful when all the Christmas lights and decorations are out. Almost every apartment has a festive Christmas light or two in their windows. Here’s one of ours:
We are developing some wonderful Christmas traditions. My brother and sister-in-law invited the Sticks over to make Lussakatter or St. Lucia Buns, which is a multi-hour, multi-rise bun that is made with saffron and only available during the holidays:
Our oldest Cinnamon Stick was even in a St. Lucia concert with her school:
The Cinnamon Sticks cousin (actually “cousin in-law”, but we just call them cousins) got to show them how it is done. She actually had the part of Lucia and wore a real candle wreath. It was a wonderful concert that really helped kick off the season. Here she is wearing the full head piece:
Our new apartment has super high ceilings. so we took advantage to get an exceptionally large Christmas tree! Here we are in the process of decorating:
On Christmas Eve, my brother and his wife hosted us for a traditional Julbord or “Christmas Table” with lots of delicious Swedish specialties. My favorite was a drink called snaps. It’s not in the picture:
It was a fantastic feast. Swedes celebrate the main Christmas event on Christmas eve. So this was a really special time with lots of friends and family in attendance. There were many gifts given and even an early stop by Santa for the cousins. We were pretty sure Santa would find us, but first, some ground rules:
Fortunately for us, Santa managed to find us in our new apartment. He even left the fireplace door open! The girls were thrilled to find a tree and stockings full of presents Christmas day. After we all got up at 6am, the girls carefully handed out all the presents:
Since we’re American, we celebrated US style with a turkey and all the fixings on Christmas day. Mrs. CB gets all the credit for laying a spectacular table:
We put it to good use. Turns out the Swedes raise some pretty, pretty good turkeys:
And to prove I was actually there:
Whatever you may celebrate, we wish you a happy and festive season and a Happy New Year!
To be continued…