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Christmas tree 16 December 2013

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Christmas is back.

Anyone who knows me, knows I love Christmas. Sadly no snow for me this year, though, as I am staying in Australia. But look at my Christmas tree – finding the Christmas spirit all the same. Enjoy your Christmas wherever you are!

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Norwegian Christmas is contageous 30 November 2011

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I am glad it is not just me who is in love with Norwegian Christmas.

Have a look at these pictures, and prepare to fall in love. That Christmas feeling I have been chasing? It is coming on slowly thanks to the internets!

HT: whereisacacia

Christmas longing 28 November 2011

Posted by uggclogs in Christmas, Life.
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It is the end of November (if I may be so bold as to state the obvious).

And this morning, I had my first glimmer of Christmas feeling. Because I was texting a friend in Norway, and she was describing her evening.

Here in Australia, the sun is shining, and it is getting ever warmer (despite the La Nina warning which will cause December to be slightly cooler than the long term average apparently, and very wet).

I just cannot seem to get used to a warm Christmas. I can deal with the topsy turvyness of having winter in June/July, but I just cannot shake the abnormality of having Christmas during summer. All those cold winter nights, fireplaces roaring, snowball fights, darkness descending. All the little lights everywhere, Christmas decorations staving off the cold, miserably dark nights. There was a reason why Christmas was invented (or rather, that it coincided with winter solstice) and that was to keep spirits up during the long hard slog that was winter. Something to look forward to, something to help you through.

This year, it is all a little out of place. There are the Christmas lights and the Jingle Bells and the I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas playing. There are the manic Christmas shoppers and the commercial rush to entice you with specials and late night shopping. But I am yet to feel Christmassy.

Living in Australia is like being on a permanent summer vacation.

So I am asking my dear readers now – how will I get into that Christmas spirit? Any tips are welcome. Only three days to advent…

Austrian New Year 26 January 2011

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On Christmas Eve, two twenty-something, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed tourists drove through the mountain passes in the south of Bavaria into Tirol, Austria. Another country neither one of us had ever been to. Another snow-covered, picturesque adventure awaited.

First stop was Wattens, the Swarowski factory and museum. Personally, it was a little out there for me, there was just too much glitter, sparkle and neon. But there were also some beautiful things: my favourite part was the Alexander McQueen/ Tord Boontje Christmas Tree, which was obviously most appropriate for Christmas Eve.

Image courtesy of the internet.

After frolicking in the vast expanse of glittery opulence that is Swarovski, we went on to Mayrhofen, a ski resort town where we had booked 3 nights accommodation to celebrate Christmas. We stayed at a wonderful chalet in the valley which was walking distance to the Penkenbahn, which is the main cable car that takes you up to Penken ski area.

My partner took a lesson on the first day to relearn the tricks of the trade, and I must admit that I took a while to get used to the long flat sticks on my feet, too. At one point standing at the top of a red slope and watching an older American man fall and fly head first all the way down the mountain, I could literally feel my knees knock together, and I felt fear for the first time in my life while skiing.

When younger, I never even thought twice. Back then, I would bounce back up after a fall. I used to ski all the time. And, the big clincher, I had never heard of anyone dying from a skiing accident. Now, older, more brittle, and with a few more skiing horror stories under my belt, I am not as confident. But slowly and surely, I regained my confidence. My partner reminded me of the technique, and soon, I was back to my old tricks, and it was fun again.

The second day of skiing, we had wonderful blue skies, fresh snow, and we found a fantastically fun slope with small cottages selling lunch in the middle of them. You literally skied around the cottages to go down, so we stopped off at one for Goulash Soup and beer. We left our skis on the slope and climbed to the top of a hill (snow boots and all) to get a better vantage point, and to take pictures of the gorgeous backdrop. Many people refused to believe that it was real when we later shared the photos. We sat there together for a while, in the snow, eating snickers bars and watching the sun hit the mountains opposite. Magical.

For my Christmas present, I was given a beautiful scarf (which I had plenty of opportunities to wear in the cold) as well as a trip on the Zillertalbahn, an old steam train going up and down the Zillertal. I love trains. I always did enjoy train rides and seeing old trains, so my partner decided to spoil me by taking me to Jenbach on a local train (which is quite fast) and then back again on the steam train (which is slow and very smelly, but mighty fun). The carriages are also all wooden and quaint, so I was in heaven. While riding, I walked the whole way from one end to the other, and we took lots of photos of each other hanging out of windows and standing behind the locomotive. Good times.

We then decided to drive through the Gerlospass, which is a mountain pass through the alps with more picturesque viewing spots and lovely scenery. We took this way, as we all of a sudden had one extra day (somewhere in the planning, I missed the 28th) and we thought we could do the Grossglockner Road. Driving along, the road started showing up on signs, but crossed out. In Zell am See, we pulled into a petrol station to ask about this, and we were told that this particular road, famous for it’s windy trail through the mountains, is closed for winter, from October to May. Thank you, Lonely Planet, for not mentioning this!

So, my partner suggests that the old farmstead he wanted to stay at should be somewhere nearby. He gives them a call to ask if they can take us. We are in luck, they have a vacancy. So where is it exactly? Turns out that Taxhof is literally 2 km away, up the mountainside. From Taxhof, we could see the petrol station where we had stopped and called them in the valley!

Taxhof, by the way, I will recommend to all who will listen. A real gem that we discovered via the New York Times. It was fantastic food, a relaxed atmosphere, friendly guests who greeted you when you went anywhere and the two sisters running the place are wonderful. The farm has been in the hands of the family for 300 something years, and it was completely different from anywhere I’ve ever stayed before. The barn had a number of donkeys and cows, and while we were there, a calf was born.

In the morning, after there being more snow falling all night, we drove to the start of the Grossglockner Road, and walked up along it to look at the amazing scenery, the snow covered trees and the curtains of icicles tumbling down along the rock face. We threw snowballs at each other and took (more) pictures, and generally amused ourselves by looking for deer (none spotted, but we found plenty of tracks).

After two dreamy nights, feeling most relaxed by now, we continued to Salzburg, where the kitsch and faux-glamour made us cringe. I am sure this is not what Mozart had intended for himself! We went to his birth place and ate copious amounts of Mozartkugln, but it all felt a bit off.

The highlight of Salzburg, however, was our accommodation, which was our Christmas present from my partner’s parents: a stay in Moenchstein castle for a night! That same evening we went to a concert in the Marble Hall in Mirabell Castle, which was quite decadent and wonderful. We ate sandwiches in an Italian pub around the corner.

The next day we continued in one go to Vienna, where we returned the hire car, and went sightseeing. Vienna was truly gearing up to New Years’ Eve, with a festive air throughout the city. We stayed in a private apartment (rented via a sub-let website) for two nights and discovered the delights of the city. We had more sausage (they have fantastic ones filled with cheese in Vienna!) as well as more gluhwein and hot chocolate.

New Year’s Eve we first went to the Statsoper (the National Opera) and saw Die Fledermaus, which was very romantic, although some of the people on stage were ad libbing in German, meaning that we had no idea why everyone else was laughing so hard! After the opera, we had Sachertorte (apparently a must, so we stood in line to get a table) and then we walked to the Heldenplatz for the midnight fireworks.

In Austria, everyone is still allowed to buy and set off their own fireworks, just like when I was little, so I was thrilled about being on a large open space with a 360 degree fireworks display overhead. Kissing each other at midnight with cheers and jubilation, and lots of fireworks… What could be a better way to usher in the new year?

After the fireworks, we walked along with the crowds returning home, calling our parents (his being nine hours ahead and already far into the new day, and mine being an hour behind, preparing to celebrate their own entry into 2011) and generally grinning from ear to ear.

Best holiday ever.

Three Castles and a Monastery 25 January 2011

Posted by uggclogs in Christmas, Happiness, Travelling, Travels.
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As flights were delayed and cancelled all around Europe, we were worried that we would not be able to travel onwards from Warsaw. I was checking the weather forecasts (and the news about the Christmas tree in Japan being lit up with the electricity generated by an eel) anxiously as we awoke on the Monday morning to snow twirling outside of the windows. We were in luck, however, both Warsaw and Munich airports seem to have heard of this winter phenomenon (“snow”) before, and neither one was seemingly having much trouble. Our flight ended up being only 30 minutes delayed.

We arrived in Munich after dark, and took the train to Marienplatz, where we had found a place to stay. The underground at Marienplatz was cold, grey, and uninviting, though not as cold as the weather had been in Poland. Yet stepping out onto the market square (albeit with suitcases hobbing along behind us) was like stepping into a Christmas romance. The Christkindlmarkt (Christmas Market) there is quite famous, and as we emerged from under ground, there were carollers lined up along the balcony of the Town Hall, singing. Fairy lights, Christmas decorations, sausage stands and other booths selling anything you might need at a Christmas market made us determined to drop off the bags as quickly as possible, and return to drink in the delights of European Christmas.

Image courtesy of the Internet

A most refreshing thing is that the Christmas markets seem to not only be filled with tourists like us, but the locals come out as well to try their hand at the famous gluhwein. Groups of smiling people gathering around standing tables with their real cups (upon return to the stand, you would receive a deposit back), all wrapped up in scarves and gloves, breathing frosty air and enjoying the Christmas spirit together.

Although I must admit that the gluhwein of Poland has a far more potent kick to it than the one in Germany, (who would have thought?) I never thought I could consume this much of it. But everywhere we went, it was a complete must, and we enjoyed letting our spectacles fog up from the cups containing the boiling liquid. For dinner? Currywurst with bread ordered in my most atrocious German. Currywurst is a famous (and delicious) sausage, which, it appears, also has a museum dedicated to it in Berlin. Let the sausage diet begin.

Bavaria has much to offer, but getting around is not easy. The “Romantic Road” is serviced by a number of tour bus companies in summer, but in winter, you are hard pressed to find one. Trains are available, but afford little or no flexibility in general. As we are terrible at deciding in advance what we wish to do on our holidays, flexibility is a must, so we rented a car.

We joined the Romantic Road towards the end of it (at Landsberg am Lech) where we had a break to look at the church and the town in general. Churches in Bavaria (mostly Catholic) are gilded with gold, and have fantastic frescoes. Most of them are open to the public, and shelter a weary traveller somewhat from the cold outside, although they are generally not heated.

From there, we went on to stay at Irseer Klosterbrau, which is an old monastery/ beer brewery which had been recommended to us. It is like stepping back in time, with the rooms entirely fashioned to look like (a modernised and idealised version of) the middle ages; think knights and maidens and eating meat and drinking beer in front of a fire. The beer brewed on site is fantastic, and served in huge steins, or beer mugs. This side trip alone made it totally worth it having the car!

The next day, we did as many castles as we could possibly stomach:

Hohenswangau, a castle built by Maximillian II near the Austrian border. We were taken on a highly efficient but fun tour through the rooms, by a very knowledgeable guide called Wolfgang.

Neuschwanstein, the unfinished castle started by Ludwig II, but stopped after his sudden (and suspicious) death. The famous Disney castle apparently was inspired by this castle. We missed out on going on a horse carriage on the way up to the castle, but we did catch one back down.

Linderhof, which we saw only after closing time, as getting there takes you into Austria, then back into Germany, and is a small mountain road with a lot of snow. Seeing the snow-covered mountains and the icy lakes was a serene and beautiful experience in itself, but driving a small car through them was exhausting. I haven’t done any winter driving for years, so it took a bit of getting used to, especially with giant trucks coming the other way. So getting there took longer than expected, but I don’t think we could have processed the opulence of (yet another) castle had we been there before closing. Walking through the gardens was enough.

That evening we continued to Garmish-Partenkirchen, a mountain town that anyone who follows winter sports will be familiar with (at least by name): I spent every New Year’s Day of my youth with the television on in the back ground showing the annual ski-jumping contest. Cue for more gluhwein, sausage, Christmas markets, cheese fondue, raclette and skiing!

And with that, we ended our Bavarian adventure, as we headed onwards into Austria the next day. Only half-way through our holidays, we were stoked that everything was so perfect!

Cabbage, Pork, Kitsch 8 January 2011

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Growing up in Western Europe, I was never really aware of what else was available on the continent. I mainly travelled to see countries for a reason, such as seeing family, going on a study abroad for High School, or on shopping trips to avoid insane prices. I have rarely been on a tourist trip of Europe.

Consequently, I had never been to Central or Eastern Europe. I had never ventured further east than Berlin, and that was in 2008, long after the wall fell. My mother had been east of the Iron Curtain when she was young, and raved about the countries and the peoples. But growing up during the end of the Cold War, the fall of the Soviet Union and the subsequent large influxes of workers coming from the east during the summer months to earn as much over a summer picking strawberries as they did working normal jobs over the whole year, I was left with an image in my head of all these countries being cold, poor, and grey. I imagined bitter cold, long food stamp lines and miserable living.

Warsaw, however, has made a tremendous effort to dispel these notions over the weekend that we spent there. It is clearly a city on the way up – with a lifestyle becoming pretty similar to other small, Western European cities. It reminded me of Oslo in many ways. Don’t get me wrong, it was still cold! But it was not as poor or as grey as I had imagined it to be.

We stayed with friends who showed us around and took us to the unseen parts of Warsaw (the best way to see any city!), including a sampling of the the local foods (cabbage, sausage, hunks of meat, gluhwein, dumplings and more meat). And they showed us the sights.

It is a city with a gut-wrenching past which still permeates everyday life. I only vaguely remember my European history, and had to be reminded of all the atrocities that Warsaw has lived through, and it is hard to imagine where you would even start putting your life back together at the end of or at the midst of all that. Between the country being split up several times, then given away from one empire to the next, to a large part of the city serving as a ghetto during the Second World War where the Jewish population was first locked up, then murdered, to the Warsaw uprising resulting in the complete destruction of the city at the hands of the Nazis while their supposed saviours and allies, the Red Army, watched on from the other side of the river, to the Cold War. Where do you start to rebuild after all that?

Our friends took us to the place where the last remaining part of the ghetto wall is still standing. It is only about 10 metres long, and used to be part of the southern-most end of the wall. It now has a school yard next to it, and a plaque has been mounted which shows the city plan and the outline of the ghetto. Its location is harrowing, as it fully brings home how central the ghetto was. It was not an outlying suburb that was set aside for this purpose – it was a large part of central Warsaw. The actual remainder of the wall is surreal and underwhelming, as it is only about 2.5 metres tall. Standing back from it, you can clearly see the buildings surrounding the area, and if you had lived in one of the buildings inside the ghetto, you could have easily seen life outside go by from a second or third storey window. The fact that this is the wall that encircled and entrapped so many people, is unfathomable.

We went across the river Vistula to Praga, where the old Brodno Jewish cemetery is. It was entirely destroyed during the Second World War, and now, the grave stones (called Macewas) are basically piled up in large heaps. Macewas made from precious materials such as marble were sent off to Germany to be used for building projects. Sadly, there are few Jewish families remaining in Warsaw, so there is no one left to care for the cemetery, or to fight for restoration or commemoration. When we were there, snow covered the ground, and the birch and fir trees that have grown in the cemetery since the war added to the desolate and lonely feel of the place.

We went to the Warsaw Rising Museum, which tells the history of the uprising in 1944 against the Nazis. The Poles knew that the Soviet Red Army were closing in, so they staged an uprising, in the belief that victory would only take a couple of days. Instead, it lasted for almost two months before the Poles had to surrender. The Nazis subsequently set about systematically tearing down the remaining city block by block, destroying more than 85% of the buildings.

Yet after the war, even though the entire city was rubble, somehow, the Warsawians picked up the pieces, and rebuilt the city, brick by brick. Literally. Using old photographs and paintings, they reconstructed the city as it was. And they managed to rebuild the city to be believable, quaint, beautiful and historic. To think that at the old market square, where we enjoyed the Christmas market stalls and the surrounding buildings, have actually all but one (one miraculously remained standing) been rebuilt since 1945 is hard to understand.

The tenacity of such a feat is beyond me, yet it seems to be reflected in the Poles; they are serious, somewhat hardened people, and they give off the impression that they are not people that give up easily. And, if I were to generalise grossly after only being in the city for three days, they seem inflexible, stern, worn and tired, not overly friendly to foreigners in general, but they are reliable and earnest, hard-working and aiming for a better life. At every turn, there is a nation moving forward, yet the past is evident everywhere. Great sadness can be read in the people’s faces, as they struggle onwards.

Modernity has now come with shops, malls, cafes and coffee shops littering the city, which was to great benefit for us, as we needed regular rewarming beverages (including potent gluhwein, hot chocolate, coffee, tea, you name it) to prevent us from freezing to the bone. The locals also subscribe to this outlook, with one of my favourite moments being had in a cafe at the base of the Cultural Palace where, while drinking gluhwein, I noticed that the two young men at the table next to us had two cups of tea, two shots of Vodka and one other unidentified alcoholic beverage, which they casually knocked back before slinging their hunting rifles back over their shoulders and strolling out into the cold rugged up and looking like they were heading off to hunt.

After so much history and sadness, we also tried to fit in something a little more lighthearted. On our last day, we went to a second hand market out in the suburbs which I absolutely loved. It was a second hand goods paradise: old clocks, silverware, toys, books, military memorabilia, kitsch and rubbish. I am so glad I do not live in Poland, or I would have bought so much stuff! In particular, I fell in love with a little old rocking horse made of wood, precariously placed on top of a pile of snow, ready to be sold off. It was a gorgeous piece which would never have fit comfortably in my luggage.

So, after a lovely rest and seeing our first snowfall bucket down over Warsaw, we were ready to face our Christmas holiday head on, collars turned up against the cold.

Childhood Memories 8 December 2010

Posted by uggclogs in Baking, Christmas, Happiness, Life, Sinterklaas.
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Today, I received a package from my mother.

It wasn’t supposed to arrive, as generally food stuffs are not allowed through the post. I expected it to be sent back upon arrival, without me even seeing the contents, just like what has happened to my partner’s packages of food before.

But it did arrive!!!

My dearest mum, who is one of the most well-meaning and well-balanced people I know, who sent me a post card every week while I was at boarding school, and who I can literally speak to for hours, sent me this package. I have all my nurturing abilities from her – I love doing things for others to make them happy. I like getting up early and making my partner coffee in the morning. I love cooking and baking for others, spoiling them rotten, to show them that I care. I like making home-made advent calendars for people I care about, and cheer them for the 24 days that it lasts. This is a page straight out of my mum’s book.

We disagree sometimes. And I can tell her that she annoys me, and she still listens. She is amazing. And now she’s sent me a package full of Sinterklaas goodies. For a moment, standing there in the kitchen, having run up the stairs like a child whopping and hooting, after which I ripped open the packaging, emptied the entire contents onto the counter, and stuck bits from all the goodies in my mouth at once, all of a sudden memories came flooding back.

I don’t know if this was my mum’s intent. But standing there, at the kitchen counter, eyes closed, savouring the sweets and cookies, my partner found me smiling, far away in memory land. He had to laugh at me, and my childish expression. He’s mentioned that exact face to me before – the ability I still seem to have to utterly enjoy something for the happiness it brings me at that time. The look of marvel that will flash across my face when I experience something new and turn around to smile at him. He once said he was jealous of my childlike ability to just enjoy something.

And this time it was triggered by the morsels of cookies that evoked my childhood, even the smell brings me back to cold winter nights, snow, rugging up and that special type of electricity that builds in December. And it reminded me of family, spending time around the fire, cat on my lap, parents reading or watching TV, brother being annoying.

And I do not know how my mum managed to get the food through customs, it must have been shear will power. And it’s not like she sent me a package with a few food items amongst other things, it was an entire box of food.

My poor man, who, a year and a half back, when I was in a real dip and feeling home sick, tried to cheer me up in the same way. I remember mentioning to him that I missed my family. I missed having them there. So the little darling hopped on the internet and ordered Dutch treats for me, including liquorice, and other things he knows I love due to my heritage, but which the rest of the world thinks is disgusting, and therefore doesn’t sell. He had meant to surprise me.

Yet this is the package that never made it through customs. He was gutted, because he had really wanted to do something nice for me, and it fell through. And here is mum’s package on my doorstep with no effort at all.

So thank you so much, mum, for the memories and the treats which we will enjoy so much! And thank you to my partner, who I know tried very hard, but whom the postal system thwarted. You both spoil me rotten.

Travel Bug 17 December 2009

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I am travelling at the moment. I just spent 3 days in Sydney where I did incredibly well for a non-shopper (I just don’t like it) and now I am spending time at various beaches with the outlaws for a couple of days.

So don’t hold your breath until the next update.

PS. My, how wonderful Australia is. I am falling in love all over again.

Lussekatter 17 December 2009

Posted by uggclogs in Baking, Christmas.
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Due to my travels lately, I missed a very important date leading up to Scandinavian Christmas last Sunday. I did mention it in my Nostalgic Ramblings, but I did not include the recipe for Lussekatter, or Safron Buns that go with Santa Lucia on 13 December. So here goes.

Lussekatter (Safron Buns)

Ingredients:

150 g butter
500 ml milk (full cream)
8 g of dry yeast
1 g of safron or 1/2 tsp tumeric
150 g sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1300 ml plain flour

egg and raisins for decoration.

Method:
– Melt the butter and mix with milk. Make sure the mixture is about 37 C. Tip: it is the right temperature when you can’t feel anything when you dip your little finger in the liquid.
– Add yeast, and stir gently.
– Add sugar, salt and safron (or tumeric). Mix.
– Add flour in large spoonfuls, and stir to combine between spoons. Do not worry about the dough being lumpy, it will become smooth.
– When the dough is fully combined into a smooth mass, cover with a wet tea towel (to prevent drying out the dough) and leave somewhere warm to rise.
– Leave 30 minutes or until the dough is doubled in size.
– Place dough on a benchtop dusted with flour, knead well.
– Make dough into lussekatt shapes.
– Cover and leave to rise for 15 minutes.
– Brush with egg, and press raisins into the swirls.
– Bake at 225 C for 15 minutes or until done.
– Serve with hot chocolate.

Enjoy

Nostalgic Ramblings 7 December 2009

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Today is Advent, door number 7.

I say this, because when I was young, and growing up in Norway, we would all have advent calendars, and every day from 1 December until 24 December, you would get to open another door and get another lolly or little gift. This year, we were lazy and only bought a chocolate calendar. My mum used to make the calendar herself, which was a much more personal touch. Yet another thing that I wish to do for my children.

But this set me thinking. In Norway (and Scandinavia in general), there are a million and one rituals around Christmas. This would mean that by the time Christmas came around, I used to be thoroughly whipped up in a frenzy. But is also meant that I would have a real Christmas feeling, which is indescribable, you have to feel it to understand it.

It all starts when the weather is getting colder and colder. It often snows for the first time of the year in October (in the south, the north can be much earlier). Everyone hopes that there will be snow on Christmas Eve. There is nothing that contributes more to the Christmas spirit for me than pine trees heavily laden with snow. We used to have a couple of 10 metre tall trees in the garden that every year looked like they were made just for Christmas. Getty Images can show you what I mean:

Then, 4 Sundays before Christmas, you are supposed to light the first candle of advent. The Norwegians have candle holders with spaces for 4 candles, which you light in succession leading up to Christmas. Often, you say a poem or a prayer when lighting it. We never did this at home, as we are not a religious family, but we used to do it at School on the Monday after.

The poem goes along these lines:

4th Sunday before Christmas:
We light one candle tonight for happiness. It shines for itself and those of us who are here.

3rd Sunday before Christmas:
We light two candles tonight, for hope and happiness. It shines for itself and those of us who are here.

2nd Sunday before Christmas:
We light three candles tonight, for longing, hope and happiness. It shines for itself and those of us who are here.

Last Sunday before Christmas:
We light four candles tonight, for longing, hope, happiness and peace. It shines for itself and those of us who are here.

Then, the advent calendar starts on 1 December. There is the one you have at home, and there often is one at school. And then there is the one which is shown on television – a 24 part series for children that runs through until Christmas Eve. My favourite used to be Jul i Skomakergata, which was shown every couple of years.

At my house, we also had Sinterklaas on 5 December.

Then, there is Santa Lucia on 13 December. This is to commemorate Lucia, an Italian saint. Traditionally, you were supposed to have finished all your Christmas preparations by this date, as superstition dictated that bad spirits would lurk in the shadows on this date and punish those who hadn’t. On Lucia (which is the Latin word for light), you were supposed to light every corner of your house with candles to prevent the spirits from finding a place to hide. Now, we eat Lussekatter (Safran buns, come back on 13 December for a recipe) and there are processions of children dressed in white with candles that come around to hand them out. For some reason they also wear strands of tinsel around their waists, the boys wear pointy hats, and Lucia herself has been transformed from an Italian (with black hair and dark features) to a Scandinavian beauty, with long blond hair, blue eyes and a crown with candles on her head.

You are ‘supposed’ to bake 7 different types of biscuits for Christmas, which means lots of different, awesome baked goods, including gingerbread, and many other delicious and completely unhealthy foods and treats.

People decorate their houses, and many families place their advent candles near the window, so others can enjoy it.

In my family, we decorated the tree on ‘Little Christmas Eve”, which is 23 December, however, for the tree to acclimatise, we would buy it during the week leading up to Christmas, and place it in a cooler room first. This caused less of the needles to drop after erecting it, and it would spread the smell of pine throughout the house.The tree was of course placed near a window, so your neighbours could enjoy it with you.

Imagine walking through the streets, it is so cold that your breath freezes in your nose, and you can see it escaping your mouth. Beneath your feet, you hear the snow crunch, as you hurry home in the semi darkness. Each house you pass has candles in the windows, and the squares of light from the windowpane lights the snow outside. That is Christmas to me.

Christmas to me smells like pine trees, baked goods, oranges and cloves.

And there is nothing more magical than if you remembered to put the low-heat outdoor candles on a tree in the garden before a layer of snow would cover them. When you light the candles under the snow… Oh wow, it is Christmas.