Home > holidays, travel > Cities Starting with S…or L

Cities Starting with S…or L

17 December, 2007; 20:49 Leave a comment Go to comments

Tomorrow I leave Stockholm for 3 weeks, stopping in four cities along the way. If you’ll be around these places at the same time as me, then let’s meet and catch up! Here’s the itinerary:

  • 12/18-21: London, UK
  • 12/21-27: San Jose, CA
  • 12/27-31: Las Vegas, NV
  • 12/31-1/07: Seattle, WA
  • 1/8-1/10: Linköping, Sweden

I probably won’t be posting to the travelogue during this trip, so I’ll just say a few things about “Jul” and leave you with a Jul photo: the lit tree at the KTH campus. In most of the buildings’ windows, you can see electric adventsljusstake, by far the most common kind of Jul lighting in Sweden. It’s basically a row of electric candle-shaped lights, placed on a squat A-shape with the center one highest. At first glance, you might think it’s a menorah, but at closer examination you’d see there are only seven lights.

“Jul” is the Swedish word for Christmas, but its roots are a bit different. The word actually predates Christianity’s arrival in Scandinavia, in those times signifying the winter solstice festival. When the church arrived, it adopted Jul as its own, and combined it with Christmas.

But even today, it is said here that Jul is really for everyone, not just Christians. And it really does seem to be that everyone has those adventsljusstaker, even though it, in itself, has a clear connection to the Christian Advent season. Sure, we might say the same thing in the US, that Christmas is no longer a religious holiday, but in the same breath, we usually associate the non-religious parts with modern consumerism.

Things are slightly different here in Sweden, and I haven’t quite pinned down how. There is certainly rampant consumerism this time of year. But there is something else as well, that is neither consumerist nor Christian. Jul is more important here, more necessary, because of the dark winter. The darkest day of the year is coming up on, oh, something like December 21st, very close to Jul. The Jul holiday, and indeed the whole holiday season around it with its songs, lights, candles, and everything else, carry a bigger role here than they do at more southerly latitudes, and without them the winter would be much harder to bear. Perhaps for that reason, everyone gets into it a bit, just because they need to, to survive the long winters.

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