My grandmother’s health advice was; eat well, sleep well, and go out and exercise! Grandma was very wise and there is a lot in her advice. If you add to her wisdom the very Swedish expression that “lagom är bäst” (everything in moderation), you avoid extreme training, extreme eating and sleeping away all your life! Outdoor walks can be just the right amount of exercise, but where should you go when you are tired of the nearest neighborhood and boring trees in the forest?
Just west of Stockholm, in Drottningholm, the King and Queen of Sweden live in a beautiful 17th century palace. Large parts of the palace park are accessible to the public and it is a very nice excursion destination for a healthy walk. The surroundings are beautiful in all seasons. Although our King and Queen, due to the ongoing pandemic, has isolated themselves at Stenhammar Castle in Södermanland further from Stockholm, the Drottningholm Palace is guarded by the Royal High Guard. This day the guard came from the Amfibieregemente 1 (The Marines).
In Drottningholm’s palace park, you walk through historical style ideals from the 17th century baroque to an English park in the late 18th century. The park has many sculptures. On the quay at the steamboat pier are four statues of Demosthenes, Germanicus, Antinous and Hercules. They seem to be freezing now in the winter with snow on their shoulders and head.
The tradition of sending Christmas cards started in Britain in the 1840s. The practice of sending Christmas greetings on colored postcards soon spread both to the United States and via Germany and Denmark to Sweden. In Sweden, it became popular to send Christmas cards at the end of the 19th century and the tradition is still very popular. With her very popular Christmas card motifs, the artist Jenny Nyström gave us the image of the Swedish Santa Claus, Christmas presents and a Christmas tree (jultomten, julklappar och julgranen). My sons and I have a tradition of creating our own Christmas card, perhaps a little less traditional or at least with a more modern motif. This year’s Christmas card shows how Santa takes over Stockholm city.
Christmas is called “Jul” in the Nordic languages, or “Jól” in Icelandic. The word comes from the ancient Germanic word “jehwla” which is also linked to the Finnish “joulu”. Jul was celebrated as a holiday in Old Norse religion and the Germanic world long before Christianity. In the Nordic countries, the Christian Christmas was named after the pre-Christian holiday.
In Sweden, the holiday “Lucia” together with Advent marks the beginning of the Christmas celebration. Lucia is celebrated on December 13. Lucia is a saint in the Christian tradition originating in Sicily. The Swedish Lucia is a mixture of both pre-Christian and Christian figures and this tradition has spread to other Nordic countries, and to some extent also outside the Nordic countries. It is a tradition to bake “Lussebullar” for Lucia. Very tasty wheat buns with saffron, raisins and often with almond paste. The pictures are from this year’s traditional baking.
The first time crayfish is mentioned in Swedish gastronomy is in a letter from king Erik XIV dated 1562. King Erik grew crayfish in the water-filled moats around Kalmar Castle. Crayfish were not eaten whole and cold as they are today. Kajsa Warg’s cookbook from the 18th century contains old recipes on how to make crayfish cake, crayfish sausages and stewed pans with crayfish tails. The crayfish party (Kräftskivan), as we know it today, was formed during the first decades of the 20th century. Since then, it has increased in popularity, and today it is one of the holidays associated with Swedish identity and Swedishness.
Previously, crayfish fishing was only allowed from the first Wednesday in August, but the fishing ban was lifted in 1994. Most people still choose to start eating crayfish in early August. The ideal August night is warm and tender, just perfect for a traditional crayfish party. All you need is some friends, a heap of freshly boiled crayfish, dill, Västerbotten cheese pie, some beer and schnapps, and funny drinking songs.
The other night we had our crayfish party under the awning on the patio in my townhouse garden. My love, my sons, and me. It was a hilarious and lively party! Now, I’m looking forward to a sour herring party.
There is so much to experience not too far from home. Yesterday we made a car trip to the town Mariefred some 60 kilometres west of Stockholm. Mariefred means “Peace of Mary” and the city got its name from a former monastery “Pax Mariae” which was the only catholic Carthusian monastery in the Nordic countries, and one of the last established monasteries in Sweden before the Reformation.
The monastery was built on the hill where Mariefred’s church is now located, opposite Gripsholm’s castle. The monastery church was inaugurated in 1504. Above ground, there are no remains from the monastery today. The king Gustav Vasa, who led the Protestant Reformation in Sweden, had the buildings demolished and the brick was used when the Gripsholm castle was built.
On the shores of Lake Mälaren, the Gripsholm castle is towering powerfully and fairytale-like over the idyllic small town of Mariefred. Gripsholm is known as Gustav Vasa’s castle, as it was he who built the castle here in 1537. Since Gustav Vasa, Gripsholm has belonged to the Royal Family and is part of the Crown palaces in Sweden. In 1773, Gripsholm Castle was renovated by King Gustav III. The perhaps most famous addition to the castle during his reign was a theater, which was added in one of the castle towers.
In 1822, the building came to host the National Portrait Gallery which contains a collection of portraits of prominent Swedes from the 1500s to the present. Each year the Gripsholm Society commissions and donates portraits of internationally prominent Swedish citizens to the collection. Many portraits are the work of renown Swedish artists. Now the castle is a museum which is open to the public.
Contrary to what some domestic and foreign politicians believe, we in Sweden have taken strong measures to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus in the population. The future, when the pandemic is over, will tell us which actions around the world were the most effective. This year’s National Day celebration was different. Among other things, a distance choir was formed with more than 700 participants to welcome the summer and together sing “Uti vår hage”.
“Uti vår hage” (“In our pasture or meadow”) is a traditional Swedish folk song first published around the 1880s, though it is considered to have origins as far back as the 1600s. The song is well known in Sweden, frequently performed by choral groups. It belongs to the national song treasure, the most popular arrangement being by the composer Hugo Alfvén in 1923. An English translation of the lyrics can be found at: https://lyricstranslate.com/en/uti-vår-hage-our-pasture.html
I attended the big choir as a bass as well as tenor. A video of the recording can be seen at the Facebook wall of the radio program “Klassisk morgon” (Classical morning) at channel P2.
Last Friday, in Sweden we celebrated Midsummer Eve. It is an important feast that some people think would be Sweden’s national day. It is celebrated on the night before Midsummer Day which used to be on June 24. Since 1953 it falls on a Saturday between June 20 and June 26. It is perhaps a problem that the day varies if it were our national day.
Also in Finland Midsummer is thoroughly celebrated, and the day varies.
Some say the feast has pre-Christian origin but the evidence is lacking. In the 300s, the undivided Christian Church designated June 24 as the feast day of St John the Baptist. The Christians brought the feast to Sweden in the 11th century. The word midsummer, on the other hand, appears to be pre-Christian, and was originally aimed at the beginning of the third quarter, a month later than the Christian Midsummer celebration.
In older folklore, Midsummer night was an important time. It was considered one of the most magical nights of the year, when nature was filled with supernatural powers. Amazing things were said to happen. The time was favorable to predict the future and love predictions were particularly popular. One method still remains, to pick seven different kinds of flowers to put under the pillow to dream of the one to marry.
I celebrated Midsummer in my sister’s summer residence in the Stockholm archipelago and made a boat trip with my sons. I forgot to collect flowers to put under the pillow.
Det var antagligen inte det han tänkte sig Carl Gustaf Wrangel när han lät bygga Skokloster för 342 år sedan, att där skulle vara julmarknad. Men, nu var det så den första advent, en liten mysig julmarknad med mest hantverk och delikatesser.
Jag köpte utsökta ostar av komjölk, getmjölk och med mögel!
Kaféet i gamla slottet var också mysigt och en skinkmacka med kaffe var toppen!
Jag tror bestämt jag får åka tillbaka någon gång för att se mer i slottet och på samlingarna.