The seasons are often the reasons some customs are so old that we have forgotten their origins. But we observe them nevertheless, because we have always done so and because we have come to enjoy them. They have grown to be a part of our life cycle, giving shape to our lives and giving us a sense of time, and also lending the year a seasonal rhythm.
In Sweden, many customs are closely associated with the changing seasons. Swedes celebrate summer with an intensity that can only be found in a people who have just endured a long, dark winter. They light candles at Advent and pay homage to a white-clad Lucia with a crown of candles in her hair – Let us help you to build your meeting or incentive around a few of them.
Sweden is a large country with a lengthy coastline, as the tourist brochures keep telling us. So when the big seasonal holidays come round, Swedes embark on long journeys to visit friends and relatives.
You can collect a whole load of junk in the course of a year. And (in Sweden) much of it ends up on the Walpurgis bonfire – old doors and fencing, branches from pruned fruit trees, discarded bushes and old cardboard boxes. The bonfires are lit all over the country on 30 April.
Summer in Sweden is short. It starts showing its face in May and explodes into life in June. The summer has to hurry to get things done before the nights turn cold in September and everything stops growing. At Midsummer, the Swedish summer is a lush green and bursting with chlorophyll, and the nights are scarcely dark at all. In the north, the sun never sets.
As the Swedish summer draws to a close, you may be lucky enough to experience warm, clear August nights that are almost Mediterranean in character. That’s when Swedes have their crayfish parties.
The Nobel Prizes are – except for the Peace Prize – announced in Stockholm in October, and awarded at the Stockholm Concert Hall on 10 December. Later the same day, the Nobel Laureates, Swedish royalty and guests, in all some 1300, enjoy a sumptuous banquet in the Stockholm City Hall’s resplendent Blue Hall, where it has been held since 1934.
Sweden is an egalitarian place these days, so any child can be chosen as Lucia for the annual procession at the local daycare centre, not just pretty ones with long blonde hair. The boys usually prefer to be brownies (tomtar) or ‘star boys’ (stjärngossar) in the procession, while quite a few girls agree to be Lucia’s handmaidens (tärnor).
After nearly a month of waiting, Christmas Eve finally arrives – the height of the celebration in Sweden.Work is at an end, schoolchildren are on holiday and the Christmas preparations are complete.