Saturday, December 26, 2020

Snow for Christmas!!!

The prayers of Swedish children were answered . . . it snowed on Christmas Eve and continued all day Christmas Day.  The first snow of the year!  We woke up to a winter wonderland this morning, which is St. Stephen's Day in Sweden and in many European countries.  It's also known here as the 2nd Day of Christmas, or as Boxing Day in Canada.  

St. Stephen's Day commemorates the stoning of the first Christian martyr, the Apostle Stephen.  Remember Good King Wenceslas who "looked out on the Feast of Stephen?"  I always wondered what that had to do with Christmas, other than "where the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even."  Now I know.  

Our German Mennonite friends back home call today the 2nd Day of Christmas, just like the Swedes do.  But in Canada, most of us call it Boxing Day, as they do in all British Commonwealth countries.  It was originally the day to give gifts to the poor and to those who serve.  But my dad always said that Boxing Day was the day we box up all our presents and take them back to the store!

Christmas Eve Day, Christmas Day, and the 2nd Day of Christmas (Boxing Day) were happy days, as we celebrated with friends and missionaries.  It was fun to go and meet some of our neighbors and share boxes of the beloved Swedish Marabou chocolates.  With the pandemic, Christmas gave us a wonderful opportunity to stand on the doorstep, say Merry Christmas, and introduce ourselves.

Shopping for our Christmas meals.  More interesting vegetables for sale.  These were called cabbage flowers.  Not sure what they are or how you eat them.

We headed out of the city to try and see the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter.  It was hard to find a place without trees on the horizon.  But we saw this lovely church.

We finally found a hill next to a mine where we could actually see the horizon.  So here's our conjunction of the planets.  (Anyone remember Narnia and the conjunction of the planets in those books?)  Jupiter was shining quite brightly even though you probably can't see it in the photo.  Saturn was quite dim and it was a couple days past the actual conjunction on Dec 21.  We didn't bring our binoculars to Sweden, sadly, but I'm still glad we saw what we saw!  It's been nearly 800 years since Jupiter and Saturn were so close together at night, making it possible for almost everyone in the world to see it. They're calling it the Christmas Star.  

We're ready for Christmas Day with a few little presents under our tiny Christmas tree.  At home, we always put a paper nativity under the Christmas tree to remind us that Christmas is about the birth of Christ, not about presents.  So here is our little nativity Christmas card. 

We usually walk at night, but this day we took our first daytime walk.  The bedrock covered with lichens is so beautiful.  And the next day, it snowed.

Swedes eat lots of food at Christmas time.  Compared to what most families have, this is a very small Julebord (or Christmas Table).  But President and Syster Davis wanted us to have just a taste of a Julebord.  They provided this delicious food on two separate evenings for the 6 senior couples in the Sweden Stockholm Mission.  We followed government guidelines to have only 8 people at one time.

This is my plate.  I tried a little bit of everything.  Most of it was delicious.  I wasn't sure about the egg covered in caviar.  I love devilled eggs, but this was a hard boiled egg topped with shrimp and caviar.  So I have finally tasted caviar!  But somehow, eggs and fish don't go together in my book.

Three senior couples -- the Torries, Cowgurs, and Johnsons -- enjoyed Julbord with President and Syster Davis at the mission home.  A local member, Viktoria, catered the delicious meal.

The second evening, the Quists, Salls, and Moleffs enjoyed the meal.

I tried on the Santa Lucia crown and one of the candles fell on the rug.  I was so glad it hadn't been lit!  The crown is much too big for my head.  President Davis said that yes, my head is on the small size!  My dentist also says that my mouth is on the small size!

The Davis's gave us all mission aprons!  So fun!  Blue and gold are the colors of Sweden and the triple crown is also a symbol of Sweden.

Elder Torrie and Syster Cowgur entertained us and we sang along.  So fun to sing the Christmas carols!

The second night, the Salls, Quists, and Moleffs enjoyed dinner and getting the mission aprons.  By the way, if you think you can't serve a mission because you are too old, you need to know that Elder Moleff (on the right) just turned 82.  He and his wife started serving missions when Elder Moleff turned 70 and they served in Russia, Thailand, and now Sweden.  Amazing!

Selfie on Christmas morning.

Fun to unwrap a few presents.

A sweet lady here in Sweden, who actually comes from Chile, sewed this cute apron for me.

We gave all the missionaries, who live here with us, matching red ties.  Elder Torrie got one too and so did President Davis.  I'm sure they'll coordinate for the next mission office meeting.

And then the missionaries surprised us with a photo on canvas of elephants.  Elder McGill wrote on the back, "We love you more than you love Africa!"  They each wrote something sweet on the back.  We'll always treasure it!  We love these missionaries as much as we love Africa!

We hung the photo on the wall.  It looks great and I can just imagine it hanging in my house at home.  What a beautiful memory of both our Kenya Nairobi Mission and our Sweden Stockholm Mission.

Boxing Day we were surprised to find that the missionaries had made a snowman.  Right behind the snowman is our living room and kitchen windows.  So the snowman was the first thing we saw when we got up this morning.  We've noticed lots of people stopping to take pictures.  The snowman's eyes are oranges, the nose is a cucumber, and the mouth is a banana.  Very creative.

Fun walk in the snow today.  And look at that curvy tree!

No salt or sand on the roads here.  They sand with GRAVEL!  It makes it so easy to walk on hills.  And all the cars are required to have winter tires by December 1, and many cars have studded tires.  I remember when we had studded tires many years ago, and I loved it -- until they outlawed studs.  So nice to see that you can have studded tires here.  They make interesting clicking sounds as they drive by.  And the tires are covered with studs, not just on the edge like they used to be at home.

The snow on this wooden fencing makes a nice pattern.

More beautiful scenery here in the snow in the city.

I love the colored houses.  The deep yellow and the red ones are my favorites.

Just showing you more of the winter wonderland and the beautiful homes.

It's so quiet as we walk the streets.  Not at all what I expected in a city.

And today, for the first time, I heard beautiful bird songs and I managed to spot the tiny birds up in the trees.  But not close enough to see what they are.

We stopped at the local Danderyd Kyrka.  A very beautiful old church.  Love the gothic arches.  The Church of Sweden used to be the state church but now is no longer sponsored by the government.  Of course right now, only 8 people can gather at one time so the church was empty on this Christmas Eve Day.  Sad that the church was empty, but the malls were full.

A woman had come to the church today and said she would sing for us if the minister would play.  Sandra had a gorgeous voice, and with the acoustics in the building, it was heavenly to hear her sing.  LeRon asked if he could play for her, so the minister, Jenny, got out her flute and played while Sandra sang and LeRon accompanied.  I joined in too and it was amazing!  Today, Boxing Day, we went back to the church to take boxes of chocolate to Sandra and Jenny.

Christmas Day we had a big turkey dinner with all the trimmings for these 5 missionaries and our friends, Tamara and Marko.  It was pretty crowded in our tiny kitchen but it actually worked quite well.  After dinner, of course, we sang together and then played Uno.  Here the missionaries -- Elder Nordgren, Elder Longman, Elder Ronndahl, Elder Olson, and Elder Stinson -- sang our mission song for Marko and Tamara.

Marko joined the singing while Tamara filmed it.  The mission song is powerful, and the spirit was strong as the missionaries sang about our Savior Jesus Christ caring about Sweden.

This is the view out our living room window this morning.  There's the back of the snowman waving at the tow truck driver who is getting ready to tow a stalled city bus.  You don't see stalled buses too often here.

Back to the store to pick up a few groceries for the weekend.  We saw these pine cones in the fruit and vegetable section.  I asked a young girl if people actually eat pine cones, and she said she thought they did but didn't know how you would cook them.  Interesting.  They weren't with the Christmas decorations; they were with the food.

We went back to the Danderyd Church today to take some boxes of chocolate to the minister and the lady we sang with on Christmas Eve day.  Outside the church is a rune stone.  So much evidence of Vikings is everywhere.

The oldest part of the church was very small and had paintings on the walls.  This is of Jesus Christ and the apostle Peter.  Above the painting of Jesus is a painting of King Gustav Vasa, the first king of Sweden.  The minister said they didn't appreciate King Vasa being on the wall with Jesus, and in fact being higher than Jesus.  But that's the way it was painted originally in the 1200's.

Lovely wooden statue of Mary and Jesus.

The pulpit is beautifully carved out of wood.  We sat in on a small worship service with just 3 people and the minister and organist.  We recited the Lord's Prayer with them -- us in English and them in Swedish.  It was lovely to worship together.

The organist let LeRon play on the big pipe organ.  He said the tracker action was really difficult to play.  More so than he would have thought.  He's played other pipe organs, such as the one in the BYU Jerusalem Center in Jerusalem, but he didn't notice the delay in sound there.

It was special for him to be able to play a beautiful organ at Christmas time in a beautiful church with amazing acoustics.

Notice that the "white keys" are black, and the "black keys" are white!

Love the snow on the stave church behind the stone church.  Now the stave church is being used as a bell tower.  We've heard the church bells ringing lately and we absolutely love that sound as it rings across the valley.

Just a last few pictures from our Christmas Day.  Don't the missionaries look nice in their matching red ties?  Elder Torrie took his off so he wouldn't spill food on it.

Marko and Tamara have joined the picture now.

Marko and Tamara gave us some gifts they found from Africa.  The spoon is from Kenya and the basket is from Senegal.  It was such a thoughtful present that we will treasure, along with the lovely elephant photo from our missionaries.  It was a very fun and happy Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2020

To Junibacken: Fun with the Grandkids . . . someday

If my grandchildren were here, we would go to Junibacken!  But it was also fun when Elder Torrie and I went yesterday.  It's the 5th most visited tourist attraction in Stockholm.  Our cousin, Heidi Lawrence, suggested it, and it was very cool, even without grandchildren.  Junibacken is an indoor theme park based on the children's stories of Swedish author, Astrid Lindgren.  Did any of you read her Pippi Longstocking books?  I never did, but LeRon remembers reading some of them.  She wrote many other fun books too, and Junibacken is themed around her various books.  There's fun, child-size houses to explore, and tunnels and all kinds of climbing things.  Then there's a Story Train that takes you in train cars through many scenes from the books as the story unfolds.  The dioramas and scenes are quite amazing and super well-done.  Sadly, we weren't allowed to take pictures of the scenes in the Story Train and I was obedient even though no one would know.  I need to go see it again after I've read some of her books.  I also need to go see it again because almost all of my photos were corrupted.  

Here I am outside of Junibacken.  Such a fun place.  Makes me wish I was a kid again.  Well, almost.
I'm flying!  We took lots of pictures of us flying and waving but most of the photos were corrupted so I can't include them.  It was very fun and I want to go back, just to get the pictures.  And in one picture I am holding up a horse!  You may not know it, but Pippi Longstocking was the strongest person in the world and she could pick up her horse and move it wherever she wanted to put it.  Wish I had that picture of me holding up a horse!

Fun houses for children to play in.  My real camera died about this point so that's the end of those pictures.  And then, as you know, my phone camera went bonkers.

Junibacken is on an island, so it was fun to walk right down to the water.  Being from the Alberta prairies, we find bodies of water quite interesting.

Architecture here is lovely.  When buildings in the West are as old as these, we tear them down.  Glad these are still here for us to enjoy.

The Nordiska Museet (Nordic Museum) is in a beautiful building.  Of course it's closed right now due to the pandemic.  We'll go there sometime.

The Vasa Museum is right next to both the Nordiska Museet and Junibacken.  Note the green, green grass!  And remember that we are in the far north.  Crazy.

Love the cemeteries with the flowers and shrubbery.

Nothing like a cemetery to remind us of our mortality.  I'm grateful that my time on earth is now, even during the pandemic.  I've been privileged to see life in over 40 countries.  So interesting to see how others live and to realize they don't have to live in the West to be happy.

I'm also grateful to know that my life won't end when I die.  And that the next life will be more wonderful than we can imagine.  We've always remembered what our friend from Taber told us. His son had passed away very young and Jim often had dreams of him.  One time his son told him that "you can't believe how much love there is here in heaven." Heaven will be much more wonderful than our most wonderful dreams.

The old and the new.  On the left are ancient Viking ruins and on the right is a tall tower of some kind.

Interesting housing that some creative architect dreamed up.

I thought this was a sugar factory at first, but then, noticing that it's sitting near a port, we realized that it's a grain terminal.

And here is a huge ship in the port.  In our day to day travels, it's hard to remember that we are right by the Baltic Sea and that Stockholm is actually on about 14 main islands and that there are 30,000 islands in the Stockholm Archipelago.  There are so many tunnels and bridges that we don't always remember we're floating!