Saturday, December 5, 2020

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas . . .

Well, it's sort of beginning to look a lot like Christmas . . .  It rains every day and the temperature is usually well above freezing.  Who knew it would be so balmy this far north?  And for it being so close to Christmas, people don't seem to be shopping-crazy.  There's not the mad rush to buy presents like in the West.  Yes, there are lots of decorations in the malls but we don't see a lot of Christmas Sale! signs.  Christmas doesn't seem as commercialized as in the West.

But it definitely is darker here.  The sun set just before 3 p.m. today and by 3:30, it was quite dark.  By 4 p.m., it seemed like nighttime.  So strange.  On December 21, the shortest day of the year, we will see only about 5 hours of light.  Probably not sunlight though, just light.  In fact, there is so much darkness here that walking and cycling paths in the forest are lit with streetlights.   And we're loving the way Swedes leave their curtains open for the Christmas lights to shine through.  Thank goodness for LIGHTS!  I wonder what it was like in Viking days with only candles and firelight to chase away the darkness.  Hopefully in the next post I will share our visit to some ancient burial mounds.

And talking of LIGHT, there's a wonderfully Christmasy video available here 

I highly recommend it.  Lots of gorgeous musical numbers and the Christmas story as recorded in the Bible but read by people in different languages.  After all, Christmas is a worldwide event and we want to help LIGHT THE WORLD this Christmas!  LeRon and I especially like the singing of the first performers, a father and daughter duo named Mat and Savannah.  They are absolutely amazing.  They started singing on YouTube just this past March when Covid hit.  We absolutely love their singing!

Thanksgiving in the US seems to usher in the Christmas season.  We're here in Sweden celebrating American Thanksgiving with Americans, a New Zealander, a Finn, a Swede, and of course Canadians.  President and Syster Davis (front far left and far right) cooked up a delicious Thanksgiving dinner.  L-R: President Davis (American), Elder McGill (American), Elder Stinson (New Zealander), Elder Rantaniemi (Finnish), Elder Olson (American), Elder Torrie (Canadian), Syster Torrie (Canadian), Elder Walker (American), Elder Rönndahl (Swedish), Elder Nordgren (American).  Most of our American missionaries have Swedish ancestry.  So interesting.
Elder and Syster Torrie washing up prior to the feast.
Let the feast begin!  Elders Stinson, Nordgren, and Rönndahl dishing up.  Syster Torrie made her delicious Ambrosia salad that Elder Stinson is serving up.
Now that Sweden has restrictions on gathering, our many mission conferences are held on zoom.  Here Syster Locher (from Switzerland) and Syster Perdue (from US) are doing some training for the other missionaries.  Serving a mission is great leadership training for these young people.
Now Syster Davis is getting ready for Santa Lucia Day, which is December 13.  But this year, because of the pandemic, no Santa Lucia events will be held.  So Syster Davis is planning to share Swedish traditions with the missionaries in small groups.  Eight people may gather, so the groups are groups of 8.  Here she is making a Santa Lucia crown.  She's weaving evergreen lingon berry leaves she picked in the nearby forest.
The crown is actually really heavy and my head is awfully small for it.  There's places for candles all around the crown.  On Santa Lucia Day, a procession of young girls in white clothing and wearing these crowns with the candles lit enter the church for an amazing day of light and music.  Santa Lucia (or Saint Lucy) was a Christian martyr way back.  In Sweden, Santa Lucia (or Sankte Lucia) represents the bringing of light to the world.  Girls in Sweden may also carry saffron buns and gingerbread cookies.  Saffron buns and gingerbread are very popular here in Sweden.
We become very close to the missionaries we work daily with.  Fine young men!  Once a week, they pop over late at night (late for us old people) to sing and enjoy a treat.  L-R: Elder Walker, Elder Olson, Elder McGill, Elder Hoyt, Elder Nordgren, Elder Stinson.

Now Elder Torrie has joined the picture.  This is our last time with Elder Hoyt as he is being transferred out of the office to a different area.  We will certainly miss him.  The only thing constant about our mission is change!  And don't you love our elephant picture?

A lovely young couple from Montenegro who now live in Sweden -- Tamara and Marko.  We've enjoyed getting to know them.

The manmade waterfall is actually pretty next to the Uppsala Cathedral.

The river that runs through Uppsala looks more like a canal to me.  Love the heather in the planter.

As you can see, there's no snow here yet, although further north they have snow.  It's a fairly warm day.  I don't even need a toque.

The greenery is used to make outdoor wreaths.  They will stay nice for the whole season, but not indoors.

We're making indoor wreaths to put on the missionaries' office doors.  You can buy the straw wreaths and then cover them with greenery but we're covering them with ribbon.

We made three wreaths for the three office doors.  For non-creative people, I think we did a pretty good job!


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