God Jul (1 of 2)

Yesterday, I went to the Swedish Women’s Educational Association’s 30th annual Christmas Fair  (Julmarknad) at the Harbourfront Centre. Scandinavian traditions have always seemed to me to be so intrinsically connected to the yuletide season. In fact, the Nordic word “jul” is the antecedent of “yule”, and many mainstream Christmas beliefs and practices are directly descended from Norse mythology and customs.

In Lapland, reindeer roam the snowy terrain…

… and are often considered part of the family!

Santa Claus lives in Rovaniemi, in the Arctic Circle!

Many citizens of these countries believe in elves (and the rest are typically reticent to declare an opinion either way…) In Iceland, construction plans sometimes must take into account the possible reaction of the elves.

My philosophy is, you don’t have to see everything you believe in, because many of your greatest experiences happen with closed eyes

~~ Elly Erlingsdottir, head of the Hafnarfjörður town council’s planning committee

We think nature is a lot stronger than man. A relationship with things spiritual has not gone away

~~ Bjork

Matilda Smith, Amaryllis, Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, 1885

Christmas decorations in Nordic countries often include lots of flowers, especially those gown from bulbs. Homes flicker with candlelight on long winter nights, casting shadows on potted plants spread throughout. It has become popular to give bulb flowers as gifts, including Tulips, Christmas Stars, Hyacinth, Amaryllis, and Paperwhite (Narcissus).

Basil Besler, Narcissus, 1613, Victoria & Albert Museum

**The Nordic countries include Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, and their associated territories. Each of these countries has its own history and culture, and I am in no way trying to amalgamate them into one homogenous place. They do have some common traits and narratives, however.


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