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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Day 11: All Dressed Up...

Stockholm has pulled out all the stops this year and put a big effort into decorating the city with some new and different things.  Their hope was to become more of a "Christmas Destination" city, dazzling people with its natural beauty along with some lovely Christmas decor.  The Swedish Christmas markets have always had a certain charm, and the city has always been lovely this time of year, but admittedly, it has been a bit understated, especially compared to the outrageous displays one can experience in the U.S.!  But this year, they have really added some nice new touches.
Especially stunning is the light display of pine trees and reindeer that decorate the big round point in the center of town.  The first time I saw this lit up it literally took my breath away.  I thought it was so grand and majestic and lovely, a great reflection of Swedish culture...bold but still a bit understated. All white lights reflecting two major aspects of life in Sweden...pine trees and reindeer! But alas, it seems not all Swedes are happy about all this!  They feel it is too sold out to commercialism and too American!  What provided the real tipping point was this beautiful snow globe that went up in a very swanky part of town.  Apparently what had been contracted was not what was delivered as in the end, the Chipmunks, as in Alvin and the Chipmunks, showed up inside the globe and the display was a big advertisement for the film that releases on Christmas day here!  Some Swedes were outraged, one woman even commenting that she felt dirty and used.  Seriously? That is just crazy.  Now, I don't like to bash Swedes or Sweden in my blog but in this case, I just don't get the outrage, especially in light of a couple of quirky customs here in Sweden.  To begin with, what constitues Christmas in a Swede's eyes?  About 2% of the population go to church on a regular basis so it's likely not the journey towards Bethlehem that matters.  In fact, one weird thing that I've noted in the years that I've lived here is that nativity scenes are almost totally absent in the city.  I've yet to find a Swedish Christmas card that mentions something religious.  It's all about tomte (Swedish Santa character), snow (of which there is none this year), candles and darkness, (both firmly in place).    There are stars everywhere but one wonders how many fine folks in this city understand the connection to THE star in the east that pointed the way to the Christ-child.  So, again, I ask, what is it in a Swede's mind that makes Christmas, Christmas?  Secondly, I find the whole objection to commercialism and Americanism a little ironic given that at 3.00p.m. on Christmas Eve the entire nation will be watching Donald Duck cartoons.  I kid you not...this is a great Christmas tradition for most Swedes.  So, I'm just kind of chuckling at this entire conversation.  I find it funny that I love every single light and decoration that adorns our city and find nothing offensive at all about the beautiful snow globe that sports the Chipmunks. And I will be celebrating the birth of Christ come December 25th!  Incidentally, it was moved from the swanky section of town to a lesser place about two blocks away!
Look carefully along the red bottom...you'll see the ad for the film!  
I was happy they didn't do away with it.  It's a great idea, this snow globe.  Figure out something else to put in it if you don't like the chipmunks!  So what's my point today...well, we all have opinions about Christmas decorations.  What some people love, others find tacky.  You will not find a colored light here in Sweden and many love that.  But I must say that even if I find the over the top decorations of some Americans a bit much, I still like to take a peek.  We drove through the neighborhoods that were highly decorated every year, marveling at the commitment that some people made during this season.  I also love the simple, gentle approach that Swedes take, not putting up their tree until at least the 23rd, sticking with all white light, simple bows and stars.  But at the end of the day, the central question remains...what makes Christmas, Christmas?  It's not decorations, it's Jesus.  Because decorations vary all over the world but the birth of Christ does not.  A child is given.  A son is born.  All over the world, the story is the same.  Christ the savior is born.  So whether you celebrate with colored lights, or white lights, with big pine trees or silly chipmunks, just don't lose the child in the midst of everything else.