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No Påsk – or Easter – celebration would be complete in Sweden without eggs, witches and pickled herring! If this is not the Easter you grew up with, here’s the YLC run-down of some Swedish traditions that have left many expats scratching their heads. Glad Påsk!

Easter is a widely celebrated holiday in Sweden with most people concentrating on family gatherings, large feasts and traveling out to the countryside.

The holiday marks the first long weekend of spring in Sweden, so for most Swedes this is the time to head out to the country side and wipe the cobwebs off their summer homes for the first time this year. It also seems like the first chance to break out the gardening tools and prepare their “trädgård” for spring. If the snow is gone, that is.

Although Easter is a fairly secular feast and many Swedes don’t place much emphasis on church attendance during the holiday, there are still Easter sermons held in most churches around the city, just pop into your church of interest and inquire about their Easter Sunday schedule.

Mini chocolate Easter eggs are usually served in a cardboard paper egg

On Påskafton, (Holy Saturday or Easter Eve) young and old generally exchange Easter Eggs. Unlike in many other countries, these are made out of cardboard and feature chickens, bunnies and other images traditionally associated with Easter. Inside the giver has placed Easter treats; little eggs made out of chocolate or marzipan and other sweets. There may be a large chocolate rabbit as well, if the Easter Bunny so pleases.

Just like many other Swedish holidays, traditional Swedish fare is brought out, featuring the familiar crisp-bread, pickled fish (sill) and spirits (snaps). However, during Easter it is Swedish custom to have lamb for supper and also to consume a lot of hard-boiled – and painted – eggs, traditionally eaten the evening before Easter Sunday.

Another popular dish that will find its place on most tables is known as “Janssons Frestelse’”(which translates to ‘Jansson’s Temptation’) a creamy potato, onion and anchovy casserole. You know – like you were served at Christmas!

Don’t be alarmed if you receive one or two stray ‘Glad Påsk’ cards in time for the holiday – some Swedes still send each other cards at Easter, although it does seem to be a dying tradition among the younger generations.

Also make sure to do your shopping on the Thursday before the Easter weekend as most shops will be closed for the holidays!

What you can expect:

Smörgåsbord: Just like any other Swedish holiday, the celebration feast or “smörgåsbord” consists primarily of pickled fish and spirits. However, during Easter it is Swedish custom to also consume a lot of hard-boiled eggs, traditionally eaten the evening before Easter Sunday. Another popular dish that will find its place on most tables is known as ‘Jansson’s Temptation’ a creamy potato, onion and anchovy casserole.

Witches:  According to Swedish folklore, Easter was a time when witches stole household brooms and flew to Blåkulla or “Blue Mountain” (a fictional mountain said to be found in Germany) to consort with the devil.  From this ancient superstition a modern tradition has taken root in the form of a mini-Halloween where children dress up as Easter witches with headscarves and painted red cheeks and go door to door with a copper kettle looking for treats. This usually happens on the Thursday or Saturday before Easter. Want to join in but don’t know how? Here’s what to do!

Birch twigs: Decorated birch twigs (påskris) are a common sight in Swedish homes during Easter. These twigs originally served as a reminder of Christ’s suffering by which young people would playfully lash each other with silver birch twigs on the morning of Good Friday. Today ordinary birch branches, decorated with brightly colored feathers, are simply placed in a vase and seem to be an exclusive Easter ritual of Sweden.

 

Featured Image: Lena Granefelt/imagebank.sweden.se

For some festive high culture in the run up to Easter, Folkoperan, the People’s Opera, has put on a performance of Bach’s St Matthew Passion, making for both an intriguing and extremely Swedish night out, according to YLC’s Danny Chapman.

 
I am coming to the conclusion that there aren’t a lot of laughs in Swedish high art. Just think of the behemoths of Bergman and Strindberg. So if ALL you want is some fun, the Peoples Opera’s (Folkoperan) current concert won’t be for you. But if you fancy something different, yet very Swedish and with some excellent music, then book the remaining tickets now.

I say “concert” but to be honest I am not entirely sure how to categorise what I saw last night. And as I tend to find getting such basic information from Swedish websites is not usually forthcoming, I was not surprised this morning to see the Folk Opera website calling their St Matthew Passion a “performance concept.” Which doesn’t help clarify things.

It is mostly a concert though. In fact Bach’s St Matthew Passion is an oratorio, which means a large musical composition for orchestra choir and soloists. But interspersed throughout the performance , are interviews with some of the performers about aspects of their lives, projected on a huge screen. And there are also various other theatrical techniques being employed such as the live writing of letters, also projected on the giant screen. The performance is very experimental, to put it mildly.

Some of this works some of it doesn’t, often at the same time. Perhaps one of the most striking aspects is the dress of the performers. There must have been some 30+ singers on stage, mostly young, stood on three or four tiers, and seemingly dressed however they wanted to be.

There were primary colours galore with red and green t-shirts, sweaters, tie-tied loose trousers, highly patterned dresses and jeans. With a predominantly brightly lit stage this made for a very colourful scene. It also felt modern. Or did it feel like it was trying too hard to be modern?

passion1Because I also had the distinct feeling I had been transported back to a BBC studio in the 1970s and was watching some worthy attempt to make the classics relevant. And this seems very Swedish to me. The desire to make everything relevant, rather than just enjoy something for its inherent beauty. Indeed, Folkoperan say on their website that they “are driven by a desire to renew the art of opera and reflect our times by being open to different expressions…”

Located on Hornsgatan on Södermalm, Folkoperan was founded in the 1970s and has garnered much respect and popularity in part on account of its intimate stage and unconventional productions. They say on their website that their vision is “Opera for all” (the ticket prices don’t exactly reflect this though are still much cheaper than most opera houses) and they sing in Swedish to come closer to their audience.

Bach’s St Matthew Passion was originally sung in German, and as most opera is in German or Italian, the language shouldn’t be too much of a problem to non-Swedish speakers. In fact the text being sung at any given time is projected on the big screen, which stretches the entire width of the stage above the performers. So if you speak a little Swedish you should easily be able to understand the texts.

Indeed Bach’s St Matthew Passion is actually Chapters 26 and 27 of the Gospel of St Matthew set to music. This gospel is the first book of the new testament and these chapters are about the last days of Jesus’s life including the passion of Christ and his death. Written in 1727, and meant to be performed on Good Friday, Bach’s oratorio is widely considered as one of the masterpieces of classical sacred music.

And Bach’s St Matthew Passion is particularly appropriate for Sweden because of its extensive use of chorales (hymns traditionally sung by large congregations). The Swedes love their choirs. And this of course is the highlight of the evening.

The other main aspect of the performance was the airing of interviews with half a dozen of the performers, in which they talk about personal tales connected with forgiveness, guilt, pain, fear, loneliness, love, and joy. The Swedes do like to beat themselves up.

Now my Swedish isn’t really up to understanding these monologues. Which didn’t help. But I got the gist. And I am afraid I found them to be increasingly long, serious, done in a pretty amateurish daytime TV kind of way, and by the last couple, frankly boring. I was told though by Swedes in my party that some of this was very moving.

mattpass

Fortunately the early baroque music and the vast number of singers, consisting of an opera troupe and church choir, made up the bulk of the evening’s “performance,” providing a wonderful evening of music.

And despite my criticisms of the other aspects of the evening, these still made for a fascinating night, and gave me some more insights into the country I now live in. Not a lot of laughs perhaps, but experimental, full of Bergmanesque introspective concerns about guilt and pain, snappily dressed and full of joyous song. What better way to mark Easter in Stockholm!

The Peoples Opera’s St Matthew Passion remaining performances are on  17th, 18th,19th and 20 April. Visit the website for tickets.

 

Featured Image: Frida Marklund. Additional Images: Markus Gårder.

A small group of witches pounding on your door?  A gaggle of hags making their way up your garden path? It must be Maundy Thursday in Stockholm!  Clueless but have kids that want to join in the fun? Check out the YLC guide to easy-peasy Easter Hagging!

 
Ok, so we’ve all seen them – the little girls and boys dressed up as Easter hags on Maundy Thursday, going door to door offering home-made Easter cards and getting sweets, fruit, or a coin as a reward. This, the closest Sweden ever traditionally got to trick-or-treating, is a tradition which dates back to at least the 19th century

The tradition to go Easter-hagging (the Swedish verb is ‘gå påskkärring’) varies a little depending on where you are in Sweden. In western Sweden the little hags are seen on Holy Saturday (Easter Eve) but in most of the country – and most specifically in Stockholm – it will happen on Maundy Thursday.

It could be worth while stocking up on some treats yourself – just in case you get a visit from a hag or two. And no, before you grumble about the sweet-toothed Swedes – it doesn’t have to be candy. Most hags will be happy with a packet of raisins or a clementine as well. And if they’re not – then what of it? Remember –  Easter hagging doesn’t include the trick threat of Halloween!

Now, you may not think it is necessary to take part in all Swedish traditions (in fact many Swedes don’t take part in any of them) but if you are going to pick and choose – this one is quite nice. Also – your kids friends will be doing it.

OK, so you’ve decided to have a crack at this? But how to go about it?

Well, the nice thing about this tradition is that you don’t need to go out and spend a fortune on fancy dress. Neither do you need to sit up late agonizing over a costume that needs stitching. In fact – all you really need to make your offspring fit right into the hordes of little Easter hags milling about on the day – can be found in your make-up bag and hall closet. That is, unless you want to spend a fortune or create elaborate costumes – then that’s OK too. I just know I’m not gonna. And neither will Anna, Eva and Ingrid down the street. Just sayin’.
 

Anyway – so here’s what you do. You’ll need:

 
1 child, preferably up for dressing up like an Easter hag

Blusher

Eye-pencil

Scarf

That’s it. Optional extras include a pinafore, some sort of brass pot (very popular) and a little wicker basket in which to carry the home-made cards. Note though that as few parents nowadays would let their kids go Easter-hagging on their own – you’d most likely be walking down the street carrying a largish brass pot and a small wicker basket.

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1. Start with ensuring that the child wants to dress up like an Easter hag (I know from experience that this is essential. Otherwise you might as well give up. Really, do.)

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2. Second, using your blusher, paint two large red circles on the apples of said child’s cheeks. (Mine wanted a little on its nose too. ‘Like Rudolph’, apparently. I think she may have misunderstood the exercise a little.

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3. Follow on with freckles. Easter hags are mad on freckles – can’t get enough of them! This, incidentally, was the child’s fave part. ‘It felt funny’, you see.

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5. Add scarf to head. Tie a knot under chin. (Attempt to ignore that child has already wiped a lot of the make up off on your white sofa.) Inquire from child if it requires the optional extras. In my case no. (Phew – would have had locate mentioned brass pot from somewhere under the snow in the garden.)

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5. Keep your fingers crossed that the child isn’t already fed up, now refusing to leave the house and pulling faces like this.

 
And that’s it. Common sense, really. Said child is ready to go out, ring doorbells, give out Easter cards and raking in the rewards.

Now do make sure your kid has made more of an effort with the Easter cards than you did with the outfit – it’s serious business, Easter hagging! :)

Photo: Lena Granefelt/imagebank sweden; private

 

Ever sensed there are owls lurking in the swamp or that the cat knows more than it lets on? Ape-hungry Swedes with poultry down their throats have you confused? We’re here to help! Check out the YLC top five animal expressions you may come across while in Sweden!

 

Blame it on the cat

If Swedes don’t know the answer to a question – they immediately blame the cat. The “cat knows” or “det vete katten”, is used to show/feign ignorance with regards to a question. Whether the cat should be insulted or flattered to be the fount of all (Swedish) knowledge is anyone’s guess.  Also, saying “the cat too!” or “katten också!” is a better choice than a profanity when one stubs one’s toes or drops coffee on one’s IKEA catalogue.

Example:
Swede 1: The cat too! That’s this years catalogue ruined! Where did we put the other 3 we picked up last time we visited IKEA?

Swede 2: The cat knows!
 

Owls in the swamp and buried dogs

A Swede who is “sensing owls in the swamp” or “anar ugglor i mossen”  is suspicious of foul play (of whatever kind). If it is really bad they may even think that a dog is buried in the vicinity. (“Här ligger en hund begraven”.)

Swede 1: “I sold  my entire ABBA collection to my neighbour and he promised to pay today. But I haven’t heard from him. I think I sense owls in the swamp!”

Swede 2: Yes, that doesn’t sound good at all. There is definitely a dog buried here! 
 

Giant monkey business

When Swedes – and especially Stockholmers – really want to put emphasis on something they add the word “ape” (or “ap”) as a prefix. It works on almost anything and it indicates that it was more than usually tiresome/heavy/boring/cold/wonderful. This works just as well with giant or jätte.

Swede 1: I am really apetired  today! We really did have a great time at the ABBA-museum.

Swede 2: Yes, it certainly was giantfun! And luckily dinner was excellent too – I was apehungry!
 

Swallowing poultry

With the Swedish weather the way it is, it happens quite regularly that one contracts a cold. With affected vocal cords, don’t get too surprised -when your voice breaks mid-sentence – if someone tells you that you have a “cockeril in your throat”. This person isn’t trying to accuse you of indecently handling animals – to have a “tupp i halsen” is quite natural in Sweden.

Swede 1: I am seriously worried that I will get a cockeril in my throat when we sing karaoke tonight!

Swede 2: Don’t worry! You sound just like Agnetha Fältskog!
 

Poodling along

Don’t fret if your (native) spouse/friend/colleague mentions that his/hers employer was forced to publicly “do a poodle”  (or “göra en pudel”). There is no need to inform authorities, all he/she means is that the employers had to admit that they where wrong and apologize. You can do a whole/full poodle – admit being wrong and apologize – or a half poodle – to apologize but not accept full responsibility.

Poodles are otherwise treated very well when expression-wise. To be as “clever as a poodle” (“klok som en pudel”) is great praise indeed in Sweden.

Swede 1: You should have seen it! Andersson, the union rep, had the employers do a poodle in front of the staff!

Swede 2: He isn’t half bad that Andersson geezer, he is as clever as a poodle!
 
Featured Image: Mark A Coleman/Flickr

After recent Swedish media reports have outed Swedes as hug-aholics, a small group of Stockholmers have decided to build on this – for a more friendly future.

 
“It is ridiculous to think that we will hug just about any Sven, Nils and Leffe but we don’t know who our next door neighbour is,” Hug-Thy-Neighbour Campaign organizer Svea Svenzon tells YLC over coffee and some piping hot cinnamon buns.

Having met at a carpet-weaving seminar on Söder two years ago, the group (which specializes in traditional hand-woven carpets, wheat grass dye and guerilla monopoly) finally think the time is right to launch the project that they have been spinning together along with the yarn.

To encourage more neighbourly affection, this small group of embrace-enthusiasts are aiming to create a platform for the Swedish people to engage with each other; to reach out and hug their fellow man.

“We received the good news this weekend – that someone finally zoned in on the inherent wish to hug that lies dormant within every Swede – and we decided to go for it! We’re not expecting a miracle – all we hope to achieve is for as many as possible to reach out to their neighbour – and give them a good squeeze – if only for this one day a year.”

According to Svenzon, there are no limits to how many neighbours one potentially COULD hug in a day. And neighbour can be interpreted in so many ways, according to the group.

“When we started this we thought mainly about people living in the same building or on the same street – but to be honest, ANYONE could be your neighbour; someone sitting next to you on the metro, your kids’ teachers, your boss – the sky is the limit,” said Per Persson, the group’s social media guru, responsible for public relations and yarn acquisition.

He proposes that successful neighbour-hugs be perpetuated in selfies, which he predicts will spread like wildfire and revolutionize the way we think – and feel – about Sweden today. The hashtag #wheatgrassandlove is proposed, but the jury is still out on that one.

However, the group is working on an idea to incorporate the images and the wheat grass dyed carpets in an exhibition over the summer, with the working title Sweden Loves to Squeeze (pun regarding wheatgrass intended).

When asked if this scheme was just for hug-friendly Swedes or if anyone could join in, Svenzon and Persson enthusiastically encouraged everyone – even hug-shy expats – to take part in their canoodling crusade.

“We have space for everyone in our arms,” they beamed.
 
 

So there you have it, YLC peeps, let April 1st forever be known as the Hug-Thy-Neighbour Day in Stockholm. Hang on, isn’t that date taken…

 

Featured Image: Jouris Louwes/Flickr

Spring has sprung! Or maybe not quite yet? No matter the weather, there’s really no shortage of interesting Swedish traditions to enjoy this month. We have laughs, we have eggs, we have chocolate AND we have bonfires around which to hug our loved ones or meet new…As Swedish traditions go, THIS month is one of the best!

 

April Fool’s Day: Tuesday 1st April

I’m sure we don’t need to tell you: keep an eye tomorrow on the news for April Fool’s jokes. Your in-laws might remember this 1962 classic: SVT reported that you could easily use your old black-and-white TV to watch your favourite shows in colour – simply by putting a piece of pantyhose over the set! At YLC, we actually know someone who fell for it…
 

Tiburtiusdagen: 14th April

If silly jokes are too much for you to bear (sorry, this is a pun,you’ll get it later), you can always look forward to Tiburtiusdagen instead. According to Swedish traditional folklore, it’s the day when the summer begins – and when BEARS (see – you got it now) awaken from their winter snooze and stumble out into the world. Why not spend the day at Skansen, the world’s oldest open-air museum and Stockholm’s only zoo, and see if you can spot a brown bear or two?
 
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Påsk (Easter)

Of course, Easter is one of the most important events in the Christian calendar, marking the death and resurrection of Christ. The origins of most of the festivities observed by Swedes at this time take their inspiration from the religious event, even if many Swedes don’t practise the faith any more. Easter runs over several days in Sweden, each one with a different significance and tradition:

Dymmelonsdagen 16th April
Dymmelonsdagen is the Wednesday before Easter and takes its name from the wooden sticks, dymblar, that replace the metal clappers of the bells on this day in Scandinavia. The idea is to give as subdued a tone as possible; an indication that it is Holy Week and Good Friday is approaching.

Skärtorsdagen (Maundy Thursday) 17th April
Skär comes from an ancient Swedish word for ‘pure’ or ‘clean’, said to refer to Jesus washing his disciples’ feet before the Last Supper. The day is a celebration of the Eucharist in the Christian calendar, but for pagans, it is also the day on which witches celebrate their sabbath with the devil. From this has sprung a fun custom to dress children up as Påskkärring, Easter hags, reminiscent of English Halloween. The comparison is apt since a Swedish version of trick-or-treating DOES occur, with the children going from house to house in the neighbourhood, presenting the occupants with paintings and drawings in the hope of getting sweets in return. Dressed in discarded clothes, brightly-coloured head-scarves and painted rosy cheeks, they’re probably the cutest witches you’ll see this half of the year.(Worried your kids will want to go – don’t fret we have you covered!)

Långfredagen (Good Friday) 18th April

Good Friday commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus and is a national holiday in the Swedish calendar. The church service on this day is unique; there are no hymns, organ music or expressions of joy and the alter will be empty, save for five red roses, symbolising Christ’s wounds on the cross.

As Easter also marks the first weekend of spring, many Swedes take the opportunity to take their first trip out to their country house. A spring clean may also be in order after months of not being inhabited!

Påskafton (Holy Saturday) 19th April
From a church perspective, there are no services held until at least the late evening, if not midnight. However, the big meal for Easter tends to be eaten on this night in Sweden, rather like at Christmas Eve. The parallel is made complete with the ubiquitous ‘Julmust‘ now repackaged for Påsk - clearly a ‘must’ at any Swedish table!

Eggs are hugely popular, both for their religious significance, (eggs were traditionally prohibited over Lent) and their seasonal import (hens lays more eggs as the days lengthen, so eggs signify that spring is here). As a symbol for new life, they make an appearance on the table too, along with Janssons frestelse, Jansson’s temptation, sill, salmon and more recently lamb. Eggs also appear in cardboard form all over Sweden, filled with sweet treats for children.

In western Sweden, bonfires are lit on Holy Saturday and are believed to scare those witches coming back from their sabbath celebrations. In some areas, this is the day when the children dress as Easter hags and trick or treat their neighbours.

Påskdagen (Easter Sunday) Sunday 20th April

Easter Sunday is the most important day in the Christian calendar, since it marks the reserrection of Jesus and the service is joyful, with the alter covered in white cloth and daffodils. For secular Sweden, it’s a day to eat up all those leftovers from yesterday’s Påskbord, have fun with friends and family and prepare for the journey back from the summer-house on Monday, the last national holiday for this festival.

 
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Valborgsmässoafton (Walpurgis Night): 30th April

The month comes to a close with a big bonfire to welcome spring. Valborgsmässoafton, or Walpurgis Night, has been celebrated in Sweden since pre-Christian times. The bonfires were once lit to scare off predators such as foxes before the livestock were let out to graze. Now they’re mostly about renewal and celebrating the arrival of spring. Singing and dancing, candy and games for the kids, and a lottery with prizes are often part of the celebration.

Check Your Living City’s guide to Walpurgis Night coming soon — more than likely, there’s a bonfire happening in your local park, with a procession of torchbearers to light the blaze. On university campuses, Valborgsmässoafton is a day for parties, drinking, song and dance. Uppsala is the place to be if you’re a student – the day’s activities include everything from a champagne (and porridge) breakfast, a herring lunch (whatever that may be) to a raft race down the Fyrisån river. Here’s to spring!

Images:Lola Akinmade Åkerström/Håkan Vargas/Ola Ericson/Imagebank Sweden

All over Sweden, irons are heating up, cream is being whipped and jam jars placed strategically on the table! Tomorrow is International Waffle Day and surprise, surprise  -  it originated in Sweden.

So how come Sweden invented  a day for stuffing one’s face with waffles, you ask? Well, to be honest – it’s all due to a bit of a misunderstanding.

March 25th  marks Lady Day in the religious calendar, or  ’Vår Fru-dagen’ (translates as ‘the day of Our Lady’) in Swedish. It coincides with the religious Feast of the Annunciation and heralds the start of SPRING in Sweden and across Europe. However, in the vernacular ‘Vår Fru-dagen’ became ‘Våffeldagen’ – and as the name changed   – so did dinner plans!

Now for those of you shaking your heads and mumbling something about those crafty candy-crazed Swedes, I must hasten to assure you that this is the official version of events, as recorded by Stockholm’s Nordic Museum. So there.

In the olden days, Swedes used to make waffles in rectangular griddle pans placed on a bed of embers in the open fire place. Today, most waffles are round or heart-shaped. For as long as they last on the plate, that is.

Although the actual origins of waffle-scoffing in Sweden is shrouded by the mists of time, it is believed to have been going on for several centuries.  A waffle recipe is recorded in the 1755 cookbook (and Swedish culinary bible)  Hjelpreda I Hushållningen För Unga Fruentimber (“Assistant in Housekeeping for Young Women”) by Swedish cook Cajsa Warg However, it wasn’t until the turn of the last century, around 1900, that it became popular to eat waffles with jam and whipped cream.

Although there are many places around Stockholm where one can partake of a good waffle today – making delicious waffles at home is easier than you may think. Most Swedish department stores or hardware chains stock reasonably priced electric waffle irons these days and one will be found in almost every Swedish home.

Being a bit of a waffle-traditionalist – I would vote for the home-made variety every time.

For one, you can be sure that the mix doesn’t come out of a packet and the cream not out of a can. Also, in a café you will be given one (1!) waffle per serving. Not so in my home, I can tell you that much!

There really is nothing to it – and all the ingredients are also likely to be stuff you have at home anyway. So, before you panic and buy the pre-made waffle mix – here’s how we make waffles in my house:

Waffles: 

What you need: 

  • 5 dl milk
  • 4 dl all-purpose flour
  • 1 dl melted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt

What you do: 

  1. Melt butter.
  2. Beat eggs fluffy and then add milk.
  3. Mix together dry ingredients in a separate bowl
  4. Whisk dry ingredients into the egg/milk mixture and add melted butter.
  5. Coat preheated waffle iron with butter. Pour approx  1 dl of the batter onto hot waffle iron. Cook until golden brown.
  6. Serve piping hot, spread with jam and a dollop of whipped cream in the middle.

 

(Now, being a mother who has made it her hobby to sneak healthy stuff into the most traditional cakes and desserts – I can tell you that adding some frozen (but thawed) spinach to the batter works a treat and doesn’t change the flavour at all. It also works wonders on my conscience when I reach for waffle number four…) 

Enjoy!

 

Featured Image: Mikaela Gustavsson/imagebank.sweden.se

Last night, a contingent from Your Living City attended the premiere of new comedy series Welcome to Sweden, which is, rather appropriately for all of us, about the experience of a foreigner moving to Sweden.

 
Hosted jointly by the American Club of Sweden and the American Women’s Club of Sweden, the party kicked off with welcome drinks at fancy Stureplan bar Miss Voon, where we spotted everyone from The Local’s David Landes to British ambassador Paul Johnston and of course the man of the hour Greg Poehler, looking dashing in a tux.

After a little catch up and people watching session (and by sheer coincidence, around the time the free wine dried up), we decided to head down to nearby Park cinema for the main event. For reasons that escape me now (and may or may not have been influenced by the aforementioned free wine), we decided to dash the block or so minus our coats… to be met by a giant queue and a long, chilly wait. We had perhaps not thought that one through.

Luckily we had just about defrosted (some popcorn helped) by the time Christal Jemdahl of the American Women’s Club welcomed us all to the event. Poehler then took to the stage with some stand up comedy about being an American in Sweden (“another school shooting, Greg, really?”) which was greeted with roars of laughter and recognition from the audience.

I especially liked the bit about people expecting him to take personal pride in Princess Madeleine’s marriage to an American (who turns out to really be British; for the record, as a Brit I don’t give a monkey’s either) and about attempting to coach a kids’ basketball team with limited Swedish (“Er…Bounca! … Passa! … Defend..a?”)

Then it was time for the show itself. Greg plays a New York accountant, Bruce, who falls in love with Swedish Emma (Josephine Bornebusch) and moves to Sweden to be with her. In the first episode he lands at Arlanda to discover that her city apartment is being renovated and they will be staying with her parents in the obligatory red clapboard Archipelago stuga.

I have to confess that the clip that’s been released online so far (in which he tells Emma’s parents that he plans to take a year to spend time with their daughter and find himself) didn’t really inspire me, but I’m pleased to be able to report that the rest of the show was therefore a pleasant surprise.

There were some real laughs (I loved Emma’s mother (Lena Olin)’s horror at how short Bruce is – she even moves some plates in the kitchen to a lower shelf so that he can reach them).

There were some stereotypes of course: could any expat in Sweden not have predicted the scene in which the bathing-suited American saunas uncomfortably with a bunch of Swedes, ahem, hanging loose? But on the other hand… can any expat in Sweden honestly say they haven’t experienced that?

Welcome to Sweden. 2014.

I thought it could have had a stronger episode story (he pretty much arrives in Sweden and a bunch of funny things happen), but that is often the inevitable weakness of a pilot episode, so I’ll reserve judgement for another episode or two.

In the post screening Q&A afterwards, Poehler talked about how the focus of the story is really the relationship between Bruce and Emma, and the culture clash aspect takes a back seat.

The Q&A then took a somewhat awesomely surreal turn, when a few people pitched their own love refugee experiences as alternative series ideas, Claes Månsson (who plays Emma’s father) seemed to announce that the best thing about the series was the weather they had to shoot in last summer (I’m fairly confident it was a translation issue, but it was hilarious all the same) and Greg was forced to insist that he does in fact have some friends in Sweden.

It was then another frosty sprint back to Miss Voon for after party drinks, where the buzz around the bar was positive. It was generally agreed that expats would find a lot to identify with in the show, and that it will be a relief to be able to say to family and friends:

“Remember that time I tried to describe a kräftskiva and you just looked at me as though I had lost my mind? Well, watch this…”

Welcome to Sweden premieres this Friday at 21:30 on TV4. I recommend checking it out!

 

Images: TV4 and Linus Hallsénius/TV4

The Royal Palace of Drottningholm (Note: Royals mentioned in the article are not in the canoe)

If you live in Sweden, chances are you’ve wondered a thing or two about its royal family. Who are they exactly? What do they do? Why is their last name French? Ask no more, the royal we of YLC present the Who’s Who of Swedish Royalty!

Let’s start off with the basics. Swedish Royals are a bunch of Bernadottes. Not to be rude, it’s just true.

johan-bernadotteSwedish monarchs have come from the house of Bernadotte since 1818. If the name sounds French, that’s because it is. King Karl XIV Johan was in fact French-born Jean Bernadotte, and he and his French wife Désirée Clary (briefly the fianceé of old Boney himself, we’ll have you know, before he jilted her for Josephine) were elected to the then-combined Swedish and Norwegian throne when several other options didn’t pan out.

Simply explained, it goes like this: the previous dynasty, died out with Karl XIII, who had no heir. The Swedish parliament then elected the prince of Denmark as heir to the Swedish throne, but he passed away the same year. As much of Europe was controlled by Napoleon Bonaparte at that time, the Riksdag then decided to elect a king of whom Napoeon would approve: so French marshall Bernadotte it was. And today the family is as Swedish as could be, whatever that means! So let’s go meet ‘em!

King_and_Queen_of_Sweden-wiki-1

 

King Carl XVI Gustaf Folke Hubertus

Or just King Carl XVI Gustaf for short. He’s the man on the stamps. The one with the thin glasses and the skinny neck, and perfectly horizontal “smile” – you’ll almost never see his teeth. This king, like many Swedish kings before him, is named Carl. He was born on April 30, 1946, and became King of Sweden at age 27, in 1973. And it would seem he doesn’t plan on quitting anytime soon. Always very popular, in recent years his popularity has been somewhat shaken by scandals when his alleged early life was “revealed” in a tell-all book. However, the Royal Court has stayed firmly in denial of the claims made in the book and most of the brou-ha-ha seems to have blown over.

Queen Silvia Renate Sommerlath

…but you can call her Silvia, after all everyone else does. Silvia is the collected, graceful German girl who met King Carl at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. She may not have been competing, but she still won quite the prize: the hand of the Swedish king four years later. Apparently, when they met something went “click”, according to the smitten King.

Silvia is the ultimate “Dancing Queen” as the hugely popular ABBA song was first performed live at a gala celebrating her imminent wedding in 1976. Despite her popularity, Silvia too has been in stormy waters recently, due to allegations about her father during WWII, but the queen went to serious trouble trying to clear her father’s name. Some Swedes do complain that she still speaks with a slight German accent after all these years, but no one can deny her poise and style, even at 70 years old!
 

Crown Princess Victoria Ingrid Alice Désirée

We wish we could have as many lovely princessy names as Victoria. What a shame she only uses one of them. Princess Vicky (she doesn’t actually go by that, be warned) was born in 1977, but wasn’t Crown Princess at the time. Not so long ago the crown could only go to male heirs, so despite being the oldest, Victoria was not in line. However, since 1980, Sweden has had fully cognatic succession, meaning that the first-born child of the monarch is heir to the throne, regardless of gender. Victoria is hugely popular, and has more than made up for any scandals – real or imagined – the previous generation may have been dragged into.

Kronprinsessan_Victoria,_prinsessan_Estelle_och_Prins_Daniel-wiki
 

Prince Olaf Daniel Westling

While we’re making Cinderella references, we might want to mention Victoria’s husband – personal trainer-to-prince Daniel. They “got to know each other”, as the Royal Family’s official website states, in 2001, and announced their engagement in 2009. The wedding took place a year later with all the appropriate pomp and circumstance.

 

Princess Estelle Silvia Ewa Mary

We now arrive at, undeniably, the cutest royal of them all! Princess Estelle is the first child of Victoria and Daniel, and just celebrated her second birthday. Not only is she adorable, but she’s already downright diplomatic, attending tennis matches and cultural events and featuring on innumerable family postcards displayed for all of Sweden. She’s got a goofy smile just like grandpa – but whereas his is in hiding, little Estelle flashes hers daily and warms our hearts!

 

Prins_Carl_Philip-wikiPrince Carl Philip Edmund Bertil

Back to the king’s own kids, we have the only royal son of Sweden: Carl Philip. Born in 1979, he was the crown prince of Sweden for seven months, before the system was changed. A bit of a controversial lad, he is dating a model, he likes to ski and race Porsches, and indeed won the Porsche GT3 Endurance Scandinavia motor race in 2010. (What do you mean you haven’t heard of it?) He is also a military captain and did an internship with National Geographic. His passion is design and although that aspect of his career fell on rough times after accusations of plagiarism last year, he  recently entered the fashion business when he and colleague Oscar Kylberg released a line of outerwear for brand A-One. With those wavy locks and valiant names and posh Porsches – he is rather damn princely, wouldn’t you say?

By the way, he’s 284th in line to the English throne.

 

Princess Madeleine Thérèse Amelie Josephine

The king and queen’s youngest child, Madeleine was born in 1982. She resides in New York and was for a time known as the pretty, partying princess, but the girl’s got brains. She has studied art, law, and psychology, and has worked with UNICEF and the World Childhood Foundation, focusing on helping sexually exploited children. After a disastrous relationship with Swedish lawyer Jonas Bergström, ending in a broken engagement, Princess Madeleine finally found true love and married New York banker Christopher O’Neill in 2013, and in February 2014 presented Sweden with a new little princess. Which hopefully is enough to make the Swedish people forget she ended her engagement announcement with the little giggle “tihi” (“teehee”), which sparked a heated debate about Swedish female submissiveness and the state of feminism in the country.

Princess_Madeleine_of_Sweden_wiki

Princess Leonore Lilian Maria

Leonore is the latest addition to the Swedish Royal Family, and while her father does not get the title of prince, Leonore is a little princess. But as she is not even a month old, we don’t have a whole lot to say about her. Yet.

 

So there you have it, go forth feeling more up to date on the Swedish Royals. And there is more to find out. For example, who was the Prince who renounced his title for love? Who were the little Princesses at Haga? And which Princess was seen in Vogue, was first married to an actor and later nursed wounded soldiers during WWII?

 

Featured Image: Royalcourt.se. All other images: Wikipedia

March in Sweden is a mouth-watering affair this year! Starting strong with Fettisdagen (Fat Tuesday) at the beginning of the month and ending with Våffeldagen (Waffle Day) –  YLC has the lowdown on these yummy Swedish Spring traditions.

 

Fettisdagen (Fat Tuesday) Tuesday 4th of March

Like anyone faced with a prospect of fasting for forty days, Swedes binge 41 days before Lent. In the UK we do pancakes; here, they’re more sophisticated, indulging in Semlor, cardamom-spiced buns with its top cut off and its insides scooped out and replaced with almond paste and whipped cream.

The original version was just a sweet roll in hot milk and indeed some Swedes do still have them served that way, known as hetvägg (loosely, hot wall). The annual première of semla-eating has crept all the way to early January and since Swedes stopped observing traditional fasting, every (tues)day until Easter could be considered a fettisdag. To be honest, every day is a fat day for YLC when there’s semlor around!

Don’t miss our guide to the best Semlor in town  or if  you are feeling creative, why not try making them yourself?

waffles-tina-stafren

Våffeldagen (Waffle Day) Tuesday, 25th March

The origins of this annual indulgence started out loftily enough. March 25th was always respected as a national holiday in Sweden, since it marked ‘Annunciation Day’ in the Christian calendar. It is said that the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to tell her that she would conceive and become mother of Jesus Christ on this day, known as Vårfrudagen, Our Lady’s Day. This was pronounced in some dialects as ‘Vafferdagen‘ and vaffer was an old Swedish word for waffle. The corruption of the word morphed into official Våffeldagen we now know and enjoy.

Confused? Never mind, just head down to your local café and enjoy the taste of spring, which this day historically marks. Or why not make some waffles for your family – why not try this traditional Scandinavian recipe.

 

Featured Image: Susanne Walström/imagebank.sweden.se

Waffle Image: Tina Stafrén/imagebank.sweden.se