Scary Pumpkins and Memorial Candles

Biking fast from the little hill of Kirseberg, going through a neighbour called Värnhem and then all way through Nobelvägen, then turning right passing by an almost completely built building hosting hundreds of brand new apartments, then crossing the road going left, you will find yourself on a relatively large street accompanied on both sides by two of the three parts of St. Pauli Kyrkogård (Graveyard of Saint Paul). Namely, the part on your left brings the name of ”St.Pauli Mellersta Kyrkogård”, as being the central part among the three of them.

The 4th of November the sky covering the industrial city of Malmö was made out of different shades of pink, grey and blue, with a giant Sun setting down on the side of the Öresund bridge, still shining red around four in the afternoon. Paving the way to an almost mystic mixture and feeling, the atmosphere just seemed to be perfectly fitting the celebration of All Saint’s day, which, after a hundred years of change, moved to be celebrated first on the 1st of November, then on the first Sunday of November, and latest, as it is now, on the Saturday between the 31st of October and the 6th of November. Giving to it more or less religious meaning, it was probably after the Reformation that the celebration started to symbolize the start of the winter in Sweden. To lit candles to be put upon what is called “Minneslund” – a term for memorial grove in Swedish – brings together people whom for different reasons decide to visit a dark cemetery in the evening of Allahelgonasdag. In this way, the dark times of the coming autumn and winter are met with hope, memories and light, and whoever wants to remember someone lost in the past or only follow this really Swedish tradition feels welcomed by strangers’ gazes, eyes, shadows, thoughts, breaths and silent talks.

Although this is my fourth year I am spending in Sweden, before yesterday I had never had the chance to experience this particular day of the year. Walking through the graveyard, we could almost distinguish between different country divisions of the graveyard depending on how the different tombs looked like. Those memorial stones bigger and sticking out more than the others – some even looking like small mausoleums – showing a coloured picture of the deceased ones, with all objects which were once close to them,

In Italy, as far as I know, graveyards are usually locked when it gets dark, and this tradition of visiting them on All Saints’ Day would not be as easily adopted as it is in fact in Sweden, where graveyards use to be open day and night out, and are involved into the inhabitants lives as they are shaped within the city’s net.

A day which sometimes risks to be recalled as only awakening sad feelings, is instead an excuse here in Sweden to get out and get involved in activities and be introduced to the warm feeling of winter, experience the closeness and unity among the city’s inhabitants and your friends, important to focus on something else than only days getting shorter. The entire weekend calendar is usually scheduled with concerts, among the others requiems, as the one I was listening to yesterday in the church of Saint. Johannes by the central neighbourhood of Triangeln. When passing by Sweden during this weekend I warmly recommend to overcome your fear for darkness or scary graveyards and find one of the many “minneslunden” and get together with some locals. You may be surprised and maybe may end up into a magic and silent, and probably scary, place immersed in a forest, accompanied by children trying to scary each other when still feeling that last breath of the Halloween festivity.

“Att lussa”, a verb for a secular tradition

As Christmas time approaches, here in Sweden the 13th December of every year is time for Lucia celebrations, related to the Italian Sicilian Lucia marthyr in 304 A.D., even though of unknown origins for many Swedes – or better, the path Lucia took from Italy to be part of a Swedish tradition is not really well known by many people in Europe yet. Let’s take it in an easy way, Lucia here is meant to bring light – Saint Lucia was, and still is, after all the saint protector of blind people – and way before the day which for some centuries ago was supposed to be the shortest of the year, almost every window is decorated by an advent candlestick (advent ljustake), reminding the Lucia parade taking time on the 13th. Therefore on the 13th you will do Lucia, and since in Sweden they like to make verbs starting from whatever more or less English word you may wonder of – see googla, luncha, fota, joina – you will “lussa”

So, what is all this fancy thing about?

Luciatåg (the Lucia train!?) is a procession/parade which manifests one of the basic cultural aspects of Sweden, not to forget one of the most struggling – but also cozy – aspects of living in Sweden. Winter, cold, dark, lights and sweet things to eat.

Lucia celebration contains and tries to solve the all of them, with people gathering in the early morning at working places, schools and universities, at crazy times if one thinks about the darkness covering Sweden in this time of the year. A procession of white gowns-dressed people – and with people I make no exceptions, Sweden is a land for gender equality and so it be! both women and men are gonna wear it – is gonna follow Lucia, a girl wearing a crown with candles. Possibly these should be real so that the panic of fellign down during the procession, and put the all building on fire gets higher on this day of joy! Oh I forgot, people wearing long white hats with golden stars on and holding a stick with a star on. Then, in the procession for children, ginger bread biscuits and Santa Claus costumes are also included!

With the university choir MASK at Malmö university we had Lucia both yesterday and today, as a  start of our concert-season since the choir was stopping for a while before this semester. But singing both at a company here in Malmö yesterday morning and at an old people house gave us the energy and hope for next semester!

As I said, Lucia covers part of the Swedish reality you may experience when living here, because of course, if there is not a big Swedish tradition which is not celebrated properly, then there is no celebration without a special cake, and for this I may advice you to check a recipe of lussekatter/lussebullar (here for Swedish reader and here for an English version), even if maybe a bit late for this year’s Lucia celebration. But surely you will still be able to smell saffron wherever you walk through cities in Sweden or buy them in the closest Pressbyrån.

Sankta Lucia started to be very important to me, underlining how culture can be shapeable, ever changing and not only to be acquired during one’s childhood. For some reasons certain things do acquire an importance personal to each of us. For me Lucia – celebrated the first time three years ago, but better last year with the university choir in Karlstad – puts together my passion for singing, the memory of the start of my life here in Sweden, especially in Karlstad, and a lot of more memories, which are part of something which I am definitely really missing every day!

I leave you with the one version I prefer of Swing Low Sweet Chariot, started to sing while we were on the bus back from our Lucia singing this evening, and with a French song which I listened to at least a twenty times so far (just today!).

Looking for other intresting readings? Check thelocal.se article and the official Sweden page sweden.se

Värmland is waiting for me after a presentation at university tomorrow, and before another to be given on Tuesday, then Italy will come together with Sun, family, friends and food!

I will see you soon!

Di matrimoni svedesi e balli antichi scandinavi

30 giugno

Diciamo che parlare di accento calabrese, liquore messo nelle pesche dolci al cioccolato e sensazione di stare al paese dei nonni non credo vada d’accordo con lo scrivere post in inglese, svedese o altra lingua diversa dall’italiano. Quindi eccomi qui scrivendo questo altro aggiornamento da un’isola super svedese ma della quale gli abitanti si ritengono molto patriottici (secondo la famiglia svedese – non delle Åland – di questa ragazza conosciuta martedì) e protettivi del territorio (non puoi comprare una casa o un terreno a meno che non sei cittadino delle isole Åland, il che vuol dire aver vissuto qui per almeno cinque anni)

Martedì 5 giugno

Sfrutto la mia insonnia dovuta all’eccitazione da primo lavoro e dall’ora in più di luce (come se non fosse già bastato vedere scendere il Sole alle 22,30 in Svezia – nel Värmland!). Come forse avevo anticipato e raccontato, lunedì scorso ho avuto un’introduzione al ristorante, e poi ho lavorato tre ore. Venerdì scorso (fino a ieri, lunedì) invece ho iniziato il mio orario regolare, dalle 16 alle 23 escludendo sabato, dato che dovevamo servire per un matrimonio, ho lavorato dalle 14,30 alle 01.30. Proprio di questo vorrei parlare!

Giovedì scorso, 30 giugno, ho seguito la famiglia con cui vivo ad una serata barbecue ad un camping vicino alla spiaggia, nel centro dell’arcipelago. Berit è stata organizzatrice e responsabile di un festival di danze popolari di vari paesi del nord, e questa serata è stata un raduno dei vari partecipanti. Musica tradizionale e danze tipiche soprattutto da tradizioni antiche danesi e norvegesi. Quando ce ne stavamo per andare io e Sofi, una delle sorelle della famiglia abbiamo cercato di farci spazio in un cerchio strettissimo di danzatori molto felici – ed alcuni molto ubriachi – provenienti da tutto il nord che ballavano e cantavano, a volte non conoscendo la lingua ma capendo comunque. tra le tante, Sinklars vísa è una delle due che abbiamo ballato. Ritmo regolare, molti versi e sempre due passi da ricordare, due a sinistra e uno a destra. La danza che vedete nel video è esattamente quella che abbiamo danzato noi! Davvero bello poter conoscere cose così nuove e diverse! La canzone è originaria della Norvegia, e le parole narrano la battaglia di Kringen avenuta nel 1612 ad Otta, in Norvegia . Qui trovate informazioni in inglese sulla battaglia – e qui in italiano anche in generale sulla guerra di Kalmar, mentre qui il testo completo in originale e la traduzione in inglese.

 

Per continuare, sabato c´è stato il matrimonio e anche quella giornata è stata una bella esperienza – ovvero assistere ad una festa di matrimonio svedese! Sicuramente molto diverso dai matrimoni italiani, la cena è statamolto tranquilla all’inizio, non c´è stata né musica né nessuno che ballava fino alle 23.00. La serata è stata piena di discorsi – gli svedesi sono molto attenti alle tradizioni, burocrazie e diplomazie varie in certe occasioni! e, sopresa sorpresa, giochi di gruppo! Una delle prime canzoni – che poi hanno anche accompagnato alcuni brindisi – diceva “chi gioca a calcio si alzi dalla sedia” “chi è fidanzato faccia una piroetta” e “chi ha figli faccia un inchino”. E ogni mezz’ora per qualche motivo sconosciuto a tutti noi camerieri, un gruppo di gente iniziava a correre intorno al tavolo passando dagli sposi e facendo qualcosa che mi è sfuggito dato che in quel momento cercavo di non essere colpita da questa carica di gente che correva e di rimanere in equilibrio con il mio vassoio pieno di bicchieri di cristallo 😀 Alle 23 la band ha iniziato a suonare e anche se eravamo molto stanchi la musica ha aiutato molto, anche se trattenersi dal ballare è stato difficilissimo per me! Sono stata fortunata ad essere stata mandata a casa all’uan e trenta perché alcuni sono ovviamente dovuti stare fino alla fine, ovvero alle 4,30!

Comunque…qui sotto potete sentire uno dei brani da brindisi che si cantano in Svezia, questo l’ho anche cantato con il coro dell’università di Karlstad!

Qui alle Åland è l’una di notte. Anche se l’insonnia ha fatto i suoi danni nelle scorse due notti, ora cerco di addormentarmi che domani sarà il mio secondo giorno di riposo e avrò una prima festa con i colleghi di lavoro a casa di una ragazza. Barbecue, sauna, e pallavolo…non suona male vero? All’ultimo minuto prima di andare a dormire sono anche riuscita ad organizzare un passaggio per l’andata e il ritorno…il non avere la patente si fa sentire qui al Nord! Soprattutto quando l’ultimo autobus passa alle 6 e il primo la mattina alle 7.

Perdonate gli errori sintattici se ci sono, ma sono abbastanza stanca e ormai non scrivo in italiano da molto tempo. Mi piace molto di più scrivere in inglese ma ciò esclude molti lettori dal leggere i post (compresi i miei nonni!) e quindi devo trattenermi e scrivere in italiano!

Ora vi saluto! A presto e buonanotte!

P.S. Credo che la confusione riguardo a dove le isole Åland si trovino sia ai massimi livelli tra i lettori dei miei post. E vi capisco! Quindi vi darò una breve spiegazione. Le Åland appartenevano in passato alla Svezia e poi per qualche casino storico di cui potete sicuramente leggere qui se volete 😀 le Åland sono mezze indipendenti, ma legate legislativamente e politicamente – anche se hanno un proprio governo e parlamento! – alla Finlandia, e culturalmente e linguisticamente alla Svezia! Confusione ancora eh? Insomma, in poche parole sono in Svezia!

E poi, mi sono appena resa conto di aver tralasciato alcune cose accennate nel primo paragrafo! Appena potrò ci ritornerò e scriverò tutto 😀

Walpurgis celebration in Sweden, a short guide

There is a picture stuck in my head since I was in Stockholm with my family years ago. I was a child then, but still something which really got me were all these teenagers going around with boxes of beer. It was Walpurgis that day!

Drink, drink, drink. Have fun. Sleep less or nothing. Hungover the day after.

This would be the start and the end of my post, if I were a Swede. Unfortunately, or luckily, I am from a place best known for pizza, pasta, ice-cream, and amazing history.

Ok, sorry for these extra stereotyped pictures, but this is what I have been actually learning since a while. There are two big days in Sweden that need to be celebrated properly during the year, where celebration and properly stand for getting drunk, do not remember anything the day after and hungover. One of them is Walpurgis (known as “Valborgsafton” in Swedish, that means “Walpurgis’ evening, ‘cause you know, Swedes like to celebrate the day before, especially to be ready to be hungover the day after), and the other one is Midsummer (Midsommarafton, here as well, you drink all the day, stay awake all the night, and naturally are hungover the day after, a point that I really do not get!). Even though you did not get a so optimist view of it so far, I really like how most of the celebrations still relate to some Pagan celebrations, thus related to seasons and nature. 1st of May stands here for the first day of Spring, guess what, I cannot blame them for their will (and need) to celebrate. Most of the times you will likely not have a Spring feeling at all, since it could be still pretty cold, but the light is already lighting the days much longer than the dear old winter you just got through.

Midsummer (the night between Friday and Saturday after the 21st of June) is instead the start of the summer and the celebration of the longest day of the year. Here in Värmland we do not have the midnight sun, but still, there is almost just 1 hour of pitch dark in that night.

As said, traditional of the two days is the bad weather, as it is for example in Italy with the day after Easter.

What is actually usual to do in the weekend of Walpurgis is to stay with people, enjoy the long days (preferably the warm), drink, eat, sing a lot, and gather around the fire. I was at campus just some hours ago and saw the students already drunk at 6, always smile when I see these scenes! Very particular is the champagne breakfast which you can have both on Saturday and Sunday (the 30th of April and the 1st of May).

My weekend is gonna look pretty Swedish I think, since my desire is actually that of experiencing Valborg as much as it gets. Tonight I am gonna get as much sleep as I can, since starting from tomorrow morning, I will have around 40 hours awaken. I am skipping some of the singings with the choir in the morning, but I will start singing with them in the big square in Karlstad (Stora Torget) at 15, sound checking at 14.15. I will borrow a studentmössa (the hat Swedish high-school students wear at the end of their last year of school to run out of the school and take pictures – it looks as a sailor hat!) from a girl I know from some courses at uni, and will sing a lot of traditional Spring songs, of course in Swedish. For this, tomorrow I will try to do my best and learn all the words by heart.

Later, we will sing at the bishop’s house. I think I will also go to the city park to gather around the bonfire for a while, since there will not be any in the square and I really want to experience that, and the man choir is gonna sing with another choir. Later, we will go to a kind of cottage (“stuga”!?) where we will start our party (“sittning”) with both the man and woman choir. We get food, dance, sing and have fun, trying to make the others awake until the day after. The challenge is to stay awake until 15 – forgot to say that, at 15 the day before we will put the hat on our heads, supposed not to take it off but 24 hours later!). I will go home at 9 a.m. because at 10 I have to stay at Bunkern to work for the Hungover Sunday, which is the most incredible thing you could do at the pub (because you need to slice 10 kg of bacon and fry it!). No people seemed to be available to work there on Sunday (guess what!?) so I took the shift ‘cause it sounded as a great and funny experience!

Now I will get my 10 hours of sleep (hope I do not wake up because of the light, which among my friends seems to be a common problem!) and will see you soon. Need to take a pic of my face every 12 hours I will be awake tomorrow! 😉

Of goodbyes, Lucia celebrations and Swedish compliments

I was looking forward to go back and stay over during Christmas…then people started to leave Karlstad after their exchange programs, everyday I sent to and received messages from students to meet one last time before them “leaving soon”, then Lucia celebrations took me much time in the last week and I did not have time to say goodbye, and then a new course started, hundreds pages to read and write…and next Tuesday is the last “party”…I will probably leave it much earlier than I use to, goodbyes are so bad. Especially when you are pretty sure you will not see some people more, or maybe you will have to wait many years before having the chance to.

I am in a bad mood…yesterday though, I had the staff party at the student pub…pizza and a little “julbord” was managed by some students and we really had fun. They left in the morning but I got home at 2.00 ‘cause I really needed to sleep. The cold has arrived and last night on the bike I faced the “nice” -6° and the iced ground…pain near you heart, almost crying eyes, your scarf getting wet and frozen in some minutes…

I am messing up. A lot of things to do before I go back to Italy for the Christmas break. Last Monday I started a new course called Globalization and Culture which is a very short, fast and deep one.

I should actually shut up and cheer, next semester is going to be very exciting and full of things to do (I will tell you about it in some post), but people are more important than yourself, especially when they start to be part of your weeks giving you advices and staying at your side in the toughest moments. The more I stay abroad the tougher it gets when it comes to say goodbye, even though it sounds as it should be the other way. I get deeply used to stay abroad, make it by “my own” but I also learn to build relationship with other, especially foreigners, and this sometimes can make you very sad.

Many students who are leaving are selling or giving away things they do not have place for in the luggage, or that hey just would not need once back in their countries…so I got for free a book in English called “About a boy”…I guess it will be the first book of the year 2016…

I guess it is of common knowledge that Swedish people cannot “flirt”, or at least, said by an Italian, they cannot “court”…I am not talking bad about them, because it is just not in their culture, but sometimes it is just funny. So, two days ago at Bunkern I was talking about this with a Swedish and an Australian friend and the Swedish friend had the wonderful idea to joke about it, trying to “court me the Italian way”…the result was very very funny! One of the things he did was to touch my shoulders, while another one was to tell me few compliments (which is really not that common in Sweden, or at least for what I experienced in fourteen months). And a real Swedish compliment I got was “oh my God you are so funny, you produce so much noise from your mouth for so few things you have to say!!!”.

On Friday I had a very nice and rewarding day. I woke up at 4.00 a.m. because at 6.00 a.m. I had to stay in the Aula Magna at university to gather with the choir before the Lucia celebration at 7,30 a.m.. It was the first time in my life I got up so early, and having lesson after the concert did not help. I got home after class and then got to downtown…because we where going to have a Lucia celebration and a few “Christmas songs” in the Domkyrka… I just found this article telling about us singing in the church, and I am also in the picture, I am so happy for that ^^ Take a look if you want! And here is a video of us singing at Karlstad university on Friday morning 🙂

The Lucia parade (Luciatåg) is a very Swedish traditional event…Saint Lucia originally comes from Italy but it is very Swedish how all the entire thing is represented. The songs are learned in Sweden since kindergarten and tell about this woman dressed in white, with candles on her head, bringing light in the dark and cold days of December. In fact, the 13th December was considered, before the Gregorian calendar was introduced, to be the shortest day of the year (while today it is the 21st). Want to know something more about this very Swedish tradition? Take a look to this interesting and funny video! Are you out for the very origin of Saint Lucy? Then go here instead 😀

By the way, today my host family had lunch/dinner/food at 15,30 with me. We had a great time and now I am writing this post…later on I will watch a movie. I am not ready to start to write all the pages I have due Wednesday, but I will start tomorrow, now I have to relax psychologically!

This morning I was “googling” around, and I found out about the “Vätternrundan”. It is about cycling around the lake Vättern (the second largest in Sweden after Vänern). You can start from the late afternoon of a friday in June, until the morning of the day after…and you are supposed to finish before midnight of that day, or is Saturday…it is 300 km total and the price to partecipate is 1500kr. It is a lot of money, but you get food and a big organization is made around it, 20.000 persons use to take part to it. So, I am kind of cheering myself up thinking about the training I will start once back in Karlstad after the Christmas break. I should aim for an average of 30 kms at the start, mixing pace and duration, studying my diet, and so on, I really look forward to it! And also even though it is going to be pretty cold from January to March (the air cooled down by once since the middle of this week) days will get longer starting from the 21st December, so that I will have always a longer time during the day to manage both studying, training, relaxing, being host and so on…

Now I have to go…cosy night with a film and tomorrow I start a tough fourdaysstudymarathon before landing in Rome 😀