You know it’s close to Christmas when you get your Spotify wrapped update. What a treat to learn so much about yourself and your embarrassing habits. Will I ever grow out of Snoop, Arash and Pitbull? And how much opera can one listen to? And is it an obsession when you listen to the same song 158 times? In my defense, Cinema Paradiso by Ennio Morricone (Chris Botti, Yo-Yo Ma) is a gorgeous song and the movie is fabulous too.
I always have great plans and magnificent projects in mind before a trip to Uppsala. The expectations are high, and I want to squeeze in as much as possible. Visit old and new places, meet all the people, eat all the great food. And then I arrive, and everything slows down. I had five days this time and that is too short even to unpack and settle, jet lag never leaves your body. The last few years it’s been hitting me hard with basically no sleep for weeks. It’s always nice to go home, go back to all the familiar places and to see family. This was the first time in 14 years I have been back in December, that’s too long.
Christmas in Sweden is very different from the US. The smells, the darkness, the built-in coziness, somehow I forgot about it all. Things like that fade when you don’t get to live in the middle of it for a long time. The overused word hygge is built into Scandinavia, you don’t create it by buying a candle and a couple of pillows, it’s already there. It’s the Christmas I grew up with and of course we try to recreate it every year. Traditions that are hundreds and hundreds of years old. All the amaryllis, pine, hyacinths, moss, candle lights, the flower stores and bakeries are magnificent. The smell of the food, newly baked Christmas bread vört, the coffee shops, grocery stores. The white lights outdoors, stars and tasteful and sober decorations. It helps that you come from a town that dates to the year 980, with a huge cathedral from 1435 and a university from 1477. The Lucia concerts in the cathedral, the services, glögg gatherings and most importantly, the food. The cold weather, ice and snow on the ground. It is always nice to be back, but to be honest it’s also a bit hard. You feel guilt and sadness heavy on your shoulders.
All the things I forgot about, the ice skating on the neighborhood’s soccer fields, the sparse Christmas trees, the cold toes when you take a walk, the beautiful window decorations, all the stars and lights that light up the darkness, bundled up people taking walks, the quiet steps in the snow, the different city noise, the traditions.
And then I arrive at home and it’s a different kind of holiday season. It’s glitter and loud music. Bright and bold, gold and silver. Big trees and holly and jolly. And that is OK too. Different places, different traditions. A different life.