Tuesday, December 15, 2009

In These Frozen and Silent Nights

It has been snowing for days. Days and days and days. It lights up the city. That seems to be the canned response. I am not sure what that means but everyone says it. So, yeah, it lights up the, now cloaked in dark, city. In my humble and ever so ready to give unsolicited opinion, it's just an unneeded layer of complication.

Well, it would be. Except my day planner is deliciously free. Therefore, I don't really care. If I had places to go and people to see in a timely manner it would be more menacing. Though, really, I don't know who signs up for this. We do have planes now. And cargo ships. There is always FedEx.

Wearing all these clothes is in a word laborious. I went out today I had tights on, socks, jeans, turtle neck, puffy down coat, ridiculous looking boots I bought two years ago to go sleigh riding, scarf, gloves, hat I stole from one of my kids. Just moving was cumbersome. I looked like a cross between a bag lady and the Michelin Man.

I dream of my flip flops, all 40 pairs. I long to drive barefoot in the blow dryer hot heat of Arizona through the Taco Bell drive through. Oh yes, one baja gordita, por favor. Chicken or that grey stuff that passes for it anyway. Mucho gracias amigo. In Phoenix, it is shorts, tank top and flip flops. In the winter, jeans and flip flops. Ease of simplicity. Why make life harder than it has to be?

I walked down to the gym where I was covered in white by the time I got there. I had to remove all the gear to work out and then put it all back on. I am fixing to go put it all back on again to venture back out for, like, the fourth time today. For real? People do this and lots of them? Why? I guess if I were going to live to be 1000, I might entertain the notion.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Lucia Day

Today marks the beginning of the Lucia weekend with culminates with Lucia Day on December 13th. In Sweden, the Lucia Day is celebrated in all parts of the country. It commemorates the life of Santa Lucia.

St. Lucia was born in Syracuse, Sicily around 283 and died in 303 AD. The myth is that her parents wanted her to marry a man against her will. She wanted to lead a more pious life, something along the lines of Mother Theresa. In protest against the marriage, she poked out her eyes, put them on a platter and gave them to the man. The legend is that her eyes were miraculously restored by God. I don't know if that part still holds. Perhaps, it was her carbon credits that restored her sight in the modern Swedish version.

It’s said that Saint Lucia blinded herself on the shortest, darkest day of the year, which is the Winter Solstice. Under the old Julian calendar, that day was December 13th. In Sweden, and other Scandinavian countries, Santa Lucia Day is seen as being the beginning of the Christmas season. It starts the countdown to Christmas-twelve days.

The tradition on this day is for the oldest girl in the family to dress in a white robe with a red sash and wear a crown of candles and lingonberry leaves (lingonberries are small red berries popular in Sweden). The other girls dress in white with silver crowns. The boys wear pointed white hats and carry candles. They’re called stj√§rngossar (star boys). Some kids dress up as tomtar, similar to gnomes. Traditionally, the procession will walk through the dark room and form a semi-circle with Lucia in the middle. They sing songs with a message of Lucia as a source of light and Christmas. The Lucia procession is often followed glug (mulled wine) , saffron buns and pepperkakor (gingerbread cookies, which I have eaten no less than 275,000 of) The city streets are adorned with small one's with wreaths of candles on their heads and young girls with tinsel in their hair as evidence that they have been part of a Lucia procession.

Observing the end to the shortening of the days is a very old tradition and has it's roots in pagan rituals. As do many Christmas time traditions, well predating Christianity. It is really a beautiful and simple tradition, albeit a little creepy. I am glad to have been able to partake of it for this one Christmas season.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Pod Person Shows Up in Oslo

Claims to be Barack Obama and gives, for the first time, a damn good speech rooted in reality. And whoever this guy is, he actually seems to like us. I think we will keep him. Oslo, if you have the real Obama , please by all means, keep him. We'll take this guy.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Gloomiest November on Record

Well, one of them anyway according to the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI). Sunlight was limited to 35 minutes a day for the entire month, giving Stockholm only 17.5 hours of sunlight for the entire month. Considerably lower than the than the average for the month at 54 hours.

Nobody seems to like it. When you go anywhere, it seems to be all people want to discuss. People are noticeably more cranky. Horns are beeping much more, fuses seem shorter and characteristically mellow Swedes are bit more on edge. I saw a runner out yesterday at about 4 pm with a headlight on his head. Chalk one up for the innovative. Flights to Thailand are astronomical and I do think the Swedes have single handedly driven up the prices.

Some Swedes use light therapy to try to ward off SAD, others use the bottle. Supposedly, as a whole Swedes consume copious amounts of alcohol during these bleaker months. Which would seem counterintuitive to me. Drunk and in the dark would only lead to be hung over and dark. Or in my case, doing stupid things you only remember half of and dark.

Living in Phoenix, I had forgotten what winter, in general, does to the skin tones of those around you. You typically do not notice that everyone has a vampire like bluish tinge to their skin until you return from vacation in a warm climate. You tend to get off the plane in your new South Florida tan and look around like you have walked into a scene of Night of the Living Dead.

My kids who normally have healthy tanned glows to their olive skin tone have taken on a greenish, greyish hue and I am sure I am sporting the translucently sallow tone I long ago left behind with New York winters. My son's blonde hair has turned an ashey brown. Thanks to the Twilight movies, looking dead is fashionable.

Unfashionable though is Vitamin D deficiency. Somehow, I manage to pick the year to go sunless when Vitamin D is the cure all health regimen. I couldn't have picked the oat bran craze year or the year for Alpha Lipoic Acid. I timed that one wrong it seems. Still and all, the dark does not really bother me. It is already cold, what does it matter if it's dark too?