New traditions – Saint Lucia

Yesterday was the 12th day of Desember. The night before the 13th day of december, which is the day of Saint Lucia. We celebrate it with a mix of traditions and the day is one of my absolute favourite days of December.

The days between christmas eve, our yule eve, and new year’s night, are called romjul. Among merry companions often translated to room wheel, but it has nothing to do with either rooms or wheels. It derives from the Norse word rómheilagr which translates to ‘what (or when) is not holy by law’ romjul then means the days that are not yule by law. We still celebrate yule with family and friends, but not many of the days are considered holy by law. During this period we ‘go julebukk’ (a bukk is the male sheep, goat, deer or similar animal) which means you dress up to the point where you’re unrecognisable, and visit your neighbours and help them finish off the sweets they’ve made for yule.

My little Son in Mommy's old shoes

My little Son in Mommy’s old shoes

The 13th day of December is the day of Saint Lucia. We normally don’t celebrate saints in Norway (being a predominantly protestant nation) but this day is marked both in kindergartens and schools. Children dress in white, bear lights and parade through schools, kindergartens and often homes for the elders, singing christmas carols and the ‘lucia song’.

In the small town where I’m from people mixed all of this up around the same time as many Swedes migrated to the small town to work. This has resulted in the lovely tradition of children dressing up and walking from door to door singing christmas carols. In return they are given some sweets, a smile and praise for their singing. Growing up this was one of the most important days of the year.

Yesterday I took my son to visit my parents and I took him to ‘go julebukk’. It was raining, it was cold and it was dark. In the car my son swore he would not leave his grandparents’ house. He can be rather shy and when he heard he had to visit the houses of strangers he swore he would not open his moth, let alone sing! He still dressed up. He sang on the stairs of my parents’ house. He hesitantly walked over to the neighbours. He sang as they opened the door. They smiled, praised him and gave him a handful of sweets. His face lit up like only a child’s face can. I had to stop him after six houses. A small four-year-old singing alone outside strangers’ houses generated much more candy than what’s good for him.

We’ll return next year.

High summer adventures

Chattering delightfully - High summer adventuresSome kids were visiting. I took them out exploring in the neighbourhood that was unknown and exciting to them. Two little girls, sun-kissed legs under floral summer dresses, one little boy with a bushy blond hair and big blue eyes, the fourth child, a little girl, in a buggy with bare toes pointing straight up at the blue sky.

A turn right and we found two large redcurrant shrubs. All speaking children claimed not to like redcurrants. The baby is still omnivorous, she loved them. I dared the older children to find the brightest coloured berry. Halfway through the competition I told them that if they did find the brightest berry they had to hurry and eat it, before I did.  Suddenly they all liked redcurrants, and always had. Next they learned how to eat all the berries off a cluster, or raceme. Suddenly they loved redcurrants. We picked a few more racemes to bring as snacks on our little venture. We moved on.

Further down the road we found eggs. Huge, round, bright-white eggs. The wee boy claimed they were balls of hay, wrapped in plastic. But after a few winks and raise of the eyebrows followed by a smile he enthusiastically joined in on the story that these eggs were tractor eggs. Each egg containing a wee baby tractor just waiting to grow big enough to come out. Some were probably purple, some were pink, and some had to be red, because the kids had seen that on the telly.

The best surprise came down the opposite direction of the same road. While discussing where the “shrunkens” (tiny little humans who had set up a tiny heliport in one of the gardens around us) might be hiding from us. The the youngest speaking girl let out a shriek and stared at me with terror in her eyes pointing at something I at first didn’t see behind the buggy. A kitten. Coal black and younger than four months. It came running towards us, tail high. It purred and it played and had two of the kids jump around, sweeping, swinging and waving straws for the kitty to play with. The terrified little girl found refuge in my arms, while the youngest of them all had fallen asleep in the buggy.

We played and we ran, we skipped and we jumped. But suddenly our adventure had come to and end. The wee boy was injured. The kitty’s claw had hit a spot of unarmoured flesh and torn it up to the extent where nothing could fix it but a small plaster from the zoo, preferably one with a giraffe on it. The tiger patterned would not do, the tiger being  too closely related to the little cat. To take his mind of the toe, which he was afraid would be his bane, we turned our attention to the flowers growing on the side of the road. By the time we came back to the waiting plaster we had picked ourselves a nice little bouquet.

The flowers decorated the table for some days. The weather changed and summer-dresses gave way to warmer garments. Closing my eyes I can still hear the children laughing, the birds singing, the soft purring of the cat.

Nostalgia at the funfair

First time I was in Bibione was in 1990. It was our first time in Italy and I was only five. I remember loads from the time there. “Italia ’90” – the FIFA world cup (football, yes) was going on at the time. Italians took football crazy to a whole new level. I’ll never forget.

I remember some of the people we met. Some of them we still keep in touch with and visit every time we’re in Italy. Some were my brothers’ summer flirts, and probably people they never want to be reminded of ever again. The ice-cream, the swimming pool, the food, the heat, the beach, the sea. It was fantastic.

One other thing that clearly stands out is the funfair. I went back some time, probably in the mid nineties, and this year I returned again. And it had not changed a bit! This time I was standing in the shadow of my Son. It was fantastic! He’s younger than I was when I was there for the first time, so he didn’t care as much for the same rides that I simply loved, at age five. I was a little too handicapped to be able to try anything much, but I had my camera with me and stood cheering on the side.  I also walked around and had a look, breathing in the same smells from years gone by and noticed details from a world preserved for decades.

Visiting the violent past

I’m quite weak when it comes to swords. Of course physically, when compared to a sword, but also how I am very fascinated with swords and how they were made, used, etc. I even own a few myself. This is a little odd as I am very much against having weapons in the house, and I guess I am as close to being a pacifist as one can be, but without making much of an effort to promote my views.

Old swords get my attention. The new-fashion types that are designed to look like something bizarre out of a fantasy novel do not catch my interest at all. A claymore on the other hand, with its 140cm, and a design that was developed based on its use and the preferences of the individuals who wielded them – then we’re talking! Or the swords of vikings, where some of the metal came from far away and was mixed with the local sorts, in order to make the metal exactly as hard and flexible as it needed to be. With carvings and decorations that told stories about the sword’s wielder. Fascinating!

Son is now in a pirate phase. Everything pirate is amazing in his eyes, and he roams around every day singing songs that sound like sea shanties and threatens family members to walk the plank. I don’t mind this craze, I know it’s temporary. But I am guilty in trying to steer him towards my own interests, without taking him too far away from his own. Or, I don’t really want to steer him onto anything, but now that he is interested in pirates, I thought that was a good chance to introduce him to vikings. So on a Sunday afternoon I took him to the archaeological museum in town to show him these beauties (see photos). And he did love it, almost as much as I did!