Christmas 2003

Arriving back home no matter where it is feels great. Tina and I had a great time in Seattle, our first Christmas. We spent some great time with both families, one in Kirkland and one in Everett. We played Hand and Foot way too often and ate way too much. Take a peek at the exciting time. Thanks to Susie for her hospitality and the rest of the Sandin/Blackwood clan for a great Christmas.

Swedish Family Christmas

The biggest and longest holiday of the year is the magical Christmas of Sweden. The excitement begins the first Sunday of Advent with the lighting of the first Advent candle. Each Sunday prior to Christmas, another candle is lit with growing anticipation.

Feasting and celebrating begin on December 13 with Lucia Day, which legend says is the longest night of the year and a time when man and beast need extra nourishment. In the home, Lucia (Queen of Light) is portrayed by the eldest daughter. She is dressed in a white gown with a crown of candles in her hair. She wakes her parents by singing the familiar Italian song ‘Santa Lucia’ and brings them coffee, buns, cookies, and occasionally glogg (a mulled wine).

The Christmas tree has been a part of Christmas in Sweden since the 1700s. It was not until the present century that the custom became general, however. Nearly every Swedish household now brings in a tree one or two days before Christmas and decorates it with sparkling objects, gaily wrapped candies, glass bulbs, and straw ornaments, with electric lights or candles.

Christmas Eve is the height of the festivities. Traditionally it is a day when no work should be done other than seeing to one’s livestock. This is the day of the Christmas feast, which comprises a sm?rg?sbord including a few traditional dishes such as ham, jellied pigs feet, lutfisk and rice porridge.

After dinner all gather around the Christmas tree to open presents. These gifts are brought by the Jultomten, a gnome who lives in the barn. The Jultomten looks after the family and their livestock. The Jultomten plays a role comparable to that of the various Santa Claus figures in other countries. He is believed to come with presents. In many households nowadays, someone disguised as a gnome comes on Christmas Eve with a large sack of gifts.

Christmas day is spent quietly within the family circle, with Christmas parties and get-togethers the following day and on throughout the holidays until Knut’s Day. Christmas finally ends on January 13. When King Canute was king of Sweden a thousand years ago he decreed that the Christmas feasting should be twenty days. While some countries observe the Twelve Days of Christmas, another week is added to the celebration in Sweden.

Swedish Christmas Song
Nu t?ndas tusen juleljus

Nu t?ndas tusen juleljus p? jordens m?rka rund.
Och tusen, tusen str?lar ock p? himlens djupbl? grund.
F?r ?ver stad och land i kv?ll g?r julens glada bud.
Att f?dd ?r herren Jesus Krist, v?r fr?lsare och gud.
Du stj?rna ?ver Betlehem, l?t ditt milda ljus
f? lysa in med hopp och frid i varje hem och hus.
I varje hj?rta kallt och m?rkt, s?nd du en str?le blid,
en str?le av Guds k?rleksljus i signad juletid.

PINWHEEL CINNAMON BISCUITS

2 c. sifted flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/4 c. shortening
3/4 c. milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease a cooking sheet. Sift flour in a large bowl. Add baking powder and salt and nix with a fork. Cut in shortening until mixture looks like “meal”. Stir with a fork to moisten ingredients. If necessary pour in rest of milk. The mixture should round up into a ball (too much stirring makes a tough biscuit).

Place dough on a lightly floured board. Roll the ball around gently 3 to 4 times to coat lightly with flour. Knead 10 times.

Lightly roll the dough into a rectangle 7 x 12 inch. Spread with softened butter.

Mix 5 tablespoons sugar and 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon together and sprinkle over dough. Starting at the long side roll up like a jelly roll. Pinch ends to seal. Cut into 12 slices. Bake cut side up 10 to 15 minutes.

Pumpkin Seed Brittle

1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds (procedure follows)
For toasted pumpkin seeds:
1/2 cup fresh pumpkin seeds, unrinsed
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

In a heavy skillet combine the sugar and the water, cook the mixture over moderately low heat, stirring and washing down the sugar crystals with a brush dipped in cold water until the sugar is dissolved, and simmer it, undisturbed, tilting and rotating the skillet, until it is a deep caramel colour. Stir in the pumpkin seeds, stirring until they are coated well, and turn the mixture out onto a buttered sheet of foil, spreading it evenly. Let the brittle cool completely and break it into pieces.

To toast pumpkin seeds:
In a bowl toss the seeds with the oil and salt to taste and on an ungreased baking sheet bake them in the middle of a preheated 250?F. oven, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour to 1 1/4 hours, or until they are golden and crisp. (Alternatively the prepared seeds may be spread in a microwave-safe glass baking dish, microwaved at high power (100%), stirring after every minute, for 4 minutes, and microwaved at medium power (50%), stirring after every 2 minutes, for 6 to 8 minutes, or until they are crisp.) Makes 1/2 cup.

Pumpkin Carving Pictures

Helen, GA

Today was the day we finally went to Helen. After first hearing about the Bavarian town in the North Georgia mountains, we had put a trip at the top of our list. We picked an absolutely gorgeous weekend and the drive was wonderful.

A small surprise along the way was the birthplace of the Cabbage Patch Kids, Babyland General Hospital, in Cleveland, GA. Having lived through the craze it brought back some fond memories of the fights that used to break out in the toy store around Christmas.

The traffic going into Helen was as we had heard about, slow and heavy. We passed so many Bavarian style strip malls on the way in we weren’t really sure if we reached it. As soon as you pull into Downtown Helen though you know you have arrived in the right place.

Helen, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains on the Chattahoochee River, is a ?? re-creation of an alpine village complete with cobblestone alleys and old-world towers.?This Northeast Georgia village has a rich history dating back to the Cherokee Indians and their burial mounds, also early settlers who mined for gold and cut virgin timber. Now Helen celebrates its thirtieth year as a mountain community with a touch of Bavaria. Click here for more on Helen history (very interesting…)

Tina and I enjoyed some Wienerschnitzel, Red Cabbage, and Oktoberfest Bier at the Alt Heidelberg, the most authentic restaurant in Helen. Our giant der Graukopf server was about as Bavarian as they come. After dinner we went window shopping and picked up a few things. We of course hunted down the only Scandinavian Import store in Helen, and bought some new flag stickers for the car. Along our walk we ended up back at the horse and carriage we passed on the way in, and took a tour of the town. After our tour we finished things up at the bridge over the Chattahoochee.

As we were leaving town we stopped at the water mill churned ice cream store that we had marked as our last trip of the day on the way in. The proximity of the store to Helen evidentally makes it close earlier than any other place. As we headed on down the road we stumbled across Doodle’s and quaint little soda shop in Nachoochee Valley. I had a Peppermint Double Scoop in a Waffle Cone and Tina had the Coffee Single in a cone. Unfortunately, I ended up wearing half of it on the way home due to a faulty waffle bottom, but I got most of it in my mouth.

As we pulled back into Alpharetta we looked forward to our next trip.

On to the pictures