On 24 December, or Christmas Eve as we’d call it at home, I celebrated Christmas (as this is the day they do that!) with Oscar’s family. We gathered around noon, sitting in the living room chatting and drinking glögg (pronounced like “glug”), a traditional Swedish holiday beverage. It’s similar to a mulled wine, but ours was a special kind that was nearly clear, and apparently Oscar’s dad mixed some whisky and/or rum in it as well. It was a bit strong! They also put raisins and nuts in the drink, though I settled for chasing it with bites of Swedish gingerbread instead.

Santa has arrived!

After some more relaxing (including Oscar using a world atlas to quiz his brother Eric’s and my knowledge on world capitals, haha!) we moved into the dining room for the big Christmas meal. Oscar’s mom had prepared a ton of food, which we were free to grab at will in a buffet-style. There was a huge variety, including lots of fish like herring and salmon, potato au gratin, meatballs, sausage, many varieties of cheese, and much more.

We spent an hour or two eating and talking at the table. Lucky for me, everyone in Oscar’s family was eager to talk to me and not shy about practicing their English on me (of course they were all excellent at English, except for the kids who haven’t started learning it yet in school). We also got to get on Skype and video-call with my mom. Unfortunately the connection wasn’t that great (she couldn’t hear us a lot of the time), but Mom got to see everyone in the family and they got to see her (and Morgan!)

Then it was time for the Swedish tradition of watching the Donald Duck Christmas cartoon on TV. It was dubbed in Swedish so I only watched a bit of it before going to take a short nap! After that, though, it was finally time for Santa to come!

Yes, in Sweden Santa actually comes to your house and hands out the presents. In the past Santa has been Oscar, Oscar’s dad, or one of his brothers. This year, Oscar’s nephew Anton was Santa. He came to the door decked out in full Santa-gear, and he and the other kids began handing out the gifts.

Wearing my Christmas gift from Oscar

I got some funny ski masks for the kids with silly faces on them, which they seemed to enjoy. I gave Oscar one of the cholitas wrestling masks, which led to a giant Lennings family wrestling match! Very funny.

I also received a lot of Swedish survival gifts — everything from a toiletry kit, to a Swedish-English dictionary, to a Sweden pictorial book. And from Oscar I got “THE” Christmas gift in Sweden this year: an acupuncture mat! (The spikes are plastic-y, like the bottom of golf shoes, I think?)

I also got a really amazing dress from him (see photo) and a beautiful necklace from his parents. And some other things; they were all so lovely to me like I was just like family!

After opening gifts, it turns into a day much like Christmas at home, everyone splitting off to chat or play with their new toys. I sat and talked with pretty much everyone, and played Wii Baseball with the kids (until Oscar accidentally hit me in the eye with the controller when he was up to bat!)

Slowly the party died down as everyone slowly left to go home, though Oscar and I stayed the night at his parent’s house. His mom even brought us breakfast in bed the next morning (as baby of the family, he is definitely a mama’s boy! haha).

Oscar looking good in a leather jacket

We spent the rest of the 25th back at Oscar’s, relaxing and talking a bit on Skype with my family for our Christmas. Apparently Christmas is actually a big party day in Sweden, where most people go out to the bar or clubs or to parties. We were a bit tired and I was still quite jetlagged, though, so instead we spent a lot of time watching TV. A lot of it is in English, with Swedish subtitles, which has been helping me with learning new Swedish words and phrases.

The day after Christmas is a huge sale (“REA“) day in Sweden, so we went out to check out the deals. Jönköping is a pretty small city, so from Oscar’s apartment we have to just cross a park to get to a big area of stores. Oscar said it was less busy than he’d expected it to be, but it was still quite crowded, with lines zig zagging all through the stores.

We also went to the mall, looking at digital SLRs we wished we could afford and trying to convince each other to dress in the manner of each other’s very opposing tastes…didn’t work LOL Though we did find a really cool leather jacket that Oscar actually did like (but was obviously way to expensive!)

The next day we went and visited some of Oscar’s friends, who live just down the street. One of his friends had just returned from a semester in Australia so he showed us pictures from his time there. He visited mostly different places than I have, so it was cool to see pictures of new places.

Kebab pizza

On the way back we picked up a kebab-pizza, one of the many foods Oscar  had talked nonstop about when he was in the U.S. It seems to be a creation not found anywhere else but in Sweden, and Oscar claims it’s the best in this part. We ordered a “special kebab pizza,” which meant that there were fries on it as well, in addition to the normal ingredients of kebab meat, onions, lettuce, tomato, cheese, tomato sauce, and a special kebab sauce. It’s really delicious, if not the healthiest. (Funny note: I was asking Oscar to confirm what the toppings were, and he just decided he wanted some and called to order a pizza! It’s a bit addictive.)

Another thing he loves is Max, which is Sweden’s most popular fast food chain. It’s a really cool restaurant because they are really progressive and they also offer a lot of healthier and more eco-friendly alternatives. They actually feature the carbon footprint, and also offset their carbon emissions.

They are also the first hamburger place I’ve heard of that’s actually trying to encourage their customers to eat less meat or beef (by offering things falafel burgers and soy burgers) to help the environment. They offer a huge variety of interesting food you can order; it makes it hard to decide what to order!

Max also offers something like 14 different dipping sauces you can order, staying true to the stereotype that Swedes really love their sauces! And inside the restaurant they have a microwave (which Oscar says is for people to heat up their baby’s food when they’re eating there? Who thinks of stuff like that?!), a coffee machine for customers to get free coffee after their meal, and special recycling by the trash for everything (Oscar says even McDonalds has recycling here). Very different from in the States! They also charge 10kr (approximately $1.50) for refills — one thing that is still great about the U.S. 😉

Jönköping

Speaking of differences, there was another interesting thing at the big supermarket here (called ICA). There they have this wall of these small devices that (if you are a member) you can take around the store with you and scan things as you put them in your cart. Then in the end, everything is scanned and you just pay and leave. Super self-checkout! I think we will give it a try next time we go to do some shopping.

One other thing is Sweden’s obsession with coffee. In the States coffee is a big thing, but I think of it more (and maybe this is just because I don’t drink coffee) as something you drink at home before work, and then maybe meet friends for on occasion.

But here, they drink coffee at least five or six times a day, and it’s very social. At work they have coffee breaks where they all meet to drink coffee together. Everytime I’ve visited someone’s home, the first thing they have offered me is coffee, and usually I’m the only person that doesn’t have it.

So the week continued with a lot of relaxing, eating, and seeing bits of Jönköping. We also had lunch at Oscar’s parents the day before New Year’s Eve, where his mom made this really delicious meal. I’m not even sure what it was, but without knowing it she had created a casserole full of all my favorite things, which I never thought would be put together in any way except on a random created-by-me pizza (this included broccoli, pineapple, and lots of cheese!).

His parents also shared various stories with me, even showing me pictures of the camaro Oscar’s dad bought when he visited the States back in the 70’s!

Moose!

On New Year’s Eve, we still didn’t know what we were going to do (mostly my fault because I took too long to decide which party we should go to — it’s not like I really knew any of the people anyways!) We decided to make oreo pie for whichever party we went to, so Oscar headed out to find a place that was still open in order to buy some last minute ingredients for the recipe.

When he came back he also brought a bunch of what he calls beer sausage, but looks a lot like beef jerky. There was a moose one which I of course had to try — and it was incredibly good! He bought four “sausages” of different kinds and we devoured them all right away. I think I’ve found a new addiction.

Not to mention they’re the perfect snack for traveling since they’re packaged and don’t need to refrigerated or prepared. Basically, it’s beef jerky but better! So I was a bit sad today because everything was closed and we couldn’t go buy more!

Up on the roof (freezing!) to watch fireworks at midnight

All dressed up for New Years Eve

Anyways, we eventually ended up at a small party with some of Oscar’s friends, who were all very nice though I have to admit it was less of a party than I expected (we were the only ones really dressed up). The highlight was definitely midnight, when we went up to the roof of his friend’s building and watched people set off fireworks all over the city. It was really awesome!

HAPPY 2010!