Thursday, July 9, 2009

God jul (och gott nytt år)!

One of my favorite contemporary writers is David Sedaris (brother of Amy Sedaris, of "Strangers with Candy" fame). While his primarily autobiographical books are extremely insightful and funny, I feel he is in his element when writing short pieces. He has a number of articles archived on the New Yorker Web site about his life and his travels with his boyfriend, all very entertaining and also poignant. This article, entitled "Six to Eight Black Men" from Esquire, takes a few minutes to read, but it is entirely worth it. Sedaris chronicles his interaction with a Dutch man he encountered while in Holland and learns about their Christmas traditions, including a thin, robe-wearing Saint Nick and his child-kicking henchmen, vaguely, six to eight black men.

I came across the Sedaris piece indirectly from one of my favorite blogs, Cake Wrecks, which displayed confectionary delights celebrating the Dutch Santa Claus and his blackfaced (yes, I wrote blackfaced) cohort, "Black Pete." I made none of that up, I swear.

It got me thinking about our own traditions in this country and their significance (Christmas in July, anyone?). I think it would have been so neat to retain traditions from my ancestors. For example, my Swedish ancestors could have kept up on choosing a Lucia every year, a tradition celebrating Saint Lucia that kicks off the Christmas holiday on December 13. A Lucia was a girl that dressed in a white gown and wore a crown of candles in her hair while carrying a tray of pastry sweets and warm drinks around the house to family members. Sounds beautiful. And delicious. And a little dangerous. However, that tradition was certainly abandoned by my personal family members long ago, especially after they married new citizens from other parts of Europe and the children, like myself, became American genetic mutts. Seemingly, my ancestors also abandoned the practice of making "Lutefisk" to go along with the Christmas meal. "Lutefisk" is a serving of dried whitefish. That you soak in lye. That you then eat. Okay, so maybe it is okay to let some traditions go...perhaps the Dutch should think about doing the same...

Thanks...but I'll have the beef instead...image from here.

P.S. The headline is "Merry Christmas (and a Happy New Year)" in Swedish. See? Aren't you glad you visited my blog? You learned something today!

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