Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Julgransplundring--Throwing Out the Christmas Tree

Written January 11, 2008

Today was the wrong day to forget the antiperspirant. When Christine at the church pre-school said there would be a little dancing, singing, food and a surprise, she didn’t mean what we in the U.S.might!

The morning started off late and slow so that I missed the opportunity to bum a half an hour and a homemade espresso off of Irene, the neighbor (she had to leave by the time I got around to it). The laundry and dishes were all going. I avoided vacuuming the play dough off of the carpet and the increasing cobwebs out of the corners and chandelier with the poor excuse that it would bother Hunter’s cartoon-watching.

My laptop hard-drive had grown so full that my computer could barely hibernate or shut down without multiple warnings. So I started the moving of my photo files to the server Phil finally explained that I could use. This process was slow, too. The dialogue box would tell me I had 25 to 72 minutes remaining. It’s a stupid habit to watch the line inch across the page as well as watch the minutes descend by the slow minute. I would jump up to do something else whenever I could pull myself out of computer zombie mode.

This process consumed me such that we were almost late to the Julgransplundring—a party to celebrate throwing out the Christmas tree. This was an afternoon event for Hunter’s pre-school class instead of the usual Friday morning class time.

When we arrived, parents and children were seated on the floor facing a platform and black baby grand piano. A 5 foot barren Christmas tree (bare of needles, that is) stood in the middle of the room, strung like tinsel with thin strips of licorice-like candy and caramel suckers. After much explanation in Swedish (of course, but it is difficult to hold on when you can’t understand), and Hunter’s wanting to get up and cause a scene, they told the story of the Nativity backwards. As they did so, the soft doll-like characters names were recalled by a child who remembered (with raised hand). The child then put that character in the gift-wrapped box.

Hunter was having so much trouble understanding what was going on that he refused to watch the process. It was much easier understood if paying attention. Folks sang songs together whenever an appropriate song fit that part of the story, including Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star when we got to the wise men. Hunter finally caught on to what was going on a few characters before Joseph. He was called on to name the character, walk up front, and put Joseph in the box. When he came back to me, his face was brilliant red. He plunged into my lap and said, “I don’t ever want to do that again.”

When a little girl put the baby in the box, Hunter contradicted himself, saying, “I wanted to put the baby away.”

Suddenly, we were instructed to take our places for the dancing. Coming from a non-dancing-by-choice background, I felt nervous about what we might have to do. However, this was the kind of dancing I could enjoy. We circled the candy-decorated tree, took hands and “danced” one way around the tree as we sang a verse, then another way around the tree and so on. Hunter and I understood not one song, but there were plenty of motions to do besides holding hands, so we mimicked the motions, held hands and circled, clapped when necessary and tried kicking our feet the way folk dancers do (this was rare, mostly we walked or ran).

After the first two songs around the tree, I thought we had completed quite a feat. Even the preschool teachers were wiping their brows and whew-ing. However, the songs didn’t stop. Nor did the need for my antiperspirant. We sang songs about how one cleans the house each day of the week (a different tune than I grew up with) which included a day of putting fish in a bucket. We “oompsie, doompsied” and several other strange forms of singing and circling.

The music stopped and all the children ran out of the room except for Hunter, who was still twirling and sliding around (we were all in socks—no shoes allowed indoors in Sweden). I asked Christine what we were doing and she said we were to eat hot dogs now. Hmmm.

Sure enough, we had hot dogs with ketchup, no plates, no napkins. And juice, there is always a cup of Hallon Saft (raspberry juice concentrate, add water, drink) at the church.

When we finished eating, it was time for more dancing. An hour of it! We danced more AFTER we ate than before! Enough, enough, already. When we were finally given permission to stop dancing, the children were allowed to get several strings of candy and one sucker for him or herself as well as the parents or siblings who had attended. Once each child had a sucker in his or her mouth, all the children gathered around that poor, needle-less tree and helped their teachers thrust it out the door (only it was not actually thrown out, but saved for next year).

That, folks, was a Julgransplundring. Come to think of it, it was quite an experience and Hunter
loved it.

Epiphany (written April 16, 2008)

At home, we got rid of our tree on January 6th--Epiphany. We were sure to also finally open the "gifts" in the tree, which we had made at the church preschool. They were decorated toilet paper and paper towel rolls filled with candy. On the day the tree comes down, each member of the family gets his or her own candy-filled decoration to enjoy eating from while taking down the tree. This is a tradition we will definitely keep.

Afterward, we enjoyed a nice fire in the fireplace fueled by our brittle tree. We told Hunter the story of the wise men visiting Jesus during what we now call "Epiphany." We all remembered the supposed birthplace of Jesus that we had visited in Bethlehem at the end of November and wondered what kind of house Jesus lived in by the time the Wise men arrived. We remembered the little baby tombs in the same Church of the Nativity and thought about those babies two years old and under who were killed by Herod during that time.

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