Have you already prepared your baggage? We have an appointment today to start a new trip through Travelling around the World sharing Cultural Heritage, Folklore and Background. We are stopping at the Scandinavian Peninsula in northern Europe, in a country bathed by the Baltic Sea. 15% of its territory lies north of the Arctic Circle and more than 50% of its land area is covered with forests. It's the land of Pippi Longstocking, Nils Holgerssons, Ingrid Bergman, Greta Garbo, Björn Borg, ABBA or Roxette... Then it is not difficult to guess we are visiting Sweden today!
Hello Sandra and welcome to Penpalling & Letters! Thanks for your visit and sharing knowledge from your country with all the readers! Would you like to tell us a bit about you and the place you live?
Hello everybody! As you know my name is Sandra. I live in the County Värmland, about 250 kilometres west of Sweden capital, Stockholm. In December, 2007 we bought a cute house out in the forest, in a little village called Bjurtjärn. The village is from the 17th century. There are no shopping areas around here, mostly houses and forest. Nature would be the most important thing to see here, I guess. We are about 1201 inhabitants, and the biggest working place is the school. Many of us work in surrounding cities, like Karlskoga, Kristinehamn or Storfors. They are all located about 20 kilometres far from Bjurtjärn.
Would you like to tell us about your experiences in the world of letters, Sandra?
I started penpalling when I was a kid. At first, I started writing to Swedish pals I found in magazines, then I continued to get pals trough IYS-International Youth Service. I am still in touch with my longest-lasting penpal trough e-mail and now she is on Facebook, too. We don't write letters to each other anymore, though. At about the age of 16 I stopped penpalling because other stuff caught my attention. As we moved out here and I had kids, evenings got quite boring, especially since I don't watch tv. I searched for a hobby, remembered penpalling, and through Facebook and Interpals I got quite a few which I have been writing to for some years now!
I also started collecting postcards last year as I would love to do scrapbooking albums with them. I am a postcrosser and I got to know about it trough my pals on Facebook.
I also love anything to do with letter-writing: stationery, stickers, pens... I always write with my Pilot Frixion ball-pen, though. I collect Hello Kitty stuff and anything else my pals like to send me!
Are you looking for penpals at the moment?
I'm always on the look out for penpals whom I can find a real click to. Unfortunately, my muscle problem (fibromyalgia) makes it harder and harder for me to keep on writing. Most of my pals accept it, though, and are very understanding about my late replies! :)
Anyhow the click with pals is important because I want friends whom I eventually might meet for real. I like talking about anything in my letters, family problems, happiness, what makes them scared or sad... I love long letters and I can go on and on... page after page! ;) Sharing our lives is a important thing for me!
And now Sandra is ready to tell us about Midsummer celebrations in Sweden!
As most of you know, Sweden is a country in the north of Europe which has short summers and where the Sun hardly sets during this season. During "Midsummer" many people begin their five-week annual holiday.
The European Midsummer related holidays are of pre-Christian origin. It is particularly important in northern Europe, for example: Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. But they can also be found in Ireland, parts of Britain, France and Italy. The Swedes seem to celebrate midsummer more intensely than other countries.
Originally, when the Vikings ravaged in Scandinavia and many other places, midsummer was a fertility rite. The maypole was a phallic symbol, which was supposed to fertilize Mother Nature in hope that the harvest would be good later during the year.
Although midsummer is originally a pagan holiday, in Christianity it is associated with the nativity of John the Baptist.
Formerly, Midsummer in Sweden was celebrated on the 23rd-24th, June, but since 1953 the celebration has been moved to the Friday and Saturday between the 19th and 26th, June, with the main celebrations taking place during Friday.
Midsummer night has always been the night when magic happens, the nature was filled with hidden powers. Especially the dew was considered magical and was used to heal sickness and all kinds of wounds. You could also add some to the dough when baking and the bread would be bigger and much tastier. Perhaps we should try!
Birch trees, which also were said to be powerful, could be used as a bandage and if you put some night leaves in your bath it eased the pain.
This is also the magical night when elves come out to dance and if you look hard, perhaps you could also see a troll between the trees!
When I was younger, and as many other Swedish girls, I believed in magic during this night. It is said that if you are all alone and don't speak a word to anyone, pick seven to nine different flowers and put them under your pillow, you will dream of your future husband.
Around Sweden many people begin their Midsummer Eve picking flowers and making wreaths to place on the maypole. When this is done the maypole is raised in an open spot with folk music and many are dressed in national costumes and costumes specific for different counties. We, the strict Swedes, then dance around the pole singing old songs and just being silly for one day. You can also see many girls wearing wreaths in their hair and as for me and my daughter, we'll be doing the same.
Family and friends get together during Midsummer Eve to eat pickled herring, the first fresh potatoes for the season, sour cream, crisp bread and for drinks we serve snaps (Vodka). Fresh strawberries are also important as a dessert.
Thanks for participating in Penpalling & Letters, Sandra! I enjoyed very much reading about the celebrations of Midsummer in Sweden and your customs and traditions during these days! Whenever you feel like participating again you are welcome here!
If you are interested in reading more articles featuring characteristics of our homelands don't forget to check: Travelling around the World sharing Cultural Heritage, Folklore and Background.
I am always looking for people who would like to take part in this section of the Blog: Travelling around the World. If you would like to write about any aspects of your homeland don't hesitate to contact me at: penpallingandletters[at]gmail[dot]com and we will work on it!