WINTER CELEBRATIONS | ALL SAINTS’ DAY
We Americans love Halloween. Besides the candy filled extravaganza, the fun of dressing up and parties, Halloween also marks the beginning of the winter holiday season. In quick succession it goes, Halloween, Thanksgiving and then Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa . . . In my adopted home of Sweden, however, Halloween is not the hallmark of the winter celebrations. All Saints’ Day, celebrated November 1, holds that title.
Unlike, Halloween though, All Saints day is a day of respect and reflection. All over Sweden cemeteries are illuminated with candles in remembrance of loved ones. The site is a beautiful one to behold. It is an elegant reminder that life is precious.
All Saints’ Day, also known as All Hallows’ Day, Hallowmas, the Feast of All Saints, is a Christian festival celebrated in honor of all saints and loved ones who have passed away. All Saints’ Day in Sweden also marks the first day of winter.
The tradition of lighting loved one’s graves began in Sweden in the 1900’s. Originally though, it was only the wealthy and upper classes who honored their dead on November 1st. For some reason, which I have not been able to track down, the practice slowly made its way to Swedes of all classes after WWII. Eventually, churches began holding services and concerts in conjunction with their flock’s practices and the day became an official holiday and harbinger of winter.
All Saints’ Day is a national Swedish holiday in modern times marked by: a day off of work if November 1 happens to fall on a weekday; a visit to the cemetery for the lighting of candles and the leaving of wreaths and other trinkets: a family gathering; and, a special meal.
SOFIERO’S WINTER CELEBRATION | A FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS
It is no surprise that Swedish winters are dark, damp and cold. So often when Swedes hear that I am a California native they immediately ask me how I am surviving the winters. I tell them, honestly, that I love Swedish winters. I mean, yeah, I have a week of adjusting when the early dark days begin, but I absolutely love how Sweden makes a great effort to achieve mysig or mys. Mysig is the creation of a feeling of coziness and warmth. Swedes use all sorts of tools to achieve mys – blankets, lanterns, fire pits around town, mulled wine, yummy food, and of course, lights and candles. Lights and candles are everywhere during the winter months. And they do indeed make a person feel cozy.
At Sofiero, the Swedish royal family’s old summer cottage in Helsingborg, they celebrate the beginning of winter each year with a festival of lights.
Sofiero is famous for its lovely garden. It is a gardener’s delight when in full bloom in the springtime, but it is just as magical in the winter. During Sofiero’s annual Festival of Lights, the entire grounds are awash with different colored lights and candles creating a mystical canvas. They also offer warm food and drinks at various stations throughout the grounds with everything from a full meal to sweets and warm drinks. If you visit with children (and I would recommend that you do) make sure to avail yourself and your kids of the enchanted forest. Rumor has it, they even have a marshmallow roasting pit.
A visit to Sofiero’s festival of lights is a great way to get your mys on, chase away the winter blues, experience the magic of a lighted forest, and say, “hello darkness my old friend.”