Category Archives: Winter

Julmarknad at the House of Sweden

I had my first day off from my weekend job at the House of Sweden, so of course Simon and I made the most of every minute of it… at the House of Sweden.

Thanks to the julmarknad (Christmas bazaar) being hosted in the normal exhibition space, I was off the hook for working, but let’s be serious. The Swede in my life could not resist the call of a whole day of Swedish-themed Christmas festivities (and neither could I, really).

I narrowly avoided impulse buying an entire range of small jultomtar to decorate our apartment.

Small booths lined the inside of the building, displacing the “Education and Innovation” exhibit on the ground floor and the tables and chairs from a conference room on the floor below. Giant tables laden with bread, pastries, herring, and cheese were lined up along the main hall leading into the Alfred Nobel Hall like a gauntlet in dieting hell, and photos from the “Image of Strindberg” exhibit glowered at families and couples digging into princesstårta (princess cake) and mackor (open-faced sandwiches).

This cake was such a big deal today.

I don’t know how long we intended to stay at the House of Sweden’s Christmas Bazaar, but we ended up being there all day long. The weather was balmy for the last day in November, and after the sugar rush from our princesstårta subsided, we sat outside on the steps with a Dixie cup of glögg each, basking in the sun and watching children roughhousing on the steps.

An assortment of Lucias singing (mostly) Swedish Christmas carols outside the House of Sweden.

At 5 pm, the sun was headed down behind the Rosslyn skyscrapers on the other side of the Potomac and it was finally starting to get chilly. Having just been herded out of the House of Sweden, the remaining visitors were waiting — not quietly — for something to happen. Then the Lucia girls came marching out in single file, singing the traditional entrance processional for Lucia Day.

They sang for about half an hour, mostly in Swedish but with a few English-language songs as well. At times it was hard to hear over the crying of exhausted children or the chatter of adults running into friends, and the star boys were noticeably absent. All the same, for a moment there, it felt like we were back in Sweden again.

Balmy Wintertime Malmö

I’ve been saying that the weather has been pretty mild here, and now I have proof. All you naysayers who were like, Kate has finally lost her marbles once and for all, poor thing thinks that it’s warm in Sweden during the winter. Next thing you know, she’ll be telling us that there aren’t any polar bears there, either. 

Proof, I tell you! PROOF!

I took this photo on Malmö’s main shopping street, Södra Förstadsgatan, during the period between Christmas and New Year—conveniently called the “mellandagar,” or “in-between days,” in Swedish. The picture was taken at 17:04:44, give or take a few milliseconds. Not really the warmest part of the day, and yet, and yet…

Against all odds, one brave coffee shop had set up outdoor seating, and people were flocking to it, plopping themselves down in the cold, damp, overcast weather, out with their coffees and coats on. Unbelievable.

A mellandagar miracle. 

5 things that are already making my 2012 fantastic | The Expat Blog

Click here to read the whole article on the Expat Blog at

I love the idea of New Year’s resolutions. Keeping them is another thing altogether.

I don’t think I’ve ever kept a New Year’s resolution that has been life-changing… or kept one at all, if we’re being honest. I’m much better with Lenten promises. It’s really hard to forget what you promised to do in just 40 days.

This year is going to be different, though. I swear. I have only two resolutions, and I’ve got a plan for at least one of them. The plan for resolution #2 is still in the works, but I fully intend to create a plan and work on it. Immediately, if not sooner.

My first resolution for 2012 is to cultivate more contentment in my life. I have a tendency to obsess about where I want to be six months, a year, and five years from now, and sometimes I realize that I forget to enjoy the here and now. I’m not giving up on being all my goal-setting and crazy ambition, but I’m going to try to temper all that forward-thinking with more satisfaction with what I have now.

To that end, I’m going to start practicing deliberate gratitude on a regular basis. Numerous internet experts say that gratitude has amazing benefits on your health and well-being, and if an internet expert says it, it has to be true. Right?

At the very least, the New York Times said, “Cultivating an “attitude of gratitude” has been linked to better health, sounder sleep, less anxiety and depression, higher long-term satisfaction with life and kinder behavior toward others, including romantic partners.”

I can’t really argue with that. So to start the year off right, here are 5 things that are already making my 2012 fantastic.

Click here to read the whole article on the Expat Blog at

Sunshine is playing a big role in the awesomeness of 2012. Can you believe that this is what Lund and Malmö looked like on January 6th??

Click here to read the whole article on the Expat Blog at

Christmas Spirit Mania

It’s been nutty around here for the last week, and I haven’t had a chance to write much even though the things to write about are piling up.

I have some exciting things coming up, including an interview with the incredible designers behind Herring + Haggis, so stay tuned over the next couple of days for more!

In the meantime, check out these blog posts I’ve written over at about holiday goings-on in Sweden.

Expat Holidays: How to Create Christmas Spirit on the Cheap

Happy Lucia Day!

Christmas time in Sweden: THERE WILL BE GLÖGG!

ALERT! Test yourself for these signs of Holiday Spirit Fever

Malmö is all dressed up for Christmas

Malmö is all dressed up for Christmas, and I love it. I took a few photos today as I walked from one office to another. All the beautiful lights are enough to make you kind of glad that it’s so dark outside all the time.

On another note, I posted a blog post today on the Expat Blog at called, “THERE WILL BE GLÖGG!” Get it? Get it?! Well. Ok, then.


Here goes nothing:

In a country filled with seasonal food holiday traditions, I have discovered the tradition to rule them all. The celebration centers on a certain group of foods and drink, but the focus is much more on the Christmas feeling tied to the smells and tastes than the food itself. You will know it by its name and the sound it makes as it goes down your throat:

Glug, glug, glögg!

To read the whole thing, follow this link to “Christmas time in Sweden: THERE WILL BE GLÖGG!” at the Expat Blog at

There’s Nothing Like Holiday Cheer

Take it from someone who knows.

Image from someecards, my favorite ecard provider on the internet.


Christmas Song Showdown

Last Sunday, one of my friends was stuck on an airplane in the supposedly hurricane-force winds that hit last weekend, seated besides a man who throwing up so forcefully that it broke through the bottom of his vomit bag. Meanwhile, I was enjoying a glögg-filled night with Simon and friends. Life is so not fair.

Anyway, we were listening to Christmas music, as you must when drinking glögg, and we ended up in sort of a girls-versus-boys disagreement as to whether Celine Dion or Jussi Björling sang a better “Oh Holy Night” (O Helga Natt, in Swedish).

So. You be the judge. Celine Dion or Jussi Björling? Granted, it’s not like we’re comparing two singers from the same time period or musical genre. But like I said, life is not fair, and you can only choose one.

In other Christmas music-related news, I just started listening to Michael Bublé’s Christmas album, winningly titled “Christmas.” I’ve never listened to Michael Bublé before, partially because of his reputation as a singer for the older generation, and partially because his name sounds like a pretentious line of bath soaps. When I realized that he also has a reputation as a Frank Sinatra knockoff, though, I thought he might be the answer to my extremely outdated Christmas music tastes. (I like Bing Crosby, Eurythmics, and Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” It’s embarrassing.)

Despite a promising start, I don’t know if I’ll be able to stick it out  with Bublé’s “Christmas” in the long run. His voice is strangely sensual when singing these Christmas songs, and it freaks me out to have my getting in the holiday spirit tainted by seduction. That, and his face in profile looks a little like Justin Timberlake, and the coming together of Justin Timberlake—my grandmaChristmas treesDepends products is just too much for me to handle. That, and just the thought of having to say that I would like to listen to Bublé makes me feel older and sillier.

This time last year…

Tomorrow is the first day of Advent, a word which is used far more often and with a more secular meaning here than in the United States. In the US, Advent is a pretty Christian way of referring to the four weeks before Christmas. Here, it’s used as an expression of time.

Four candles for the four weeks of advent!

The big news with it being the beginning of Advent is that all the Christmas Markets (Julmarknad) are opening if they haven’t already. Lund’s outdoor museum, Kulturen, hosts a giant one with tons of food stands, handmade crafts, and Christmas decorations.

A traditional Swedish decoration: the "Julbock," or "Christmas goat."

Another funny thing about Sweden’s approach to Christmas is, as you might have noticed, that it uses all the language and imagery of Christianity even though very few people identify as religious or will be going to church. In the US, it’s de rigeur to refer to the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s as “the holiday season,” meaning Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Islamic holidays if they fall in the right time period (Islamic holidays are based on the lunar calendar, so they change dates relative to the Western solar-based calendar).

One thing I'm definitely looking forward to... another personalized gingerbread piggy all of my own.

At exactly this time last year, we threw a huge Thanksgiving party late into the night on Saturday and then woke up bright and early on Sunday to meet first Simon’s mom and then a bunch of our friends at Kulturen’s Julmarknad. I was so tired and worn out from Thanksgiving, but we stayed there in the miserable cold for something like five hours anyway. Then we ran into a friend’s parents, who invited us over for a glögg party (spiced wine party, who loves Scandinavia, oh wait it’s me!). Don’t mind if we do.

One of the houses at Kulturen had these shutters, which I immediately fell in love with. I don't care which country we end up living in long term, but I will have these shutters.

As many of you know, trying to speak a foreign language can be pretty difficult when you’re tired, but our friend’s dad also happened to speak the fastest, most clipped Swedish of all time. (Or at least, that’s how I remember it.) I felt like a total idiot. I haven’t met them again since them and I want to so badly in order to redeem myself. Maybe this weekend will be it, finally…

If you’re in Skåne, it’s well worth a visit. I couldn’t quite find the opening hours on their website, but my best guess is that it’s open from 11 am to 5 pm. You can find it right in central Lund, about a 5-10 minutes walk from the train station.

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rain and cold
are not conducive to fun.