This morning it rained on the boxes of Christmas decorations waiting to be unpacked outside the front door. The newspaper ran a headline about the dangers that global changes in weather pose to our health. What about the dangers it poses to Christmas? I need snow to make sense of Santa Claus, reindeer, and wool mittens and socks hanging from the mantlepiece.
Yet, weâ€™ve had these years before. The greyness of November just seems to get even more grey and muddy, until your eyes begin to wonder whether there are in factÂ any other shades in theÂ color spectrum. The rain and the puddles soak us in annual greyness up to that point when the snow provides a release and brings in a new time. We are still in waiting, but, despite the headlines, there is the faith it will come.
Today is the first of Advent and already in every dutiful Swedish window a candelabra shines those small, magical spots of light behind the curtains. The wreaths that the school children sell door-to-door in order to raise money for their school trips are hung at almost every entrance, including ours.
Inside, saffron cakes, ginger bread cookies and spiced red wine shift the aroma of our interiors. Just to make sure that no one forgets, the cashier at the supermarket checkout always asks whether you have remembered to purchase your saffron. Why saffron in Sweden at Christmas? It certainly isnâ€™t a local product. The answer is that we need saffron from Persia to make our food bright.
Outside the palace, a giant tree illuminates the grey traffic congestion with hope. In those lights there is the promise of space and, above all, time, that comes with the break at Christmas. Just now it seems that there is more to do than ever. The demands of the holiday season place a heavy extra layer on top of already heavy schedules. Yet, in the light there is the promise of doing nothing but watching the snow fall peacefully from the window sill on Christmas morning.
As we move towards the darkest day, our eyes open later, shut earlier and our working days are cut short by the sounds and entertainments of Christmas. We resist hibernating with the bears, but, to some extent, nature forces us into a semi-hibernation whatever we do. I look through the candelabra out the window and long for the snow to cover the wilted plants. I know that it is in the longing of November that this time of year has its greatest value. Longing is hope, and hope is light.
Wondering what to give a friend or loved one for Christmas? Learn more about Julie Lindahlâ€™s prize-winning new book, â€œRose in the Sand,â€ a memoir of a decade lived on a Swedish island. Order it now from amazon.com, amazon.co.ukÂ , Author House, authorhouse.co.ukÂ and many other online bookstores. Other books by Julie Lindahl available are: Letters from the Island (listenÂ also to Julieâ€™s podcasts from this site)Â and On My Swedish Island: Discovering the Secrets of Scandinavian Well-being.
Julie Lindahl is chairperson at Stories for Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to learning and communication through storytelling.