Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Swedish Christmas

While walking along the halls of the Nordic Heritage museum I came across something that was new to me but also was quite familiar. What I had seen was a banner of little gnomes known in Sweden as tomtar (tomte for a single gnome). Underneath the dancing gnomes was the inscription:
Image from the Nordic Heritage Museum
Fridens lilla tomte,
På min levnadsstig.
Följ mig städse trogen,
lär mig älska dig.

Which translates to:
Peaceful little gnome,
who’s on my life path?
Faithfully you follow me constantly,
teach me to love you.

This inscription was mainly the reason why I chose this banner to review (not to mention that it was in the Saint Lucia display), because it speaks to the loyalty of the gnome, not simply its duty as a gift giver. Along with the inscription, the dancing gnomes reminded me of my own heritage, because not only have I seen the gnomes many times, but I currently have one sitting atop my dresser.
The story behind these little creatures is one that has been around in a fashion since before the establishment of Saint Lucia in Sweden and is one that has parallels all around Europe and the world. This creature is believed to live under the floorboards much like the brownie (little creature that protects a household) and is said to give out gifts while riding a jul buck (a straw goat). This creature also has a likeness much like Santa Claus. This banner (or something like it) is something that many Swedish families put up around the holidays, because not only does it give a festive feel, but also a reminder of the early form of Santa Claus. This banner, though not the most captivating item at the museum, I think has huge significance and background within the Nordic community, simply because it links the ancient traditions of the early Scandinavians and the modern world.

- Karl

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