Monday, November 7, 2011

All Saints' Day vs. Halloween Day

The American-style Halloween tradition is slowly making its way to Sweden, so our family recently traveled to Denmark to celebrate Halloween at Tivoli.

I believe one of the reasons that Halloween isn't big here yet is the confusion between when, where, how and why it is celebrated, given that it falls at the same time of year as Sweden's Alla Hellgons Dag (All Saints' Day), which is equivalent to Memorial Day in the U.S. and a time to remember the dead.

In other words, it would be like a lot of kids walking around in costumes and asking for candy on Memorial Day.

So, you see, each year that I continue to live in Sweden, I gain a little more understanding of why things are done 'differently' here, or where cultural celebrations differ and why. So in honor of my continued quest for understanding, here's an absolutely breathtaking video that shows the beauty of Sweden's memorial celebration.

All Saint's Day in Sweden from Christopher Bennison on Vimeo.

Background Info: 

As dusk falls on Saturday, All Saints Day, Swedes stream towards the country's graveyards armed with candles, matches, wreaths and flowers for the graves of their loved ones.

The beauty of the candlelight blended with a soothing melancholy creates an emotionally-charged atmosphere. Small rural churchyards are visible across fields, dotted with flecks of golden light, while in towns and cities people murmur hushed greetings to those visiting neighbouring graves.

Probably the most spectacular place to witness the festival is the massive cemetery of Skogskyrkogården in the south of Stockholm. Chatty crowds drift from the train station, past hot dog vendors and candle stalls, as if to a football match.

But as they enter the cemetery they are greeted not with the roar of a stadium but with a silence almost as overwhelming. Thousands upon thousands of marshal lights line the winding road into the churchyard, the glare becoming more and more intense until at the top of the hill in the centre there is barely space to walk between the rows of candles.

[Excerpt from]

Until next time...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Traveling Circus - Pros and Cons of Living in Sweden

When I talk about the traveling circus I'm not referring to my family (although on some days...). I'm talking about the real Deal.


Cirkus Maximum is a fun little family-owned circus that travels around Sweden each year and has been doing so for the past 30 years. The caravan of candy-apple red and golden yellow wagons file in line to different sites every few days. They pitch the big red tent, bring in the elephants and the clowns, and each year showcases a new act of acrobats or daredevils.

There's something special about kids at a circus. Watching them watch the circus performers with their sticky cotton candy hands, everything feels possible. The clowns are still throwing pretend water at the crowds. The acrobats still fly high above our upturned faces. There are dogs jumping through hoops, body contortionists, and camels to ride during intermission (and seeing a camel in a cool weather country like Sweden is quite a sight).

I don't miss the big arena-style circuses of my own childhood. In fact I think my kids are getting a better experience with the small traveling circus where they can wave at the ringmaster in his wagon as we walk by after the show.

Yes, the traveling circus falls on the 'Pros' side of the 'Living in Sweden' list. Just look at how happy there were after the show!

Until next time...

p.s.  If you would like a little peek at this fun bit of Swedish culture, watch this quick 2-minute video that showcases Cirkus Maximum.