Tomten. He may not be the same Santa that I grew up with in the United States, but he's Sweden's main man during the Christmas holidays.
And it's become a tradition for our family to visit the Tomten at NK department store every year. Partly because I know that he always has time for my kids to visit with him. There are no paid photographers that need to be paid to talk with Tomten. No long waiting lines to visit Tomten. Barely another child in sight. What? Don't the Swedes know the power of this guy? He's the one that brings the presents at Christmas!
Two years ago Tomten explained to our 8-year old son exactly where the Legos were built at his workshop. He gave directions down the hallways, and when to turn right or turn left. The look on K's face was priceless. He listened. Really listened.
This year Tomten sat ever so patiently while Mia showed him every single page in the toy catalog that had a Barbie, Monster High doll, or any other variety of the endless stream of toys that she chooses on a daily basis now.
All the while, the family paparazzi (that's me) snaps unlimited shots to capture those special moments with Tomten. No extra charge.
The visit always ends with a stroll outside to look at the department store's Christmas windows. At this time of year it really doesn't matter what time of day we go to see the windows...it's dark after 3pm and anything before that is dusk. The lights and music combine to create just the right kind of festive spirit, and because we've already been in to visit Tomten, we resist the urge of being drawn back in to the commercialism lurking behind those holiday window displays.
Well what do you know? The Americans and Swedes have something in common after all - Christmas shopping madness.
Until next time...