Christmas the European way

Take a Christmas Markets tour to find seasonal spirit

Emily C. Skaftun
The Norwegian American

Christmas lights in Innsbruck's Christmas market, with impressive Alpine peaks in the background
Photo: Freddy Alexander Bugueño / Wikimedia Commons
Innsbruck is a fairy-tale town dominated by the Alps on all sides.

Nobody does Christmas like Europe. I learned that just a couple weeks ago while taking a badly timed—but magical—tour of “Christmas Markets of Europe.” A number of companies offer these kinds of tours, with varying itineraries through northern Europe and even Scandinavia, but the one I took, offered by Trafalgar, started in Vienna, Austria, and finished up in Lucerne, Switzerland, by way of Salzburg, Austria; Munich and Oberammergau, Germany; Innsbruck, Austria; and Lichtenstein. In the end I chose this one because it was a good value, while also seeming the most classically “Christmassy.” I mean, what’s more Christmassy than the Alps?

(Technically, I suppose the Middle East is more Christmassy, but that’s a whole ’nother article.)

Continue reading “Christmas the European way”

It’s not jul without karamellpudding

Emily C. Skaftun
The Norwegian American

A caramel custard with three portions served into glass bowls
Photo: Daytona Strong
For me (Emily), karamellpudding is one element of Christmas that never disappoints.

Growing up, I didn’t always love Christmas. Shopping for a family of Norwegians was an annual challenge, Dad was a little bit Grinchy about the whole holiday, and sometimes our family gathering on Julaften felt so unchanging that it may as well have been scripted. Plus, I never liked lutefisk (I know, I’m sorry!), so I’d usually end up eating some ravioli or something for the main course. Bah humbug!

But there was always at least one thing I could count on: dessert. At the end of the evening, after opening all our presents from the family and julenissen, Tante Lise would brew some coffee, and we’d sit down around the most important part of the meal—karamellpudding (caramel custard).

Continue reading “It’s not jul without karamellpudding”

Think globally; gift locally

Editor’s Notes: A message from Editor-in-chief Emily C. Skaftun

Cross-stitch in a Nordic pattern that reads "hygge as fuck" (though part of the word "fuck" has been blurred
Photo: Emily C. Skaftun
One of my craft projects that may or may not end up a Christmas gift and a pretty good expression of how I feel heading into the holidays—cozy but also grumpy and sometimes foul-mouthed.

Sitting here in my office, a week into into November, it’s hard for me to believe that the holiday season is upon us again. It is, though. In my local Safeway, Halloween candy was shunted aside on Nov. 1, with candy canes taking its place. Starbucks holiday cups are out.

And so, the holiday onslaught begins, at least corporately.

I mean, here I am producing a large issue full of things you can buy, things you can wrap them with, ways to decorate the tree you’ll buy (or cut?) to put them under. They’re available online! They ship right to you!

And yet, there’s a part of me that wonders whether buying and shipping objects to give to everyone on our list is the ideal way to celebrate the holiday that is the very essence of hygge. It’s not a radical thought. Many have bemoaned the commercialization of the holiday. But what can we do?

Continue reading “Think globally; gift locally”

The white elephant in the room

How to make gift-giving fun

A white elephant with a santa hat on.
Image: Pixabay

Emily C. Skaftun
The Norwegian American

For many years I thought the only way to make gifting possible for large groups was the Secret Santa approach. You know the drill: Everyone’s name goes into a hat and whichever name you pull out is who you buy a gift for. You hope your name got pulled by someone who has at least a vague sense of who you are and not that one coworker or family member who always gives bath salts. You know the one.

Then a few years ago I suddenly found myself in two groups whose holiday traditions included “white elephant” gift exchanges, and it blew my mind.

Continue reading “The white elephant in the room”

Are you feeling independent today?

Photo: Pixabay Sparklers are okay, but I always crave big fireworks on Independence Day. Photo: Pixabay
Sparklers are okay, but I always crave big fireworks on Independence Day.

I have high expectations for the Fourth of July, which were instilled in me before I can even remember properly by perfect celebrations at my childhood best friend’s farmor’s.

Farmor lived next door to them in a beautiful house on a lily-pad-choked pond almost entirely encircled by houses in Seattle’s north end. Together with my friend’s three siblings, I spent many a summer day in that pond called a lake, swimming and diving off farmor’s dock and even fishing, but for some reason the Fourth was special. I suspect that reason was FIREWORKS. Continue reading “Are you feeling independent today?”

Turkey with a side of guilt

Yesterday my cousin posted a picture of his son dressed in an Indian vest and feathered headdress of construction paper, and I thought, “What a cutie.” But I immediately worried that what I should have thought was, “Cultural appropriation is wrong at any age.”

And then I thought about the other kids, dressed as Pilgrims with big paper buckles on shoes and hats. And this is even more problematic, almost like dressing as a Klan member or a Nazi. I wonder how cute those kids look.

We’re perpetuating a harmful myth!
Tee-hee!

Continue reading “Turkey with a side of guilt”