Saturday, December 20, 2008

December Songs and Stories, Part 20

Tonight we have another Scandinavian tale, this one from Sweden. It's Astrid Lindgren's retelling of Viktor Rydberg's classic Swedish poem, The Tomten. A tomten is quite a bit like the Danish nisse -- a guardian spirit, usually depicted as a red-capped elf, who lives on a farm and, if well-treated, will ensure that things go well there. The nisse, at least, is especially to be propitiated at Christmastime, when he gets his own bowl of the Christmas rice porridge. The Tomten doesn't have a lot of plot, but gives a lovely, peaceful, comforting feeling, so it's a fine bedtime story. There is nothing quite like snuggling up together to read a book like this, but if you happen to be alone, I found this video version on YouTube.

I mentioned before that the Swedish custom has been to have a Christmas worship service at dawn, so that the congregation travels to church in the dark. (This is depicted in Christmas in Noisy Village, see December 13 post). I used to work at a Lutheran church with Swedish roots and, in looking at some of the historical materials, I discovered that they had kept up this custom at least into the 1930s. An Internet search revealed only one service for sure this year: East Union Lutheran Church in Carver, MN will celebrate its 150th anniversary with a Julotta service at 7:00 am on Christmas morning.
In any case, this custom probably inspired the hymn Nar Juldags Morgon Glimmar (When Christmas Morn is Dawning). I have a recording by Janis Hardy and Garrison Keillor on the album Now It Is Christmas Again, but then I found this one -- Agnethe Faltskog of ABBA and her bandmate's wife (I think) Linda Ulvaeus, with some children. I'm pretty sure their Swedish is better than Garrison's, too. (Note, it doesn't say that's who's singing, but it is the same as the credited one, and I like the Tomten picture). God Jul!

No comments: