This is really weird: 44° Fahrenheit in Seattle, 6° Celsius in Umeå! We are on the same temperature today and actually have been a lot of times this fall. The weather in Umeå and Sweden has been record mild this season. I don’t mind. Every mild day makes the upcoming winter one day shorter, and since the last two winters have been extremely cold and snowy I am gratefully receiving this relief from the stranglehold winters sometimes takes on me.
It’s dark though, of course. The light changes with the year in both my cities, but is, naturally, a constant on every specific day over the year. And late November is pretty darn dark in both places. It’s a good reason for us to love the Holiday Season opening, which takes place simultaneously at both places!
Downtown Seattle is an unusual sight on Thanksgiving Thursday. Streets abandoned, stores closed. The office high rises, usually pretty much lit up 24-7, on this day mostly dark, making the characteristic skyline more of a vague blur. This holiday, because of it’s family oriented nature; equally loved, dreaded, looked forward to, hesitated on, can be as wonderful or traumatic as any Woody Allen movie scene is. But hey guys, it’s just one day! The Swedish equivalence for this emotional set up is Christmas, and the Swedish Christmas is like a two-week stretch! A two-week stretch of high expectations, food, somewhat unattainable childhood memories and candies. That's a lot of days to polish on your glossy Facebook facade. Such work. What we got here is not an Allen scene, it’s a Bergman trilogy! One day guys, what’s the fuzz; Thanksgiving is only one single day!
Anyway, it’s the start of The Holiday Season, and today Seattle Downtown is overly and wonderfully lit up. There is egg nod and Jingle Bells and chestnuts in every street corner. In Umeå city center this weekend is the start for glögg (mulled wine), Hej tomtegubbar (cheery Christmas song) and gingerbread snaps. And in both cities the Christmas shopping frenzy kicks off. Cause Thanksgiving weekend is the very same weekend as Advent 1st in Sweden, the starting point for lights, concerts, socials and shopping, all in the name of Christmas, providing equal parts anxiety and joy.
Don’t get me wrong. Thanksgiving is the most wonderful tradition, I miss it and would love to share the custom with my friends in Sweden too. And the four weekends of Advent leading up to Christmas is just the sweetest time of the year. But The Holiday Season asks a lot from us. Because it’s also a time for grief. A time of regrets, disappointment, fear, envy, shame, anger, sadness, guilt and loneliness. Words not written on the Holiday greetings. Words not sung in the Christmas songs. Words that stays untold deep within us. While busy having a Happy Holiday.