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the creatures. Also must the servants be cared for : the mistress has to arrange tables for them; sometimes one for each servant, or if there are many servants, one table for two or three.
Such a table is called Jul-bord; it is covered with a white napkin, and on it she lays Jul-buller, or Christmas bread or cakes. These are made in a peculiar manner, and in strange figures: in farms they generally make them in the shape of horned cattle—then they are called Jul-oxe; but when in other shapes, they are called Jul-kusar; and on these tables the servants' presents, or Jul-klappar, are also laid. Sometimes what is left uneaten of these Christmas cakes is preserved at farm houses till the first day of spring, when the ploughing commences. That is another great day in the country; the servants and labourers then get the rest of their Jul-oxe, and soften these hard Christmas cakes in beer; so you see that saves some expense, and forms another of the treats they get on the first ploughing-day.”
“How beautiful those lights up there on Södor still appear;" I remarked; "yet it is more than half-past eight o'clock. It is strange to feel myself walking thus admiringly through Stockholm so early on a Christmas morn. How wide the
snowy scenery appears, the air is so clear, and the deep orange clouds round the horizon are beginning to feel the action of the sun; the sky looks as if it were just daybreak; the ice all around, and the fresh rolling water hurrying in one solitary current through it; the white crisp ground, the still glittering windows, and no visible objects of distress and misery around! This walk has been a real enjoyment to me.”
“I am very happy, Madame, to hear you say so, or to think you can be pleased with my poor country.”
“They must have kept these lights in all night, for usually the lights of Stockholm are all out very early."
“Yes, they light up the windows for Christmas morning; not so inuch here in the town, but in the country-Oh, if you were to see the houses in Wermland, that is my native province -all houses are illuminated now, not the smallest is allowed to be dark. People must be miserably poor not to be able to put a light in their windows. If houses are seen to be dark by the people going to church-oh, that is bad !that is quite a disgrace !"
“It is a pleasing emblem," I answered, “of
the Light of the world—the Light brought into the world this day, that we might have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but walk as children of the Light and of the day.”
“It truly is so," the Swede rejoined; "yet, perhaps, many persons, like myself, do not consider the type in the custom they preserve. It is an old custom here, and the people like it. because it is an old custom."
At the great door that admits me to my Stockholm quarters, I found a neat little girl, with a basket of some small plants in her hand. She asked me to buy.
“It is our first spring flower,” said my friend; “ the Blo-sippa.”
“The first flower of spring on Christmas-day in Sweden ?” I said, smiling sceptically; for I had seen the trees without an opening leaf on the 10th of May. There were some large, thick, angular leaves encircling the tiniest blue buds. The Latin name is Anemone Hepetica ; it is the same little flower that blossoms in our gardens in the month of March.
These budding flowers are already formed in autumn; they remain so, buried under the snow
in the forests, all the winter. When spring comes, and the snow melts off, you behold the tiny blosippa almost ready dressed to meet the sun; it has only to open out its ready-prepared buds, and then it smiles
and strews the still cold forest ground with its blossoms; growing round the roots of the dark firs or leafless trees.
The child had brought that little flower all the way from its snowy bed in the park of Royal Haga, rooting it from beneath the snow, and
carrying it five or six English miles to sell it for a halfpenny! I thought the blo-sippa would be a pretty subject for a poem; she, poor child, attached to it only the idea of two skillings; and when I gave her rather more, or about a penny English, with some Christmas confectionary, I received in return a curtsey that might have graced one of our drawing-rooms, and a look of thankfulness that would have graced all places. I put the flower in water in my room; but heat seems less congenial to it than cold; and perhaps a lump of snow from the forest of the Palace of Haga, would have been the only means of preserving its life. I returned to a solitary breakfast-table, and spent the rest of this Christmas-day-the first I ever spent in a foreign land- quite alone.
The post, unaffected by Christmas rejoicings,
had brought afflictive intelligence to the home of the British minister, where I should otherwise have spent the day amid true English hospitality and kindness. But it is well sometimes to spend a Christmas-day alone, as a stranger in a strange land. It teaches us at other times to think of those who may be so situated, when we, in our own land and homes, celebrate the blessed advent that brought good-will to men.