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Surely,” said the lady, to a gentleman of the party, who was supposed to know a great deal of our customs, “surely they
they eat grot in England.”
“Yes; that is true; for I was so happy once to find it in London on Christmas-Eve; oh! that made me glad, to think I should see gröt in London on Jul-Afton! But I do not think it is called gruel there."
“What is it like?" I asked.
“It is a small white seed,” he said, “that comes from India."
“Rice !" I cried. “So you eat rice milk, or rice porridge, or perhaps even rice pudding—on Jul-Afton.”
“It is boiled,” he said, “and served hot, with cold milk and sugar; I assure you, Madame, it is right good. But the poor, who cannot afford what you call rice, make gröt of corn: they soak it long, and boil it till it is soft, and eat it with cold milk. I have eaten that in my younger days, and I can tell
goes “There is another dish,” said the amiable Danish lady, at whose pleasant house I was, “that we use here on Jul-Afton; that is Lut fisk.”
“There is some now prepared,” her equally
kind husband added; “pray get some, and show it to the English lady.” The Lut fisk was not, however, to be had, so I was favoured with the description of it.
It is stock fish steeped in solution of potash, until it is partly dissolved—or, in plain terms, till decomposition takes place. The smell is terrific: it is boiled, eaten with oil sauce,
and recommended by Swedish doctors as very wholesome.
In some cases remedies may be worse than diseases.
So much had I heard of Jul-Afton, in its supper signification. But this, to do Swedes justice, is the very least of the pleasures that attach to that joy-bringing time. It is the great season for family meetings; and that at which all hearts seem opening to kindly and affectionate feelings. Christmas Eve, not Christmas Day, is the great family festival of Sweden: from the charming family in its noble palace, to the poorest dwellers in its wooden huts, Jul-Afton is, in some manner, celebrated throughout the land.
But here, in Stockholm, there begins with the beginning of December a note of preparation that is prolonged, and repeated, and strengthened, and reverberated to its close.
Indeed, the whole year seems in Stockholm to be divided into epochs (yet not kept as Church epochs) in preparation for which the people have no time to do anything. The
very first phrases of the Swedish language, which I learned to understand, from their constant repetition, were, “ Jag har inte tid;" that is, I have not time: and “Man kan inte hjelpe det;" or, One cannot
Now I am trying to get some clothing made up. The dress-maker brings me home a dress threequarters done, after keeping it a wearisome time in hands. When I want her to finish it, she says, " Jag har inte tid,” because Jul is coming; but the little lady-little is a pet word, meaning dear—may be sure she will come and take it away, and finish it very soon.
And then the bill is produced, and the little lady will be so very good as to pay it. I am patted, and clapped, and coaxed, until the bill is paid; and with a promise that, as soon as she has “time,” she will do all the noble little lady requires, she curtsies out of the room. I
go, after some "time" lost in waiting, and in going after such work-people, to complain to my hostess; who looks very wise and kind, and says,
“Man kan inte hjelpe det. They have not time, and they want their little money.
Now every fair hand one sees is engaged in preparing Jul-klappar, which droll word signifies Christmas presents—a really seriousand mercantile sort of affair in Sweden: for it is a sort of exchange, which is expected to be pretty equal in value. Every face one meets has Jul-klappar in its regards; every lip that speaks to you is sure to utter the word “Jul” before it is silent.
The elderly Frökens, or noble old maids, get up raffles for their work, to enable them, I believe, to make presents to the richer relatives and friends who give to them. Grefyinnan bustles in with a fine worked foot-rug, which is meant to be placed before a sofa on a bare floor.
“Madame, as the English like grand carpets, Fröken P. wishes to know if you will take a ticket for this? It is to be put in a lottery.”
“If Fröken wishes it, I will take a ticket; but I do not expect to get the rug."
“Perhaps not; but man kan inte hjelpe det.”
I hear nothing more of the lottery, so I ask a young lady one day if Fröken P.'s sister got the rug.
“Nay,” says the girl, with simplicity, “ Fröken's mother got it.”
These are minor notes of the preparation for Jul-Afton; and many a lottery ticket has lain in my drawer uncalled-for.
“ Man kan inte hjelpe is my
solace in all troubles. Stockholm, in other respects, continues rather dull.
The gay season commences after New Year's-day. Travelling in winter is seldom thought of, without necessity, in Sweden; otherwise, many persons who have houses or estates in the country, would prefer keeping their Christmas there.
Morning visitors are not often received here; but accident has been the cause of my not meeting with one of the occupants of the many carriages which have stopped at the door, and left cards with such long, and noble, and, some of them, such unpronounceable, titles, that I should be almost afraid of making acquaintance with their proprietors.
Some of my countrymen, who have spent a short time in this land, have given very strange, and others very unfavourable, accounts of its people. Of these the only one whose. book is known, or talked of, or, I might add, feared, in