« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
"Yet this is nothing to what you would see in the country,” said my companion. “What would you think of people sledging twenty English miles to church, and back the same distance ? Yes, it is common to go to Otte-song, that distance, and back again on Christmas morning!”
“What does Otte-song mean ?”
“Yes, Madame, that I will tell you. Otte, in our language, means the first part of the morning—from three till six o'clock; and Jul-otta means the same part of the Christmas morning, not of the service for it. We have Otte-song, or morning song—I think you call it so in England ?"
“Yes, or morning prayer—it is the same thing.”
“Yes. We have that every morning in our churches, and it is called Otte-song; but when we speak of the same service on Christmas morning, it is usual to call it Jul-otta. In the country, the people often set out for the distant churches at midnight. In returning, there is generally a race to get home first; for it is said, whoever gets home first from Jul-otta, shall get his harvest first in next season; or, if he is in want of such a blessing, will be the first to get a wife. Some
times it is a little unsafe to return in such company ;-yes, I assure you! I went with a friend of mine once—a mad fellow he was. We started at two o'clock in the morning, in his sledge. I knew he wanted to get married; and I will tell you, Madame, I did not like it coming back. But he bought a horn, and blew it all the road home, so that the other sledges left his way clear; and he arrived first, and was married that year. Yes, that is true!”
“It is a pity," I said, “that among you they make the Jul-Afton so exclusively a family affair." They have quite a dislike to let a stranger mix with their home society on that evening, although they are less exclusive and more hospitable on Christmas-day.
“Yes: you see, Madame, our people are a domesticated and home-loving people. I think families here are much more attached than they are with you. This Jul-Afton is our great family festival; Jul-day, or Christmas-day, is observed more religiously. It is not so pleasant to you to see Jul-Afton here in Stockholm. In the capital, all is artificial life. In my province, you would have seen it better. There it is a joyful time, not for poor people only, but for beasts and birds.”
“Beasts and birds !”
“Yes, that it certainly is. I will tell you that, also. At harvest time the Yule-sheaf-Can I say so in English ?”
“The Yule-sheaf is put by unthrashed at every farm-house; and on Christmas-eve it is hung out on a high pole near the farmer's door, for the famishing birds to make their Jul-Afton. If the Yule-sheaf were not seen there, the people would believe the farmer would have a bad season; they would think him a hard man, and not like to help him."
“ And, pray, how do they manage for the beasts?”
“They give them double food on Jul-Afton.”
“What a pity that Jul-Afton comes but once a year!" I exclaimed, thinking of the lean, hard, half-fed beef and mutton that so often was presented before me. “But pray go on.”
“They give the beasts double food on Christmaseve," continued my friend, not quite giving me credit for such a gormandising reflection; "and then the labourers say: 'Eat well, my good beasts, and thrive well, for this is Jul-Afton. If this were omitted, they would expect some misfortune to befall
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 much 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