Thursday, December 21, 2006

Christmas 2000

2000. The year I spent Christmas with Geekman's other relatives. (The long lost relatives in Real! Live! Sweden.) Since we were living not all that far away from them (in Germany) at the time, it seemed like The Thing to Do.

Geekman's family makes up most of a small, seriously inbred village in the middle of nowhere in Southern Sweden. They have a few old red wooden houses with gingerbread eaves scattered around a lake, which itself lies in a pine forest full of moose (and the occasional wolf).

(Cheating photo taken at a completely different time of year from this story, as you can see from the way the house is not entirely buried in snow.)

Once a year they dress up in their ceremonial hunting jeans and ceremoniously shoot a moose (and 'accidentally' shoot a wolf or two that has been hassling their sheep*), then pass severed limbs around the extended family to keep in the deep freeze until Christmas.

The intrepid hunters with their intrepid moose-hunting dogs. (Yes, really.)

Here endeth the backstory.

The elderly relatives we stayed with in the main house are the only Scandinavians left in the entire world who do not speak a word of English. At that stage, I didn't speak a word of Swedish, either. And Geekman, as you may or may not know, is a fake Swede who defies the rule that people don't ever completely forget a language if they are totally immersed in it as their native language for the first six or seven years of life. His uncle remembered a little high school German. His aunt's strategy was to speak extra loud.

By the second day they were completely frustrated with our inability to understand loud pseudo-German-Swedish pidgin, so there was an expedition to a nearby library, which resulted in a stack of Pippi Långstrump videos and the Swedish equivalent of "My first picture dictionary". With these they sent us to our room until we were fluent.

Since Geekman had been gone from his "homeland" a long time, and in the meanwhile all his miscellaneous cousins had gone and sprogged (and some of their sprogs had sprogged), upon our release from language-learning prison we were paraded around to an endless series of homes where people would hug us and yodel at us in Foreign, and exclaim about how much Geekman had grown since he was six years old and how much stupider he had become, as he had after all been fluent in Swedish back then and now he could barely speak a word! Then they would act very impressed with our ability to realise that they were talking about us and the Aunt would whisper, "Ja, ja. De är duktiga! De ser på Pippi Långstrump!" ("Oh yes, they are smart! They watch Pippi Longstocking!")

And then we had to eat.

That was the real problem. The aunt and uncle we were staying with began the day with a large breakfast. Pickled herrings and bread, sausages and cheese, a bowl of yoghurt and some cereal were the least you could get away with under the watchful eye of the Aunt. At ten o'clock it was time for coffee and cake. And biscuits. And chocolate. Then lunch at midday was a full hot meal. Generally something involving sausages and potatoes and lots of cream. At 2:30 or so it was time for more coffee and cake. Then a brisk walk in the forest or ice-skating on the lake. And after all that exercise, you must be starving! Poor children! But never fear, there are doughnuts and more cake, and hot mulled wine and fruit. And as you are still wiping up the crumbs from that, dinner is served. And in the evening a special cupboard opened up and emitted Belgian chocolates and imported shortbread.

And you remember all those other relatives we were delivered to on a daily basis?

Well, it might not be quite Christmas yet, but since it isn't every day we get visitors from New Zealand (what? Germany? But New Zealand really) and in honour of finally meeting Geekman again, we decided to have an early Christmas dinner, just for you! Well, it is 3 o'clock in the afternoon, and I guess you've had lunch, but really, this is a special meal. I'm sure you can fit it in.

In total, I think we probably had close to ten Christmas dinners. And every single one of them featured stewed moose.

(Which is quite tasty, in case you're wondering.)

Random photo of miscellaneous cousin's offspring, doing her best to look like a Swedish stereotype.


* Oh, whoops. There goes another endangered animal. I thought it was a moose when I shot it. Really. Don't tell the wildlife rangers, okay?


Queen of West Procrastination said...

That was so many levels of spectacular. I read most of it out loud to Chris, who is still laughing at the Pippi Longstocking language prison and the whole idea of them yodelling at you in Foreign.

And yet, it's so very reminiscent of my Norweigan relatives, who all settled together in a small farming community in Northern Saskatchewan, and became very inbred, and who eat about eight thousand meals a day, most of which they modestly call "coffee" or "lunch." (Chris would like to add in "and don't gain an ounce." Because we're all shaped like bean poles.)

StyleyGeek said...

"and don't gain an ounce."

See, that is where your relatives and Geekman's differ. His are mostly spherical.

RageyOne said...

LOL! @ that spherical comment. :)

That is a lot of eating. I'm sure you were tired of moose stew after a while. Surprisingly, I've tried moose stew. A few years ago a fellow graduate student from Canada somehow smuggled some into the states and brought it down south. He prepared it one Friday for some of us. It wasn't so bad.

The entire visits really sounds like a lot of fun.

Weekend_Viking said...

A spherical swede in a vacuum?