Going to the market, is just … going to the market, isn’t it? So mundane a task that it’s hardly a concept to be discussed by most. But come Christmas in Sweden, and come the darkest days of the year, the Swedish Christmas markets that glow a warm orange and red whether they be outdoors or indoors become central gathering nodes for the people of the city.
And all was apparently still on Christmas Eve morning as the doors to the marketing heart of Gothenburg that is Saluhallen was opened.
Text and Photo © CM Cordeiro and JE Nilsson 2011
The early morning calm didn’t quite stop me gushing in haste when my eye caught a table decoration I so wanted at home at our Christmas table!
Everyone has a Christmas foodlist for their own Julbord to tend to, making Christmas Eve marketing all the more festive. And amidst waiting in queue for your number to be served, you can hear the hearty exchange of Christmas recipes amongst those waiting in line for baked ham, pickled herring and roasted spare ribs that gives a heartwarming preview of what others are about to have this evening at home.
In my number of years in Sweden, I’ve visited these Christmas markets year after year, with Saluhallen and Haga in 2010; 2009a, 2009b; Kronhuset in 2009; a compilation of Saluhallen and Haga in 2008; Haga in 2007, to which I’ve always found something new in my explorations and visits.
This year’s visit is a slight variation, an authentic visit to a market on Christmas Eve for some Christmas marketing, instead of visiting a ‘Christmas Market’.
A usual routine that happens to now take place, on Christmas Eve morning – incoming bread in boxes, on their way to at stall at Saluhallen.
There was already a steady queue outside the doors of Saluhallen in Gothenburg at 08:45 hrs Christmas Eve morning. And it was surreal to see the cafés and restaurants in the market with doors still closed and chairs neatly stacked in rows on their counters, stand right next to large numbers of people all abuzz in stalls adjacent in the activity of trade and purchase.
At the cheese counter.
For all intents and purposes, the culture in the Scandinavian Viking Age before the 13th century was one that was oral, with all information encoded in mortal memory. And while not explicitly referred to, remnants of centuries old traditions still remain strong in the fabric of Swedish culture today, exhibited in drips of remnant pieces of decoration and dishes on display at Saluhallen itself.
In keeping with the tradition of an offering to Freyr.
In old Norse mythology, the winter solstice is celebrated by a sacrifice of an animal, usually a goat or a boar to the Nordic god of Love, Peace and Fertility, Frô / Freyr. These sacrifices and offerings were hung on trees that today has evolved to the hanging of tinsel on an evergreen pine. Rain and sunshine are the gifts of Freyr, where offerings to him are invoked for the fertility of the soil and for peace in the upcoming year. In historic times and in the Age of the Vikings, the Swedes revered him as one of their chief gods, together with Odin, Thor (son to Odin), Loki, Freya, Idun and Hel.
And no Swedish Christmas Table would be complete without its greens, from red cabbage to green cabbage and various fruitjams that make their way to the dessert section of the Swedish Julbord.
Looking for fresh figs and avocado to go with that shrimp salad.
From French walnuts to Italian Pannacotta di Natale, I could perfectly understand the lure of Saluhallen on the morning of Christmas Eve.
A basket to the brim with walnuts from France.
One of my favourite Italian delicatessens, that brought in all culinary things Italian for Christmas.
Pastries at Christmas at Saluhallen
Still, what drew my attention most and captured my heart… the varieties of Swedish Jultide pastries at Saluhallen.
Herrgårdskaka has several names in Sweden, including Midsommarkaka, served on Midsummer’s Eve. Well, I’ll go with Shakespeare’s Juliet when she said, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” It is also the result of the beautiful and imaginative confecting of the combined basics of flour, sugar, eggs and a lacing of vanilla.
With heart and eye on the Rose.
These confections come from Brogyllens, who also have a café about 300m from Saluhallen, occupying a corner of the road across the old Swedish East Indiaman Gothenburg building in the city.
At the counter of Brogyllens.
Layers of lingonberry swissroll cake wrapped over vanilla cream.
Feeling almost like Alice in Wonderland by now, I made a quick last stop at Flickorna Kanold, that gave me an instant Alice at Charlie’s Chocolate Factory feeling since Kanolds, apart from churning out yearly traditional favourites of caramel and cream filled chocolate truffles, are known to put forth innovative chocolate morsels for the tasting. This year it was their Smoked Whiskey Truffle and their Curry and Piri-piri Truffel that I thought interesting creations!
Kanold’s at Saluhallen.
Behind the scenes at Kanold’s from kitchen…
…to counter out front.
A basket of pepparkakor, with Love!
As they say in Sweden – here’s wishing all Friends and Family ~
God Jul and Gott Nytt År!
From Sweden with Love,
Cheryl Marie Cordeiro