Christmas table sitting at home at Styrsö, Gothenburg, Sweden.
Text & Photo © CM Cordeiro & JE Nilsson 2020
One of the more difficult things to manage is the process of change. For many years (could it have been more than a decade?) from when I was six to sixteen years old, the days of Christmas Eve, Christmas, and Boxing Day, ran like clockwork routine. Mass at midnight at a designated church on the Eve of Christmas. Relatives, my mother´s side, would visit on the day of Christmas, marked 25th December. And Boxing day would be a round of visiting older relatives on my father´s side. As a child, I would even know what to expect at each relative´s place. A piano performance and Christmas caroling with my Granduncle Oz. At his place, we would always be served tea, and some of his generously proportioned (palm sized) homemade pineapple tarts. The visit to my Grandaunt Ruth would mean I would come home with something from Japan. A short round of gin rummy with my Aunt Mary, saving the real rounds of gin rummy and sherry, for New Year´s Eve when my father´s side, “the Cordeiros”, would gather at my parents´place. And then, as day turned into evening, it would be quieter sessions for Boxing Day, with older aunts and uncles to visit on my mother´s side. There, we would have cashew cookies, peanut cookies and pineapple tarts. We would keep ourselves entertained by peering into aquarium tanks where they kept little rotund goldfish.
As a mark of how drastically things have changed for me over the decades, Christmas Day is marked 24th December in Scandinavia. There is no Boxing Day, but maybe Boxing Days labelled Mellandagarna, where you are allowed to bring all unwanted boxes of presents back to the store in exchange for what you want instead. There would also be a sale going on at the shops between the days of Christmas and New Year´s Eve. If you can plan a whole year ahead, you could already in those days, invest in 2021´s home Christmas decorations, or buy presents to give away, purchased at half price.
But more than the materiality of the Christmas rush and preparation is, Time. The concept of Time has shifted for me considerably. Over the decades, Time has for me, turned increasingly fluid. There is indeed a marked Christmas Day (24th? 25th?), but as the children I came to know when I first arrived in Sweden, evolve in various young adult social roles, individual schedules and personal obligations need to now fit like a watertight jigsaw puzzle. Just so that in a wave-particle fabric of spacetime, a possibility of a julbord sitting will materialize into an actual event.
At our table this year were some 45 dishes presented. If there was any spillover of Time and fluidity into materiality, then a good case example would be how the julbord was designed. Modern food trends with “free-from xyz have made eating at julbord sittings much more fluid, and curious. Got milk in that eggnog? Sure. What type of milk would you prefer? Coconut, oat, almond, soy or the traditional cow´s milk? For the only slightly lactose intolerant, there was also goat milk. Orthogenesis, right here at the home julbord.
I could perhaps find some comfort in the orthogenesis. But if change is a challenging process to manage, then evolution towards increasing complexity will need a think more coming. The evening however, went on pleasantly, as how we know Christmases are at Styrsö. If there was any downside, it´s that we´ll have milk all the way till Easter.
Glögg and a visit by Tomte