The Swedes have this quaint custom of having a Christmas service in the wee hours of Christmas morning, called Julotta. It was scheduled in the village church this year for a rather civil 9 am, so since I was actually awake at 7.30, I decided to get a quick cup of coffee, get my boots on, and trudge down through the Christmas Slush.
Actually, the slush was gone from the streets, except for the odd, treacherous bit of ice. It was just beginning to get light out, not even the birds were awake. I did meet a couple picking up Maj-Britt, a former missionary to Africa who is the village genealogist, as I passed her place. "God fortsättning!", a good continuing of the Christmas season, they wished me.
The church was ablaze with candlelight! The custodian, Eva, had probably been there for the last hour or so, lighting over 120 candles inside.
I've often been in the church where only 4-5 people were attending, but this morning there was a good crowd. We sang some old Christmas carols, and a young woman sang and played the flute. The preacher was hoarse, in addition to speaking the local dialect, so I didn't understand much of what he was saying. Maj-Britt gave me a hug and the best of wishes for the coming year, I wished her continued good health. All the others just kind of eye the stranger, if you haven't lived here for most of your life, you are a stranger.
Heading home, the sun had come up, although the sky was still very grey. The birds were making quite a noise, almost as if it was spring!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!