The Swedish Church is an instutition that is remarkably good at reacting to changes in its target society. This shows both in their attitude toward e.g. women’s rights and homosexuality, the programme in their churches and their take on digital life and social media. The head of the Swedish Church, German-born Antje Jackelén, twitters like a pro and -of course- has her own podcast; the Instagram account is curated by alternating church staff and the Facebook account is flawless in terms of social media evaluation.
And this time of the year, the Swedish Church helps an Americanized country remember what this weekend is originally about in Sweden and Germany. (No, Halloween is not a long-standing tradition in those cultures.)
The weekend serves as a time to remember the deceased and the annual celebration is held on 2 November and is associated with All Saints’ Day (1 November) and its vigil – you guessed it – Halloween. People go to their relatives’ graves and light candles. The Swedish Church probably realized that many people don’t live close enough to the graveyards anymore. So they introduced the Digital Light Trees. You can go online, choose where you want to light a candle (from Kiruna to Berlin, there are participating Swedish Churches), enter who you wish to dedicate your light to, and click on “send”. The website then shows you the webcam of the tree – that actually exists, I passed one last year on Östermalm -, and your light that just has been physically lit by your digital click. There are speakers next to the trees where you hear famous bloggers and writers talk about their experience with grief.
Once you have lit your candle, you can share it on social media with the hashtag #mittljus (#mylight). Of course the whole theme of light is complaisant for a Nordic country in which darkness and light is a central theme. Countless people light candles at the Woodland Cemetry in Stockholm in November and most hymns are about light. Still, I personally think reaching out digitally and combining the old ritual with new cultural techniques is brilliant.
The campaign goes under the name “Release the grief” and the Church writes, “”We rarely talk about grief, neither our own nor others even though we all have a need for it. But during All Saints we want to release the griefby talking about it or lighting a candle for someone we miss sadly. Together, we can light up the dark“. I lit my candle at Junibacken, the Astrid Lindgren museum.