Lilla Julafton


The hyacinths are blooming, there is a little fire cracking in the corner of my living room, jazz versions of Christmas songs are playing and the tree – complete with gifts – presents itself in festive splendor. What’s happening? It’s Lilla Julafton!

The Little Christmas Eve is a name I took from my co-worker for having a pre-Christmas gathering. Yesterday I already had some folks over för glögg, pepparkaka and lussekatter, today we had a girl night lighting the third candle.

During the preparations for these evenings, I encountered quite some problems with acquiring the ingredients needed. By now, I could almost make a list of “things Helen wants to buy that are unattainable/ridiculously overpriced in Gemany”.

It started with the saffron that you need to make lussekatter. In Germany, saffron costs ten times as much as in Sweden. I am not kidding you, ten times. While everyone gets their saffron gram for 4 euro at the Swedish supermarkt, in Germany, being able to bake with saffron screams “I am rich”. Luckily, my dear Malin in Karlstad acted immediately when my saffron-emergency-call came and shortly thereafter, a gram came to my mailbox.

On Wednesday I took a halfday off to go to IKEA to buy glögg. As Ikea is never in the inner city (except for in Hamburg), it takes a while to get there but since it’s the place to get glögg, I dedicated some hours to it. I also had a curtain rod with me that I didn’t need and wanted to return, so it was totally killing two birds with one stone. However, when I got there and asked to return it, they told me they wouldn’t take it back because I didn’t have the receipt. Well, a while ago, that store made national news with taking back everything anytime, but I guess those times are over? Well, okay, I thought, I get it, they can’t give me my money back. But I really don’t need that curtain rod anymore and I certainly don’t want to take another bike tour home with it. So I asked if I can leave with them to sell it again. No, they said. “But I’m kind of like giving this to you as a donation”, I tried to explain. The shop assistant just shook his head. Sighing, I took my curtain rod and walked to the info desk because I couldn’t take the thing with me on my glöggmission because you’re not allowed to take bought products inside. At the info desk, they told me they couldn’t keep it there and it was too large to lock it up. Seriously, I just want to buy glögg, I was close to crying out. But, contenance – instead, I nodded nicely, took the curtain rod with me to a corner close to the entrance and “lost” it there. Really, why is it so difficult to get rid of an IKEA product in their own store…Anyway, I walked through the store as quickly as you can, grabbing some candles here, a lamp there, you know things you just suddenly happen to need to get from IKEA. I got to the check out and looked for the glögg. Eventually, I asked the staff only to be informed that “Glögg is sold out”. What?! On December 7th? “You can go to the other IKEA in Düsseldorf”, was their advice. Well, a) I don’t have a car b) I can’t take another halfday off to travel there by public transport c) IKEA does not reveal any information about plants and food in stock so I can’t call to be sure that they’ll have glögg. Not an option. Again, a friend came to my rescue, this time my new friend Linnea who gladly shared with me her family recipe on homemade glögg. It’s not that difficult, it’s just that, you guessed it, some ingredients are unattainable/ridiculously overpriced in Gemany. The cardamom capsules were sold at the pricey spice shop (once I figured they are not called “cardamom seeds” in Germany), but the pomerans or even its relatives were impossible to get a hold of. I spent quite some time going to different stores until I finally texted Linnea who now goes by the nickname “glöggakuten” in my world. She assured me that oranges would work too and letting the glögg sit for three hours would be enough. I think the only thing I did wrong was making it not sweet enough but no guest complained so that’s fine!

My last Christmas-related shopping difficulty (I’ve had non-christmassy too like trying to buy small plastic flower pots, impossible!)  was getting candles for the tree. I had to go to three shops and in the first two they looked at me as if I was completely out of my mind, wanting to put real wax candles on a Christmas tree. “Nobody does that anymore, I don’t even know where you could buy them”. Ahem, well, I actually know quite some people who still do that. And I refused to surrender to the electric candles only, next year they’ll force a plastic tree on me, eh? The third store thankfully conformed to my wishes and provided me with candles. I bought 40 right away in case they don’t sell them any longer next year!




Renate receiving the first lussekatt (“We probably look very stock-photo right now”) / The tree, and yes, I need a drapery under it.


At the Christmas Market with Linnea and many more of our organization’s juniors (“Rikard, you keep  capturing that handsome guy in the background in the photo!”)



A star in the office, beautifully against the sunset.


My plants are multiplying like crazy so now I have a lot of new ones for you to get as a Christmas present.

P.S.: My first Christmas present was given to me by the Ordnungsamt! (That’s the regulatory authority, literally the Office of Order.) Remember how a mean Dane stole my wallet and all that was in it? I didn’t get a new driver’s license and some other cards you can temporarily live without because getting new ones is expensive and also, I held on to the hope that a good Dane would find the wallet eventually so that its non-money contents would find its way back to me. And so it happened! Ordnungsamt wrote me a letter asking me to pick up my stuff, hooray! It will be interesting to see what came back and what the thief kept.

A weekend with mom


My advent calendar this year is this candle from Liljeholmens

Mamma är här! My mom is visiting this weekend and she’s practicing hard to brush up her Swedish, reading aloud from Drömhus och Trädgård, (voluntarily!) watching Julkalendern with me, pulling out Uttalsboken to improve her pronounciation and singing Nu tändas tusen juleljus without my assistance.

This must be the first time that my mother experiences Dizzel in non-rain – we actually have splendid sunshine, but oh so cold. After visiting a friend of hers today in the suburbs, we waited some 20 minutes for the train and felt like we were freezing to death. Luckily, I have very recently fulfilled one of my long held wishes – a Klippan blanket made of lamb wool. It’s so wonderful, you crawl up under it and have a hot cup of tea and no cold outside can harm you anymore.


We had breakfast at the “Lantern” which is the top of the former Castle Tower, giving you a 360 degree view of the Rhine, lovely!


A star graces the Kögraben waters


Tomorrow I’m singing my first concert with my new choir at the church, an advent concert of course. It was rather difficult to acquire a simple black folder to my notes (obviously all should have the same color in the choir), but we suceeded at last.

At work I’ve been busier than expected, after the gala is before the next event and also the next issue of our magazine had to go into print. But amidst all the busyness I made time to decorate the office, too. I have a little (just a little) too much Christmas stuff for just my apartment but I just extended my decorational realm to my workplace. I think my co-workers don’t mind having a Christmas star in our window.


Gala ends, Christmas starts

A last look back at a night in blue

Now that I’m back safe and sound to Dizzel, the regional capital (because that is what Dizzel is) has gone from 13 degrees to minus 4 degrees. This means thermo tights while cycling! During the work day, I’m busy with the post-processing of the gala: sending people photos, writing texts about the evening for our magazine, thanking everyone involved, mailing out speeches to journalists, wrapping up the budget, well – you get the idea. The next event, albeit much smaller, is already around the corner and needs some attention, too.

But after the gala also means: before Christmas! Upon returning, I immediately geared up for advent, buying moss, oranges and candles, unpacking Christmas decorations from the basement, setting up my Christmas star in the window and listening and singing to Christmas music on repeat. I even got a tree! Yes, you heard right, and I transported it on my bike (totally possible). The proud fir is now gracing my living room – Germans (and Swedes) will think it’s too early but I pretend to honor the American tradition of putting it up in the beginning of advent…


Del 21 i citatsamlingen

Ibland tror jag att jag har en internet-avstötande effekt i mig.

Hon önskar sig en deckare och parfym. Jag tänker jag kanske ger henne deckaren “Parfymen”. – Gud. Vad. Du. Är. O-Rolig. Om praktikanten hade varit här hade han frustat över den låga skämtnivån!

Wenn Drei Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel im Fernsehen kommt, weiß man, dass Weihnachten ist! – Wie heißt der Film, Drei Hasen müssen verarscht werden?!


Friend Advent


We also strolled across the Christmas Market

I am not particularily fond of Berlin. I find it big and dirty, it’s seem far-away and isolated to me, and it takes for ever to go from one place to another in the German capital. But – the city changes when I am with the right people. Berlin with Michelle becomes a cozy place, a city that I can (almost) imagine going to voluntarily.

We noticed today that this is the fourth year in a row that we have spent the first advent weekend together. That’s quite something if you consider that we have known each other for, yes, exactly, four Christmasses (but almost five years). The first one we spent together in Malmö watching the first episode of Julkalendern , the second we made paper hearts for my Christmas tree in Hamburg and last year, we decorated Michelle’s advent lights in Barcelona. This year, we had planned to attend service at the Swedish Church. We got up in time, hurried with breakfast and arrived at 10.59 a.m. Service is always at 11 a.m., in Hamburg, in Berlin, in Stockholm. (Not always in Skåne though.) We were all looking forward and had started singing our favorite Swedish advent songs at home. But when we got there, the pastors were walking out of the church, the last tones of the organ played. One single Sunday a year, the Berlin church has its service at 10. Only once a year, on the first advent Sunday. There we were, disappointedly looking at the people going out. Who saved the day? The church music director. He greeted us and we told him that we apparently had completely missed the 10-am-info online. „How about we go back and I play one song for you so you get into the advent mood?“ he offered. No sooner said than done – he sat down at the organ and played ”Bereden väg” (“Prepare the Royal Highway”), one of our absolute favorites, at our request. Blessed be he who came in the name of the Lord.



A running pass for a pig and a happy ending

Hustysk Helens Adventskalender


Christmas Eve! Christmas Eve means a bigger door, usually a door made of two parts. So of course you get two idioms today. Merry Christmas!

Idiom: Jemandem den Laufpass geben

Literal translation: To give somebody the running pass.

Alfonso is waiting in front of the dance studio that he teaches at twice a week. Gudrun has asked him if Günther could join for a tango lesson. Alfonso thinks everyone should learn how to dance tango so he is happy to take Günther with him. Germans have to learn a lot about tango, he thinks, and remembers his diligent dance students who after a while – like two years – finally discover the passion in the dance. He wonders if Günther has more Latin vibe in his blood. The traffic light opposite the studio turns green and Alfonso sees Günther walking over the street towards him with light steps. They greet each other and Alfonso takes Günther inside. “So what are you hoping for with tango lessons?” Alfonso asks interested. “I am up for finding a great girl”, Günther replies. Gudrun’s boyfriend is confused. As far as he remembered Günther had a girlfriend. The tango aspirant shrugs. “Elvira gave me the running pass”, Günther explains succinctly, “so it’s over”.

If you let the pig out, you are whooping it up.

If you let the pig out, you are whooping it up.

Idiom: die Sau rauslassen

Literal translation: To let the sow/pig out


During the last month, lots has changed for our German friends. Detlef won the lottery, Sabine got a new job, Günther lost his girlfriend and took up a new hobby that he shares with Alfonso, and Elvira fell in love with Rüdiger whom she now dates. Despite these changes, the friends decided they still want to celebrate New Year’s Eve together. Instead of going to a cabin in the country side, they have arrived at the agreement to spend the night out at a party in a club. “It is going to be an epic evening!” Sabine is sure. “We will dance the night away!” Alfonso says and Günther nods while he is tapping his foot to a tango tune in his head. “Oh yes”, Rüdiger agrees, “we will let the pig out on New Year’s Eve!”



A colorful dog

Hustysk Helens Adventskalender


Idiom: ein bunter Hund sein

Literal translation: to be a colorful dog

Rüdiger and Elvira are strolling down the main street. It is very Christmassy outside with all the lights in the city and Christmas music coming from the shops. For the first time, Elvira and Rüdiger are walking hand in hand. As they come by the Christmas Market, someone stops them. “Well, hello there!” a lady calls. “Is that you, Rüdi?” He smiles. “What are you doing here, Ann-Kathrin?” he asks cheerful. The two talk for a while and Rüdiger presents the lady as an old school mate. When they start walking again, they only make it 378 metres before they are stopped again.

A colorful dog is a person that everyone knows.

A colorful dog is a person that everyone knows.

This time, it is a couple calling Rüdiger’s name. “So nice to meet you again, Rosemarie, and you too, Karl-Heinz!” The two are former colleagues of Rüdiger. After a little chat, Elvira and Rüdiger go to the metro station. As they go down the stairs, an old man coming up from the metro catches sight of them. “Is that you, Rüdiger?” he shouts happily. “It has been ages!” The old man is one of Rüdiger’s former professors. Elvira shakes her head. They have only walking some steps and met so many people who know Rüdiger. “You really are a colorful dog, you!” she giggles.




Pudding walks

Hustysk Helens Adventskalender


Idiom: einmal um den Pudding gehen

Literal translation: to take a walk around the pudding

One week night is always cinema night in many German cities. Tickets are cheaper than normal so many take the opportunity to see a movie. Rüdiger had earlier emailed Elvira if she was up for seeing the rerun of “Casablanca”. The two sit next to each other enjoying a shared bottle of beer and a big bag of popcorn. During the movie, Elvira’s eyes get distracted and rest on Rüdiger’s face. When the film is over and the two walk out, Rüdiger accidentally brushes Elvira’s arm. “Hm, I thought”, he says gently, “we could maybe talk a walk around the pudding?”

NB: The expression walking around the pudding, i.e. taking a short walk, is used mostly – maybe exclusively – in North Germany.


Whistling pigs

Hustysk Helens Adventskalender


Idiom: Ich glaub, mein Schwein pfeift

Literal translation: I think my pig whistles.

The next day, Günther and Gudrun eat lunch together. Even Gudrun had noticed the unpleasant fight in the institute’s corridor the day before. Gudrun tries to talk about other things and tells Günther about how she thinks the meat balls are so good at the Helen Enterprise cafeteria. “Sorry, what did you say?” her colleague asks. “Are you even listening?” Gudrun sighs. Günther tells her how his mind keeps wandering off to the problems with Elvira. “Maybe you should apologize”, Gudrun suggests. Günther stabs his meat balls angrily. “I think my pig whistles!” he says short-tempered. “It is not me who keeps looking at others and who comes home late all the

I think my pig whitles means that you cannot believe it, either because the idea is so foreign to you or because of tremendous surprise.

I think my pig whitles means that you cannot believe it, either because the idea is so foreign to you or because of tremendous surprise.




Hustysk Helens Adventskalender


Idiom: Tomaten auf den Augen haben

Literal translation: To have tomatoes on the eyes

Detlef resigned with immediate effect and the institute’s boss decided to give Sabine Detlef’s job. Both Sabine and Elvira are glad about this change and to celebrate it, Sabine has invited everyone for champagne. Once more, all the friends gather and the atmosphere is festive and happy. They raise their glasses to toast for Sabine. As the new lab leader wants to clink her champagne glass with Elvira and Günther, she noticed they have walked outside to the corridor where they are fighting. She tries to discreetly close the door to the corridor and turns around again only to almost walk into Rüdiger. He raises an eyebrow. “Günther has tomatoes on the eyes”, he declares. “He does not see what a great girlfriend he has!”