Happy New Year and Welcome 2023!

Happy New Year!

I recently listened to an old cassette tape that had been in my drawer for years. On the tape, in my mother’s handwriting, I read: Christmas Stories and Music. I didn’t remember what was on the tape but had decided to finally transfer it to a digital file. I popped it into my new USB cassette player and waited. There were some scratchy sounds and then my mother started talking.

This is how we communicated in the late 1970s when I had just moved to the US. Talking on the phone was prohibitively expensive, so sending recordings was the next best thing. Of course, we still wrote letters.

What my mother had recorded on Christmas Day 1997, was of her reading Christmas Morning, a short story by the Swedish Nobel Prize-winning author Selma Lagerlöf. My mother explained that this was the story her mother used to read to her family on Christmas Eve.

During my childhood, it was my father who read a story to us on Christmas Eve. It was magical. We would all gather in the living room which was lit only by candles. My mother would bring hot chocolate, saffron buns, and gingerbread cookies and my father would light the candles on the Christmas tree. We would sit quietly waiting for my father to start reading Little Vigg’s Adventures on Christmas Eve by Viktor Rydberg. It was a tradition. My father’s grandmother had read this same book to him and his cousins every Christmas Eve when they were growing up.

Little Vigg’s Adventures on Christmas Eve by Viktor Rydberg. Illustration by Jenny Nyström.

How is it that both my parents grew up with the same tradition: their parents reading a story to the family on Christmas Eve?

My father’s grandmother, who read Little Vigg’s Adventures to her grandchildren, was Augusta’s daughter Gerda. But who had read a story to Gerda on Christmas Eve when she was a child? Gerda’s mother, Augusta, had died when Gerda was only a year old, so it was probably Augusta’s mother, Anna Söderholm, who read a story to Gerda on Christmas Eve.

The next question is, what story did she read? Little Vigg’s Adventures wasn’t published until the 1870s, and Gerda was born in 1854. The answer is obvious. Traditionally in Sweden, the Christmas Story as told in the Bible according to Luke was read aloud to the family on Christmas Eve.

I never continued the tradition of reading a story on Christmas Eve. But this year, I have given it some thought. Maybe it is not too late. One could pick a meaningful and captivating short story and read it aloud on any day during the holiday. If Christmas Eve is too busy, one could pick a different day. Turn off the TV and music and dim the lights, serve some nice hot chocolate or mulled wine, and then read aloud to the family.

Twenty minutes of magic.

Making new memories; reviving a tradition.

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