I found these Christmas postcards at an outdoor flea market in Stockholm — one we visited a few times during the Summer before the pandemic ramped up again. I meant to share them earlier in December but never got around to it. Better late than never I suppose!
Unlike the postcards I usually buy, these didn’t have a great deal of text to translate. My choices were based on illustration style and anything that piqued my interest, such as nice lettering, interesting colour and texture combinations or curiosity about why a pig is wearing a bib. Most of them are from the 1930’s and paper aside, still look quite modern.
Pigs are central to Christmas festivities in Sweden… yes, pigs! They are shaped in marzipan, chocolate and pepparkakor. I’ve even seen pig decorations and candle holders.
The pig theme is related to Sweden’s rural roots. Farmers would slaughter most of their pigs during Autumn and save one as a treat for Christmas — often the only time fresh meat would be eaten (rather than salted pork). Even today, julskinka, prinskorv and a pot of pork fat/stock to dip bread in are all big parts of the Swedish julbord. I’m assuming the pig above is being fattened up with rice pudding (risgröt) for Christmas!
Sweden has Tomte instead of Santa. A short gnome that lives in barns, outbuildings and pantries, and watches over the occupants, property, and and animals. It is believed Tomte came from the soul of the first farm or property owner.
Apparently dirty/untidy farms and houses will upset Tomte, tickling their mischevious side and leaving you open to pranks. Farmers may find their cows tails tied together. City folk maybe find items like buckets turned upside down. Making a bowl of risgröt on Christmas Eve is a good way to thank Tomte for their protection throughout the year.
The postcard above is my least favourite from the set. I’m less keen on the illustration style and the colours aren’t as vibrant as the others. The gnomes are carrying Amaryllis and perhaps a sheaf of oats for a julkarve. And if you are curious about what a julkarve is, there is one on the postcard below.
Farmers saved the last sheaf of grain, tied it into a bundle and hung it out for the birds. The more birds that feed, the more luck they would have in the coming year.
I discovered the julkarve tradition a couple of years ago after seeing them hanging on doors in Oslo. Our old house was nestled in farmland so we waited for the end of year harvest and collected leftovers to make a mini version for the front door.
These were all bought from the same seller and I feel lucky to have found so many good ones. Now to get back to my usual process of buying them as translation projects!