• Sweden edition
 
'Tradition, culture, and religion are not a Swedish Bermuda triangle'

'Tradition, culture, and religion are not a Swedish Bermuda triangle'

Published: 16 Jan 2012 10:20 GMT+01:00
Updated: 16 Jan 2012 10:20 GMT+01:00

While it may be too late to say god fortsättning to all readers of The Local, I'll allow myself the opportunity to do so anyway.

From what I've been told of course, the post-Christmas greeting can only be said until the 13th of January.

Which is also the last date for the Christmas tree to leave the house, the Advent “stair candles” to be taken away, and the star to be removed from its prominent place in front of the main window.

These are just a few of the many traditions that enrich Sweden’s cultural landscape.

Coming from a country (the Netherlands) that has lost most of its traditions, I have a lot of sympathy for all the unwritten cultural norms that govern Sweden, even if they might make the integration process a bit more complicated.

Just when you know the words to the famous drinking song Helan går, they change the order of the verses or it is a different song that needs to be sung for a different occasion.

Nonetheless, it is nice to see that so many people uphold and respect longstanding traditions.

But do they know where these traditions come from?

My suggestion to put out the “stair” candles a bit earlier this past year was met with harsh criticism because it was not yet Advent Sunday.

And behold on Advent Sunday, the candles appeared in windows across Stockholm as if the conductor of a symphonic orchestra had ordered them with a stroke of his baton.

But once I started asking my Swedish friends what Advent stood for almost all of them where at a loss for words.

More then any country I have lived in before, Sweden seems to be governed by a magic triangle of traditions, culture, and religion.

Although the balance shifts, the content remains the same based on tradition.

The religious symbols, services and icons are upheld but they are largely stripped of their religious meaning to be recast in a cultural model.

Traditions stay, but religion becomes culture.

Somehow they seem to blend as easy as gin and tonic on a Saturday night at Stureplan; it becomes a "religion-light" cocktail.

The Christmas choir in Katarina Church was introduced by a reverend but it was not a real service, nor did he give his blessing at the end.

The story of the birth of Jesus was told, but without due explanation or a sermon that would put it into the context of the 21st century.

It was as if it was an ancient relic to be admired, rather than a story that could have value for today’s society.

But maybe it is not "religion-light" after all.

Maybe it becomes the exact opposite: culture “extra strong”.

Because, as confusing as it might be for the outsider, it is exactly this mix of traditions often based in religion but recast into culture that seems to be such a strong part of Swedish identity and a building block for a cohesive society.

Tradition, culture, and religion do not create a Swedish “Bermuda triangle”.

On the contrary.

However you value them, one thing is sure: traditions are very much alive in Sweden.

So although I cannot stand another piece of Julskinka I am already looking forward to Easter!

Ruben Brunsveld is the Director of the Stockholm Institute for Public Speaking (StIPS), which offers training in Intercultural Communication, Public Speaking & Negotiation Techniques

Related links:

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

12:09 January 16, 2012 by Central European
It still has suprising me, that some europe traditions are still alive, despite new paneuropean tradition , which is to give up any local people´s tradition as a precaution to do not offend any immigrant´s tradition with ours.

The biggest problem is, that 99.9 percent of our traditions they ´d never mind, but we are too afraid to ask them to do not offend them.
16:34 January 16, 2012 by gabeltoon
Hang onto your traditions they are what identifies you as a person,where you were born and raised and your nationality.
14:37 January 17, 2012 by phil23456
no surrender, I am sticking to my traditions.
18:03 January 17, 2012 by skogsbo
most traditions have religious undertones, they have just be modified, normal pagan rituals made more christian etc. These days it materialism and commerce that are modifying traditions. Like giving out cards for every known event under the sun.

What is the difference between a specific nation's tradition and its cultural ones? Or was this third one just needed to use the Bermuda triangle analogy?
10:36 January 18, 2012 by Streja
Jul in Sweden hasn't got much to do with Jesus Ruben, but it is an old custom from before Christianity was introduced. That's why there is ham and a tree. It's very dark so candles are important. Religion is not that important to us.
11:42 January 18, 2012 by jwlundgren
@Central European, huh?

As a person of faith, I find rituals without meaning offensive. why bother if you do not believe? why go to church and hear choirs sing about the birth of someone you do not believe in? Why put up candles in the windows that resemble Jewish menorahs? why put up a star to represent the star of bethlehem if the story behind it has not relevance to you? I would rather see a country devoid of secular religion and leave it to the faithful to practice in their own way, than see this massive show of "tradition" when the foundation of the tradition is now considered passé.
17:56 January 18, 2012 by skogsbo
jwl, clearly nobody celebrated anything at the winter solstice and the coming of longer daylight hours until this guy was allegedly born over 2000years ago. Even though ficticious, the date isn't certain anyway. Xmas was a hijacked ritual from long long ago, before jesus was a glint in his pappa's eye, or was it a star twinkling.

Why listening to singing, because it's a nice thing to do?

The foundation to many traditions are pagan etc.
12:22 January 20, 2012 by Åskar
@Streja

Christmas trees originated in Germany in the 29th century.
13:17 January 20, 2012 by Central European
jwlundrgen :)

Try think about more properly. My opinion is about completely different.

About the situation, where people conected with rituals are harrased by people like you who use arguments thet their rituals are offensive to immigrants.

Peoples like you say forget christmas tree as a name, call it "celebration" tree or just a happy tree, couse muslims COULD feel offended.

If the answer is why are not muslims offended in bethlem or in other partly mixed cities in their countries people like you argue that in our country the ritual are almost dead anyway,,,,....
23:49 January 21, 2012 by jomamas
Ban all religion, all culture, all difference, force everyone to have the same job, same standard of living.

The world can be one giant suburb with big American box stores and our value system will be derived from Hollywood movies.

Then the socialists will claim complete victory.
15:14 January 22, 2012 by helloengrnasir
@central european

We are living in a society where we respect all religions and we listen to others too,who don't have any religion. But Sweden is more closely practice traditions rather than religion. And Muslim feel good if it is just a tradition to celebrate the birthday of Christ coz they also celebrate birthday of their Holy Prophet Muhammad(peace be upon him). So i think its better to respect the rule and traditions of the country you are living in to feel happy and make everyone feel happy too.

@Jomamas

These things can't be banned but its better to come to the common points to make the world a giant as u suggested :P.
12:18 January 24, 2012 by Scepticion
@ Åskar

I guess your calendar starts with the reign of Pharao Thutmose IV
Today's headlines
Swedish Tetra Pak factory to shut down
Photo: TT

Swedish Tetra Pak factory to shut down

A Tetra Pak factory in southern Sweden is set to shut down due to a decrease in demand, meaning 250 Swedes risk losing their jobs. READ  

The Local List
Ten false friends in the Swedish language
Photo: The Uppsala Koala

Ten false friends in the Swedish language

Never, ever take the Swedish language at face value. This is a language where "puss" means "kiss" and "kiss" means "pee". And that's just the beginning... READ  

Sami museum hit in suspected tear gas attack
Permanent exhibition on the life of Sami nomads. Photo: Bengt Oberger/Wikipedia

Sami museum hit in suspected tear gas attack

The Sami museum in northern Sweden had to be evacuated after two attackers sprayed an unknown substance which left several people violently ill. READ  

Roma advocate scoops Wallenberg prize
Emir Selimi: The winner of the 2014 Raoul Wallenberg Prize. Photo: Charles L. Sjölander

Roma advocate scoops Wallenberg prize

A Roma man has been hailed as "inspirational" after scooping this year's Raoul Wallenberg Prize for setting up an organization to help stamp out racism against the community. READ  

Government keen on Nato forces in Sweden

Government keen on Nato forces in Sweden

Nato will soon be able to deploy forces to Sweden, with the government likely to sign an agreement with the military alliance this week, but an expert told The Local that full membership remains unlikely. READ  

Beggar hit in exhaust fume 'attack'
Exhaust fumes. Photo:Shutterstock.

Beggar hit in exhaust fume 'attack'

A beggar in southern Sweden was forced to flee in terror after she was enveloped with thick black smoke, part of an apparent attack that was captured on video and spread via social media. READ  

Elections 2014
Sweden opens the gates for election voting
Don't forget to vote. Photo:Shutterstock.

Sweden opens the gates for election voting

If you're busy on September the 14th, or simply can't wait to have your voice heard, Wednesday morning marked the opening of the polling booths for early-bird voters. READ  

Whooping cough alert after two infants die

Whooping cough alert after two infants die

The Swedish Public Health Agency has urged parents to be aware of the dangers of the infectious whooping cough disease after two babies have recently died from the illness. READ  

Chuck Berry wins 2014 Polar music prize
Chuck Berry performing in Oslo in 2007. Hakon Mosvold Larsen /Scanpix Norway

Chuck Berry wins 2014 Polar music prize

The Polar music prizes were handed out in Stockholm on Tuesday night, with Chuck Berry and theatre director Peter Sellars sharing one million kronor ($153,000) in prizes. READ  

Swedish store scraps high heels for toddlers
The shoes pictured are indeed the shoes in question. Photo: Joakim Loamotte/TT

Swedish store scraps high heels for toddlers

UPDATED: A social media storm has seen a supermarket chain recalling its heeled children's shoes. The man behind the storm says other countries could learn from how seriously Sweden takes equality. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Society
Meet the man who made a Swedish store recall its high heels for kids
Business & Money
'How I came to run my own business in Sweden'
Politics
Expert explains why Sweden's election oozes uncertainty
National
City plays Schindler's List theme at Nazi rally
Society
For Stockholm Fashion Week, here's the A-Z of Swedish fashion
Blog updates

25 August

Hit och dit, här och där (The Swedish Teacher) »

" Hej igen! A common challenge for Swedish language students are the location adverbs hit/här, dit/där, hem/hemma etc. Some of the location adverbs come in two versions. We should use one type of location adverb when we use a verb describes where we are, and we should use the other type of location adverb when we the verb..." READ »

 

25 August

The Dollar Store (Blogweiser) »

"A dollar store in Sweden. Blog post: http://t.co/tNuuvcP1q0 #USD #greenbacks #sweden #sverige pic.twitter.com/RHFAYf7U1k — Joel Sherwood (@joeldsherwood) August 23, 2014 There’s a chain here in Sweden called The DollarStore. This name always stood out to me in a country where they don’t use dollars. I went there for the first time this weekend. They actually accepted greenbacks..." READ »

 
 
 
National
'Amnesiac' man avoids deportation for ten years
Gallery
Princess Estelle through the years
Business & Money
Swedish city all set for six-hour workday trial
Business & Money
Five golden rules for the Swedish job hunt
Sponsored Article
Graduates: Insure your income in Sweden with AEA
Gallery
People-watching August 22-24
National
Armed royal guards caught (very) drunk on the job
National
Sweden orders textbook on Roma discrimination
Gallery
Violent anti-Nazi demonstrations in Malmö
Society
A closer look at Sweden's five official minority languages
Gallery
See the destruction from the southern Sweden floods
Politics
'Sweden Democrats hold the key to elections'
Society
Swedes celebrate first day of smelly fish season
Politics
Sweden elections: How do they work?
Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching August 20th
Society
Did you know the Bronx in NYC was named after a Swede?
Society
Swedes slam Danes for 'racist' art
National
Majority of Swedes favour more or just as many refugees
Sponsored Article
Find out what gives this Swedish school executive appeal
Society
This gold coin may be the key to solving a Swedish massacre
Skatteverket
Sponsored Article
Introducing... ID cards and permits in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Introducing...Your finances in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Introducing...Housing in Stockholm
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

732
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se