Ann-Louise 'Annis' Lindkvist and her sister Emma, from Sågmyra in central Sweden, by chance struck up a conversation with a homeless man on a recent visit to Edinburgh after first asking for directions to the pub.
They and Jimmy Fraser, as his name was, hit it off, exchanged phone numbers, and eventually decided to celebrate Christmas together. It was the beginning of a friendship that has warmed hearts around the world.
“The idea came up when my husband and I were talking one night and I said I wanted to do something more than just text and call him. Then we decided that we could invite him here for Christmas,” Lindkvist told The Local.
She even went as far as buying his tickets and sending money for a new passport. A few days later she, her husband Daniel and three children all welcomed the 54-year-old Scotsman into their family celebrations.
They visited a local ice hockey match, went to a Swedish Christmas market, Christmas mass, tried elk meatballs, decorated the traditional Christmas tree and introduced Fraser to Lindkvist's extended family.
“It has been fantastic to celebrate with him, he is a wonderful person. Caring, funny and kind,” said Lindkvist.
Jimmy Fraser at an ice hockey game in Sweden. Photo: Annis Lindkvist
Their friendship has now gone viral, grabbing international headlines. Lindkvist told The Local she was overwhelmed by the unexpected attention, but said the reactions had only been good.
“I don't get all the fuss about this myself, I just wanted to do something nice for him. I don't like being at the centre of attention at all so it's all starting to get pretty scary… but fun too of course.”
“People I have never seen are getting in touch by text message and on Facebook to tell me I'm amazing and that I've made them wanting to become better people. Totally, totally crazy.”
Eating Swedish Christmas food. Photo: Annis Lindkvist
Fraser, who was made homeless after a family breakdown and moved to the Scottish capital 13 years ago, told the Scotsman newspaper: “I couldn't believe it at first. People tell you 'See you tomorrow, I'll get you a drink' and then nothing happens but this did happen actually, so it was really weird.”
Decorating the Swedish Christmas tree. Photo: Annis Lindkvist
The heartwarming story has also helped turn the stereotype of reserved Swedes on its head, and Fraser is set to go back to Sweden again to visit the family for their Easter celebrations.
“Show me someone else who would do that, because I haven't met anybody. She's so kind, so considerate and I don't know why she's done it – I still don't know, I really don't, but she's done it and it happened. (…) It was a dream come true, it really was,” he told The Scotsman.
“Jimmy has a very special place in my heart and he always will have,” Lindkvist, 37, added to The Local. “He joked the other day and said I could be his extra mum, haha!”