Boston Blatte

Raised in Boston, remade in Sweden

Archive for October, 2010

Halloween: A treat for Swedish kids though not Swedish retailers

Friday, October 29th, 2010

Halloween is in full swing right now. You can’t see it adorned on the lawns and doors of Swedish homes, but don’t let that fool you. It’s on baby. Celebrations for me and my family will be straddling two weekends this year. Heck, we’re so chock-o’ Halloween we have a Halloween-activity schedule.

I’m obviously a raving rogue witch witch

(feel free to rhyme that with any other name, it’s all good)

since I’m of the opinion that Halloween, as we Americans know and love it, is settling in on the Swedish pop culture. According to an article in Dagens Nyheter (sorry Swedish only) Halloween is losing [economic] speed (giggle word “fart” in that Swedish title). Thankfully The Local has published its own similar article.

The “proof” is the declining commercial sales of Halloween-related junk, ehem, goods. Swedes are not decorating consumers (except for Christmas and Easter). They aren’t going to deck out the house with ghouls and jack-o-lanterns (though I miss that from life in Beantown and its environs). I’m relieved that the craze that hit all the stores, I mean everywhere, around 2000 is ebbing. The local supermarket had all sorts of Halloween specials on anything they wanted to promote that week. I had people asking me what kind of foods we served for Halloween as if it were similar to Thanksgiving.

Now it seems that people are seeing it more as a kiddie theme holiday, an opportunity to have a masquerade party (that’s what the school is calling the party this evening) and dress up kids for some ghoulish fun.

Speaking of ghoulish, ghostly, spooky and all that haunted stuff. While the overall mood of Halloween is scary the costumes don’t have to be. We know that, but it’s been hard to convince Swedes. At our now defunct annual adult Halloween parties, 95% of the Swedes came in a gruesome or witchy outfit. Today, Swedes are understanding that costumes can be anything under the sun.

Here’s a very unscary (well, in the traditional sense) costume for sale by a friend on a Swedish on-line auction site, Tradera (similar to eBay) costume and it’s getting bids.

And as the CEO from Buttericks, Stockholm’s favorite shop for costumes and props, points out their sales have increased since 2003 and there are lines of customers out the door around Halloween. He also says (and I love him for this) that he wants to see Halloween as a masquerade event and not as a spooky holiday. Finally, a public voice to echo what I’ve been saying for 17 years.

One of our many events is our neighborhood’s second annual trick-or-treating street-wide (or should that be street-long?) event for local children. I organized it last year and it really surprised me how in to it the whole bunch of them were. (Last year’s blog entry about it.) And we’re doing it contrary to the 31st schedule and tying it into the public holiday, Allahelgon, next weekend. We’re creating a hybrid so to say.

So the retail sector can sulk in their declining Halloween-propaganda sales and proclaim that Halloween is on its way out. But if the spirit of children-related activities is an indicator of Halloweens-yet-to-come my future grandchildren will be knocking on Swedish doors saying “Bus eller goodies” (Trick or Treat).

Have a happy and safe Halloween everyone!

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Word needs: Coining Svengelska (for boating)

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

If a language has no inherent need for a term, can you coin one and make it native? (yes, borrowing loosely from the riddle.) Swedish culture and daily life has a slew of Swedish terms which just don’t translate conveniently into English because the concepts behind the terms don’t exist (or not to the same extent) in the native English-speaking countries.

Stockholm is smack dab in the middle of boat-up-taking (båtupptagning) season. Boat clubs all over the greater Stockholm area are buzzing with the community effort of the end of the boating season.We pulled our little Ocklebo T14 out of Lake Mälaren and put her in her cozy winter spot on Långholmen this weekend.

(technically the photo is from this spring’s sea-setting (sjösättning) time.)


Both seasons (spring and fall) there’s sjösättning and båtupptagning and I always search for a term to match the Swedish (last year’s blog entry about putting-boat-in-water (too awkward I’d say)) But as far as I know, there isn’t an all-encompassing term. Sure we describe it as putting the boat in and out of the water, but these land-lubbing and water launching (can’t say I like those optoins) activities are more seasonal rites of marine passage than a procedural chore.

The reason is that most people belong to a co-operative boating club. We the members run the club and all the practical chores and needs around it. We are the ones working the heavy machinery and precariously balancing several ton vessels teetering on their keels.

You can just as well keep your boat in a marina where they take care of all the boat uptaking and inputting (that could work couldn’t it?) but then why would you care what they call the mechanics of lifting and lowering (seems the right marina-based options) since that all goes on without your sweat, blood (I have seen it) and tears?

I’ve become very fond of our fellow boat club members. After being a member for about 9 years, the guy known to be grumpiest has become one of my best buddies. He’s a living example of two theories I have about Swedes.
1. The crustiest of Swedes on the outside are the gooiest of Swedes on the inside, you just gotta scratch through the surface.
2. You just have to invest the time to get to know Swedes, or more importantly, let them get to know you.

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