Rites of Spring

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There is a predictability to our life in Sweden. The same stuff comes around year after year. There is a certain comfort in sameness, in predictability. Today we have been out to Hjälmargården, a Christian conference centre about 40 minutes away from Örebro on the shores of Lake Hjälmaren, to collect Hanna from a choir camp. One or more of our kids have been there every year for the last four years. Today was the same as always, about a hundred kids up to the age of about 13 who had gathered for a weekend of song and dance. Rain squalls blew in across the lake as we arrived so the concert was indoors this year for the first time since we have been attending. But the trees are in leaf and the grass is green and there is the anticipation of summer, and we sang “Den blomstertid nu kommer” (the time of flowers has come…), a wistful tune which is a rite of Spring in these cold northern climes, a song which will be sung again and again in the weeks between now and midsummer.

Isak’s class had an overnight camp on an island on a lake in the Kilsbergen hills this last week. I drove up and stayed overnight with them, 8 boys and me crammed into a log wind shelter on a woody knoll overlooking the lake, Falkasjön. Falkalägret – Camp Falka – is another of the traditions of May for kids from many schools in Örebro. Isak was not the first of our kids to overnight there.

This coming week is Kristihimmelfärdsdagen – Ascension Day – a public holiday to commemorate Jesus’ return to heaven, a strange anomaly in secular Sweden. Then the week after, June 6, is Sweden’s national day, another public holiday. Pingst, or Pentecost, another Christian high day, is celebrated a few weeks later, and then there is Midsummer, which really has more pagan associations than Christian, but which after Christmas is the most important holiday in the Swedish year. And all these days are a lead up to summer, that magic time of the year when Swedes come to life, go outside and celebrate, relax and unwind and try to recharge their batteries before the hard work of winter descends again in about 4 months time.

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