Lucy’s, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks ;
The sun is spent, and now his flasks
Send forth light squibs, no constant rays ;
At this time to the Goat is run
To fetch new lust, and give it you,
Enjoy your summer all,
Since she enjoys her long night’s festival.
Let me prepare towards her, and let me call
This hour her vigil, and her eve, since this
Both the year’s and the day’s deep midnight is.
John Donne, A Nocturnal Upon St Lucy’s Day
Tuesday 13th of December, St Lucia’s Day: I awake groggily with a start. What time is it? I fumble for my iphone. It says 7.15 am but with an hour time difference it’s 8.15 am. Maybe. I’m supposed to be at the Gothenburg tourist office at 8.30 am to see a Lucia choir. I flee half dressed downstairs, passing a group of choristers in white.
“What time is it?” I blurt to the hotel employee in the breakfast buffet. It’s still dark outside. Swedish people are piling plates with cheeses, the sour milk yoghurt, the healthy spirulina juice then sitting on Ikea style stools to eat.
“I don’t know.”
“Is it 7.30 am or 8.30am?”
Panting I run to the trams outside. I’ve forgotten my glasses and all the numbers are blurry. I ask a transport employee “Where does the number 4 go from? I need the 8.32 tram”. In perfect English (you can speak to anybody of any age, any profession or any social class and they speak English which says something about the Swedish education system) she directs me saying “but you have an hour to wait”.
I troop back inside, feeling unreasonable irritation with the hotel employee that didn’t know the time.
I again catch a glimpse of the Lucia choir as they exit the breakfast buffet.
At 9am at the tourist office, the employees gather with a glass of glogg or coffee and some saffron buns or pepperkaker biscuits and sit around a large U shaped desk waiting. Slowly a procession of choristers enter the room and sing. This St. Lucia is wearing a headpiece with real candles, we can see the wax dripping onto her hair. Needless to say, she remains upright and immobile but her singing is bright and pure. It’s a very special experience.
Afterwards I take a couple of trams through the cold big raindrops to the ‘fish church’ Feskekorka . I learn that the best roe “better than caviar” is from Kalix, from the clean waters above the polar circle and that you can freeze/defrost it up to five or, some say, ten times.
A state owned Alcohol shop ‘Systembolaget’: one can buy alcohol only from these shops and at restricted times. You must be over 20 years old. Alcohol is highly taxed. Throughout the shops there are notices warning one to drink moderately. Alcoholism has been a problem in Sweden. Another myth about Sweden is owing to the long dark hours of winter, it has the highest suicide rate in the world. This isn’t true, Lithuania does.