New Swedish Baby Traditions

Trip Start Aug 18, 2011
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Flag of Sweden  , Stockholm,
Sunday, April 29, 2012


Today I got to experience a small piece of Swedish culture that is slowly becoming a tradition. As the country moves farther and farther from being a religious nation the population is finding ways to replace religious ceremonies with other events. Today I got to see what a replacement baptism was, or as it is called here a naming ceremony.

 Victor’s Cousin Emilia (whom I had met on a previous occasion) and her husband of 1.5 years had a baby in December and named her Miranda. They are not religious so they did not want to have a baptism, but still wanted to celebrate their new daughter in some small way with friends and family.

 Emilia’s father lives right next door to her and her husband Marcus, so the ceremony was held in his substantially larger house. Victor and I were debating this, but I think the house was once a local meeting house, based on how large and old it is with the spacious layout. Extended family from both sides came from all over the country and some even from Finland.

I had met on previous occasions all of Victor’s relatives, so I got many hug’s but then I had to shake hands with everyone else and hear in rapid fire their names which I promptly forgot. I asked Victor if he knew any of them and he said he recognized faces form the wedding but could not go farther than that. I eventually got a few people down, but gave up on the rest and stuck near Victor and his cousin William who were the closest to my age. Luckily my Swedish has improved to some degree so I did not have to reveal right away that I was American unless one of Victor’s relatives beat me to the punch and said I was not Swedish.

 The ceremony was preceded with small munchies and non-alcoholic beverages. I liked the little goo covered toasts topped with caviar, but when I asked what was on top I was told toothpaste by a relative who thought he was funny, so I will be unable to replicate the recipe.The ceremony consisted of two songs being sung by Emilia’s mother (the sister of Victor’s father) to the tune of her ex-husband playing the guitar. Marcus’s mother read a poem. Then the parent’s of the baby spoke. They explained where the names came from and what they meant to them. They also connected the names to other places, such as Miranda is the name of one of the moons of Mars. Baby Miranda made it through the entire ceremony without too much of a fuss. Her full name is Miranda Kerstin Susanna Ekeblad, born December 24, 2011. A tree will be plated outside and will grow as Miranda grows.

 After the ceremony came my favorite part of Swedish parties, the food. Swedes always know how to throw a great shindig. The food was all simple, good and homemade with no preservatives, a completely novel idea to most Americans. 

 It was amazing that they were able to cram about thirty people into one of the rooms of the father’s home. It was a little cramped, but we all squeezed together.After the lunch was social time. I had a bone to pick with Victor’s uncle Per.  He had used a short absence of mine the previous night to ask Victor when he could plan a trip to California is blunter terms that his parents usually use. I did not learn of this short conversation until later. So, at the party I told him that I had hears what he had said. He was funny and starting grilling me about my intentions and how I was doing with Swedish and if I would stay in Sweden or go back. He never really admitted to what he had said the previous night, but he knew exactly what I was asking.

 I took a walk to work off the large lunch with Emilia, Marcus and several other relatives that I had no clue who they were or their relations to Emilia. They mainly spoke Swedish, but they were discussing pop culture so I understood most of it, especially since they were quoting the South Park movie in English. We walked down the road to the ruins of an old church where Emilia and Marcus got married. They did not get married at the altar because they are not religious, but the ruins were so pretty it would have been nice to get married there, except for the fact that it had rained that day and there was no roof.

 After the walk I found Victor in a heated battle of tabletop hockey with his uncle. Victor lost; something that he does not like, so they had a rematch over the chess board. Victor claims to have been winning, however we cannot know for sure, because he managed to knock his chair over by leaning to far backwards and he took the board with him, so the game was a draw.

 After a while came time for the presents. I had not thought to bring a present, because all of the baptisms I had been to, presents were not a requirement. However, everyone had brought one. Victor’s mother had bought an extra one, so Victor bought if off of her. Honestly, I would not have bought a large set of a knife and fork covered with fish for a baby, but that is what we gave her. We just smiled and nodded when she said thank you.

 The day was long, but fun. It was nice to see how many people can come out and support one person, no matter how far they live. One of the sweetest moments of the day was when I looked down the table and saw four generation sitting in a row, Emilia’s grandmother, her father, herself and her daughter. What was even more amazing was that the other great-grandmother was only at the other table. There was a four generation photo taken that I want to get a copy of, but just to have that is so special. I did not even come close to that in my life and to see two sets of complete four generation in one room was truly amazing. Having extended family come from long distances was a foreign concept for me. I had seen it at William’s graduation two years ago, but to see it again on a larger scale when I knew the people better made it sink in even more. It was a nice day, and I hope to be able to go to more Swedish family events, mainly for the food, but also for the sheer enjoyment of the few hours.
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