What Sweden’s New Year’s Eve has to do with Lord Tennyson 

New Year’s Eve in Sweden is like most other places in the world. Good food, fireworks, friends and alcohol frame in the event.

However, there is another tradition which is peculiarly English and particularly Swedish.

Almost every New Year’s Eve since 1896, a well-known person has stood on the stage at a Swedish open-air museum and recited the poem ‘Ring out Wild Bells’ by Lord Alfred Tennyson written in 1850. This may seem weird, but nowadays, the event is televised and attracts a large public. Translated into Swedish, the poem is called ‘Ring Klocka Ring’ and it has a very meaningful and deep content as we leave one year and enter into another. 

Various famous people, mostly actors, have had the honour of delievering this rousing poem throughout the years. Of the 20 narrators so far, only one has been a woman. However, this year the second female narrator – popular opera singer Malena Ehrman – will take the stage.

Below, you will find the text in English. ‘Ring out the old, ring in the new’ – and a Happy New Year to each of you!
In Memoriam, [Ring out, wild bells] – Lord Alfred Tennyson, 1809 – 1892
Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky

The flying cloud, the frosty light:

The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,

Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,

With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes

But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be





Don’t choke on the almond

And so it is Christmas. Like many places around the world, Sweden celebrates on Christmas Eve. Festivities throughout the day include eating the Christmas ham, receiving a visit from Santa, opening presents, drinking, playing board games and eating more. 

But the day usually kicks off with a steaming bowl of rice porridge. This delightful dish is made of rice, milk, sugar and cinnamon. Deep inside the porridge, there is often an almond. Presuming you don’t choke on it, if you find the almond it means you will be married during the following year. In the south of Sweden, and in Denmark, Norway and Iceland, the person finding the almond receives a gift. During the 1920’s it became trendy in Sweden to replace the almond with a ‘porridge doll’ made of porcelain and hide that in the porridge instead. 

Really superstitious people will even leave a bowl of porridge outside tonight to appease the house gnome who, according to legend, can make your cows dry up if he’s pissed off. 

But hopefully nobody should be pissed off on a day like today. And with family and friends gathered around a twinkling Christmas tree, a bowl of steaming hot rice porridge is a great way to kick off a lovely day. 


And Sweden’s ‘Christmas present of the year’ 2015 is…

Every year, Sweden’s trade research institute nominates an item that is the ‘Christmas present of the year’. This item should have sold in large quantities and/or represent current trends in Swedish society. 

The first item to be granted this status was in 1988 and it was the baking machine. Since then, various items have been the mobile phone, the tablet, the spike mat, the book, the food home delivery service, the woolly hat and the wok. Last year’s was the smartband – a reflection of today’s physical activity trend and the need to digitally track and register results. 

So this year, what is it? 

Given the current state of the world, and the number of refugees that Sweden has taken in, one might hope that it is a charitable contribution. But no it’s not. 

It’s the robot hoover. 

What does this say about Sweden’s current time? It clearly represents the robotisation of our society, and the automisation of household functions. But it also reflects the stressful nature of today’s society in which people feel that time is limited. Additionally, it shows that the home is back in focus and the need to be liberated from boring tasks such as vacuum cleaning is strong. 

So Happy Christmas and a dust-free New Year! 


What is a Swede? 

Went to see stand up comedian Jonas Gardell yesterday and he told a story about when he had been awarded the ‘Swede of the Year’ award. But what actually is a Swede he pondered. Is it what the right-wing party in Sweden would have us believe? Blond-haired, fair-skinned, blue-eyed, hetero, Christian, arian? 

With reservation for misquotation and mistranslation, he defined himself this way.

‘ I am a middle aged gay man married to a Finnish American immigrant. We have two children with a lesbian couple, one of whom is Jewish. My brother is married to a Muslim and has two kids. And my sister is married to a woman and has a kid with a Jewish man’. 

They are one big fantastic, modern Swedish family.