Monday, January 5, 2009

Twelfth Night, or What the Hell?

JoeIt's Twelfth Night tonight, the traditional end of the Christmas season (except in Sweden, actually, but that's a story for next week), the night before Epiphany, which also happens to be the last of the twelve days of Christmas. I could have this wrong, but my understanding is that when numbering the nights of Christmas, they come before their corresponding days; that is, tonight is the Twelfth Night of Christmas, and tomorrow is the Twelfth Day of Christmas. When I get confused is when I count backwards, because this means that Christmas Day is not the first day of Christmas, although Christmas Day Night is the first night of Christmas (and, as a result, I think I'm going to insist on calling Christmas Eve Night "the Zeroth Night of Christmas" from now on).

Why am I going on about this at such length? Because in Sweden, the Epiphany is not the Twelfth Day of Christmas, but rather Trettonde Jul—the Thirteenth Day of Christmas—and tonight isn't Twelfth Night at all, but rather Trettondedagsafton—Thirteenth Christmas Eve. This is only one of the minor liturgical oddities that has arisen for us this season; for example, Lessons and Carols, which is traditionally held on Christmas Eve, and which I expect to happen on the fourth Sunday of Advent, is, in Uppsala, celebrated on St. Stephen's Day (we actually went to Lessons and Carols at Uppsala Cathedral, despite its odd timing, and it was quite pleasant—it isn't generally used in the Church of Sweden, but they performed it as a sort of Anglican oddity).

We tried to observe Trettondagsafton rather prosaically: Jennifer dutifully returned to work after a week's hemester, and I took the computer in to the shop (the video card died rather abruptly on Saturday, the result no doubt of the 'higher than normal rate of failure' in the NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT). It was no good though, as Jennifer was one of only three people who bothered to show up at work (all foreigners), and everyone else in town seemed to be out shopping. The issue, apparently, is timing: Trettonde Jul is a holiday, on which the University is closed along with the banks, the post, etc., and falling on a Tuesday this year there just wasn't any motivation for anyone to go to work on Monday.

So we gave up and met at Konditori Fågelsången for lunch, a popular cafe with perhaps the best weinerbröd in town and excellent views, even if, as Jennifer points out, the only fågelsång in the area is the kvack, kvack from the ankdamm across the street. Then we set off to spend some Christmas money while the sales were still on: Jennifer got an excellent haircut, and we picked up a thermal carafe for the morning coffee and a half-price set of speakers for the computer.

After all that, our Twelfth Night festivities may be somewhat muted. We'll have a little hot apple cider, some bacon wrapped chevre salad, and then a bit of spice cake to round out the evening. You know, I'd intended this to be a sort of Christmas retrospective post, but looking back now it seems overlong already, and that spice cake isn't going to bake itself… well, I suppose the retrospective will have to wait. Meanwhile, have a great Twelfth (or Thirteenth) Night.

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