Advent Calendar / 9 December
The other day Ginny in her blog Let Your Light Shine had pictures of various strange Christmas decorations she had seen around where she lives; among them two pigs. I commented that the pigs were the least strange to me among those examples that she showed; and I promised to make a blog post including pictures.
Now after yesterday’s Advent Calendar post about the Christmas Bunny some people might think this is all a joke too; but today I’m actually into more serious research!
Pigs are quite common in Swedish Christmas traditions. As decorations they might be getting less common than they used to be, but unless you're a vegetarian, the Christmas ham is still the main course on the Christmas table. In the old days, and I think perhaps still in some restaurants, they used to decorate the pig's head with frosting, put an apple in its mouth, and have that on the table as well:
One of the common pastry-cutters used for homemade Christmas gingerbread cookies is shaped like a pig:
There are also candle holders shaped like pigs:
and Christmas decorations with "tomtar"/gnomes riding pigs
(common on old Christmas cards I think):
No doubt the pig in the Christmas decorations goes back to pre-Christian Midwinter celebrations here in Scandinavia.
There was a boar Saerimnir in the Old Norse religion, which had sort of "eternal life". It was killed and eaten every night in Valhalla, the hall of dead warriors, where the god Odin reigned; but it was brought back to life again every morning.
The Christmas ham and the decorated pig’s head traditions can be traced back to sacrifices to the god Freyr for the new year.
Sacrifices to the Old Norse gods were abolished as Christianity took over; but of course people still had to eat, and pigs were still slaughtered in time for Midwinter/Yuletide/Christmas...
Old and new traditions got mixed up in one another, as they so often do; until most people no longer know what’s what.
And so in Sweden we ended up with a strange mix of Baby Jesus in the manger, Christmas trees, candles, snow, pigs, Christmas gifts, the small gnome/brownie-like “tomte” and the Yule Buck mixed with the big jovial St Claus/Father Christmas and his reindeer... (And on top of that since 1960 every family glued to the TV screen every Christmas Eve between 3-4 pm to watch Disney cartoons – the link goes to an old blog post from last year.)
Oh, by the way… I mentioned in an earlier post that we also have a Christmas Calendar TV-show (a new one every year) running from 1-24 December. Guess who the “star” of this year’s Calendar is?
It’s a little pig!
None of the pictures in this post are my own;
they were all found by Google picture search.