3 December 2006

First of Advent

The four Sundays before Christmas are celebrated as the Advent Sundays in Sweden, conveniently numbered first through fourth. This year is a bit unusual, as Christmas Eve is also fourth of Advent. The strangeness being that Christmas Eve is the main celebration day in Sweden with the big dinner and the opening of presents.

The tradition is that you have a special candle holder with four candles and on each of the Advent Sunday, you light a candle.

Also you drink mulled wine and eat ginger snaps. Swedish mulled wine is called "glögg" and is sweeter than the English variety. But the spices have different proportions and no fresh fruit is added, but dried slices of orange. The wine is heated, but not boiled, then served with raisins and blanched almonds. You pour the mulled wine in small glasses or mugs, then add a couple of teaspoons of raisins and almonds. You keep the spoon and eat the raisins and almonds while you drink the wine.

Today we're only having the mulled wine, I'm making ginger snaps later in the week. The Swedish mulled wine comes in bottles ready to heat. There are also bags with mulling spices in the shops, for the more enthusiastic people. Lundulph and I went to IKEA the other day and got some from there. There are non-alcoholic versions, wine based (both red and white) and brandy or vodka based. Since it's morning, we had the non-alcoholic one, which was very sweet.

One thing that is a bit strange to me is that in the UK blanched almonds are cheaper than regular ones. Well, I only had a pack of regular almonds, so I blanched them last night.

Place some water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Put the almonds and leave to boil for a few minutes. Then take off the heat and leave to cool. The almonds can then be peeled by squeezing each at the wide end. Leave on kitchen roll to dry. After this you really wonder why the blanched almonds are cheaper.

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