Christmas at the Seamen’s Churches, NYC.
It was hardly Christmas-like outside, rather sunny and warm, when the Scandinavian Seamen’s Churches in New York opened the doors for their annual Christmas Bazaars.
by Eva Stenskär
Stepping inside, the Swedish Church looked like a Christmas ornament, all gilded and red with candies, tomtar, lucias, candleholders, julbockar and baked goods for as far as the eye could see.
“I sell Lucia gowns,” said Marie Andersson, one of the many volunteers who make these bazaars possible. “A lot of moms came here today to buy Lucia gowns for their children. It’s hard to find in New York since the Lucia tradition is so unique for Sweden, and their kids have already outgrown the ones from last year.”
Niclas Goldberg, assistant at the Swedish Church, sold candy. “Candy and glögg,” he said, “are the most important ingredients for Christmas.”
“And the ‘J,’” said comedian and pianist Magnus Mårtensson who stopped by to say hello. “What would ‘jul’ be without the ‘j’? Just ‘ul!’”
Bert Alexandersson also sold candy. “I’m the candyman!” he said. “People like to buy chocolate and also Turkish Pepper, which I myself cannot stand. Being a volunteer is my contribution to the Swedish Church,” he said. When Bert is not selling candy, he is an artist and he told me he’s doing well as a painter. “Life is wonderful!”
Mona Jonsson sold tablecloths. She has been volunteering at the Swedish Church for years, explaining that it’s her way to give back to society.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “A few years ago, these runners were almost impossible to sell, today I’ve sold six already!”
Mona said she had yet to notice people holding off buying because of the economy.
“Not at all! There was a line outside the church this morning when we opened!”
Erna Barseghian and Lucia Paolise sold julkärvar and tomtar and butter knives.
“Last-minute kind of gifts—the kind of gifts everybody needs to have tucked away," Erna said, although she was a bit worried because the man in Skogsby on Öland who makes the best tomtar will no longer make them. "All the things I have here are bestsellers, because people love tomtar.”
Downstairs one could have a Christmas platter for $20, with meatballs, pickled herring, gravlax, ham and Janssons Frestelse. For an extra $3, you could get julmust or Christmas beer. Nice! After the Christmas platter we headed upstairs for glögg, strong and good, ginger snaps and lussekatter.
“It feels strange to drink glögg when it’s so warm outside,” said Lage Forsberg, music director at the church. He enjoyed it nevertheless.
We also had to go to the Norwegian Church to see what was happening at their bazaar. We decided to try their glögg, too. The Swedish glögg was stronger, but we got more at the Norwegian Church.
Laura from Paraguay is married to a Norwegian man and has lived in Norway for a few years, and she speaks Norwegian well. She was selling children’s gifts.
“They put me here because they know I like children!” she said. “It was hard to learn Norwegian when I lived in Norway, it took me half a year. Now that my husband and I live in New York, it’s important for me to keep in touch with Norway, so I come here.”
Laura’s favorite item was a moose dressed in a traditional Norwegian costume.
In another booth Tordis sold tomtar, which she aptly referred to as “nissar.”
“I just love these,” she said. “No Christmas without ‘nissar!’”
No, no Christmas without ‘nissar.’ Have you got yours yet?