Rumor has it that the annual SWEA Christmas Fair in San Francisco is a one-of-a-kind experience, a miniature Swedish experience shared among people of varying backgrounds.
By Emma Lööf Björnram
Swedes get a taste of their homeland, and the locals experience freshly baked goods and drinks called “cats” and “glögg.” The SWEA Christmas fair becomes a melting pot of Americans, Swedes and American-Swedes who gather for a day at St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco.
Having arrived in San Francisco only a month before the SWEA Christmas Fair, I hadn’t heard about it or SWEA. After just one day of work at the Swedish American Chamber of Commerce that changed. The phone kept ringing with questions about the fair and the perception I got was that rumor had spread from year to year and it was not only for homesick Swedes anymore. Everyone wanted to pay a visit.
On December 3, St. Mary’s Cathedral underwent a transformation. Except from the absence of snow you might as well have been at the old authentic Skansen in Stockholm.
The SWEA ladies, dressed in traditional Swedish costumes, had been preparing their stalls of Swedish bake goods, glögg, candy, hand crafts, books and much more since early morning.
At 9 a.m. the doors opened to a long line of people waiting outside the church. Guests were greeted by Christmas music played by an accordionist. And thus it began. Seven hours of a Swedish wonderland. One could choose this year's Christmas presents from some beautiful handcrafts and vote for the best gingerbread house. And, for every Swede's Christmas dinner table there were a few items not to be missed: julmust, lussekatter, herring and ginger cookies.
Four times during the fair the lights went out in the big hall as Lucia and her “tärnor” and starboys came in singing Santa Lucia. It became clear that Christmas is upon us.
Up on stage, the choir started to whisper the words “tipp tapp tipp tapp,” and into the hall entered Santa's elves, and then jumping in came the three gingerbread men.
Then followed an amazing repertoire created by Karin Gaensler. The choir sang old classic Christmas songs, and when it came to “Jingle Bells,” Karin invited the whole crowd to sing along!
I believe rumor has it that SWEA's annual Christmas Fair is one of a kind for good reason. Everyone is welcome to get a glimpse of what is important to Swedes during winter time, a dark and cold period in our home country, and how it helps us get into the Christmas spirit, feeling light and warmth.
Thank you SWEA for inviting guests to Sweden and Swedes to their homeland.