23 December 2013

The Naturalness of a Swedish Christmas

Swedish Christmasses are absolutely inspiring and beautiful, and quite different to any others. They are not particularly ‘yo-ho-ho’, or tinselly, they are natural, earthy, and somewhat pagan – which appeals to my Presbyterian background and desire for simplicity.

St Lucia Day
Swedish Christmas holidays start with celebrations at home and in church of St Lucia Day (mid-December). For many of Nordic origins, Lucia is the bearer of light in their cold, dark winters. She comes with candles in her hair, pure white dress (with a red sash), bringing hot beverages and pastries. 
I first came across this charming ceremony after seeing St Lucia Day – Christmas in Sweden (1908) by Carl Larrson. His use of light, and depictions of domestic life played out in folksy room interiors – all painted furniture, painted everything pretty much  – made him a HUGE influence on me. 

Carl Larsson’s Country Look
It was Larsson who re-introduced Swedish painted furniture to everybody. It had been big in the 18th century in the countryside, and in grand houses, because they had ample amounts of wood to paint. Like William Morris he romanticized going back to one’s roots, to making handmade things. Larsson used the traditional colours of Sweden – the wonderful pinky and browny reds that are native to the country in the natural pigments. Just take a look at these two interiors below of Christmas and family life.
 Girl and Rocking Chair (1907)
Christmas Morning 1894
Together with his wife Karin, Larsson revived a kind of provincial 'Gustavian' style in their timber cottage Lilla HyttnäsNamed after Gustav III, the original Gustavian style was grand, all white painted rooms with pale furniture on lime-washed floorboards (copying the French court of Versailles). The Larssons’ twist was more bohemian, using earthy red sienna colours and ochres. Larsson hand painted all his furniture and some of the details depicted here are exquisite. I have always been influenced by Larsson’s colour choice and of course we have our own Scandinavian Pink.

Getting Ready for a Game 1901
I also have a personal love for the Swedish way of doing things (be it celebrations or room interiors) as my granddaughter is part Swedish! A

Happy Christmas!

Yours, Annie
PS I will be going to Sweden next year in connection with a new book!