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  • elizabethpeterson922

The Accidental Christmas

Updated: Jan 15, 2022

If there is one thing we have learned from the Covid-19 pandemic, it's that we are not in charge. Well, we have learned a lot of things. This is just one of many lessons, but it's a big one.

On December 22, we were meant to embark on a journey to the USA. On December 19, we cancelled (or rather, postponed) our trip because of news reports about the looming omicron variant. Sure, we still could have gone; we are US citizens, after all. But we were facing a three-week stretch of moving from place to place and seeing person after person, after a nearly three-year break of being away from my home state of Utah. As much as we wanted to go, it just didn't seem like a good idea.

It turns out our decision was the right one, but it came at a price. That price was bitter disappointment and a few tears. But at least we didn't get Covid or spread it to our loved ones or anyone else.

Instead, we came to Bastubacka, where the chances of catching or spreading Covid are pretty slim. It also turns out that our little cottage near the sea is a picture-perfect Christmas setting, especially when we are lucky enough to be blessed with snow and proper winter weather.

A little red cottage strung with Christmas lights, against a snowy backdrop and a sapphire night sky with stars twinkling overhead.
Bastubacka cottage on Christmas Eve.

There were many pleasures. One of the first was trekking off into the forest--our forest--to select our very own Christmas tree.

A family tromps through a snowy forest looking for a Christmas tree to cut down.
Step 1: Go the forest. Don't forget the saw!

A man and a girl hold a Christmas tree in the forest.
Step 2. This one looks about right!

A Christmas tree strung with lights and decorations, with a few presents underneath it. It's in a cozy sitting room.
Step 3. Water the tree, allow it to adapt to inside temperatures. Step 4. It's a Christmas tree!

We didn't get to see my family for Christmas, but being in our cozy cottage and going through many familiar actions made it possible to have them on our minds -- a lot. There was great comfort in hanging familiar decorations about, a ragtag collection we have obtained from friends, family and, as the song says, "Christmases long long ago."

Take, for example, the reproduction of my mother's recipe for Danish aebleskiver, little pancake balls that are fried in a special pan. My mother's aebleskiver recipe, printed as a component part of the Christmas apron in the photo (the apron was made and designed my sister back in Utah), harks back to her grandmother. And so on.

The apron -- and the recipe on the pocket -- look very much at home at Bastubacka. How can we be alone when we have memories like this to make us feel connected and at home?

Aebleskiver in the making.

Here are our own Christmas morning aebleskiver. See how I am turning them with skewers? My mother's recipe says to use knitting needles, but I don't knit--so no needles.

By the end of Christmas Day, when it was just becoming Christmas morning in the western United States, pictures started coming in from my siblings who were making their own aebleskiver for their own Christmas morning.

What did we do?

We baked, we visited the neighbors (in a safe and cautious way), we slept, watched movies and played board games. We fell into the rhythm of the local culture, the darkness, and the necessities that come with living in a house that doesn't have modern amenities like running water. That is, we took the time to do laborious tasks like boiling snow so we could wash up all those dishes from our Christmas baking. This process is quite a leap from popping things in the dishwasher back home in the city, and it certainly requires a different mindset.

Four pots on a stove top, each one with melting snow inside.
Melting snow for washing up the Christmas-baking dishes.

In the days after Christmas, the bay was covered in solid, smooth ice. Once we cleared away the layer of snow to reveal the ice below, that is.

A snowy, iced over bay with fir trees on the horizon. Pink and gray sunset clouds overhead.
3 pm sunset over the bay.

Clearing away snow to make way for the ice.

Our own private skating rink!

We came back to the city reluctantly, because we had to.

Not to mention because we desperately needed a shower. School has started, the university has started, and life goes back to "normal," whatever that means in the age of Covid.

Our days at Bastubacka were restorative in a way that Christmas in Utah would not have been. It all turned out to be some kind of a silver lining to our disappointment, and a silver lining we will gladly take. During Covid times, we have learned to take whatever joy we can, in whatever form it comes to us.

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