Molly McMule's Horse Tales – 1001 Stall Stories

“Well, will you look at that. Our person is bringing in a new stable mate… and he’s pretty strong looking!” said Beau.

“Yeah, I heard them talking about him and it seems he’s a North Swedish breed. His name’s Big Olaf, but they call him Ole. His type is used for farming and logging because they are very good at pulling heavy loads,” Ginny added. “I suppose he’ll come in real handy on the farm this spring getting all the fields ready for planting.”

“Wonder what he’ll be like - hope he’s not going to be a ‘neigh sayer’ or complainer,” thought Fern. “He looks good - nice chestnut coat.”

“Don’t worry about his personality. I hear these horses have cheerful temperaments and are pretty immune to most equine diseases… and live long lives. So he should be around for a long time, long enough for us to really get to know him anyway,” Deke advised the rest of the horses who had begun to nicker among themselves.

Ole settled in, and gradually the other horses began to talk about how cold it is getting and how winter is really closing in. There’s always frost in the air and snow seems to be on the way. The days are getting shorter and the nights longer.

Finally, Ole spoke up and said, “The winter solstice is December 13th and that’s the shortest day of the year, and also the start of the Christmas celebrations in Sweden.”

“Christmas celebrations start that early?” asked Desi, who has been really curious about the holiday. “What do they do?”

“That’s the feast day of St. Lucia and they celebrate with a festival of lights. The legend says that many years ago, during a severe famine, St. Lucia, who seemed to have a crown of light on her head, brought food, and also chased away the darkness and brought light back to the land. In Sweden, there are almost 24 hours of darkness that day, so the people are happy that the next day that the following days will be longer and brighter until Midsummer, when they have almost 24 hours of daylight.”

“Very early in the morning, a young girl goes from house to house in the small villages and serves coffee and saffron buns to the people. She wears a white gown with a red sash, and also a crown made of Lingonberry twigs and lighted candles. (These days the candles are electric.) They visit a while, sing songs, and also play host to the “star boys” that come along with the Lucia to form a small parade. The star boys, who are usually a little mischievous, wear pointed caps and long white shirts and carry wands.”

“Gee, that sounds like fun,” said Desi. “What do they do then?”

Ole continued, “Two days before Christmas, the tree is brought into the house and decorated. They decorate their trees with candles or lights, apples, Swedish flags, little gnomes with red hats and straw ornaments. They also decorate cookies and hang them on the tree, which they have been preparing since St. Lucia Day. They make gingerbread cookies called pepparkakor, and other goodies for the smorgasbord that the families enjoy on Christmas Eve. They usually have ham, lutfisk (dried codfish), limpa (a sweet, dark rye bread), lots of different kinds of sweets, and for dessert rice pudding. The rice pudding has an almond hidden in it, and they say that whoever gets the almond will marry in the next year. In some families, the person who gets the almond has to recite a poem.”

“Is there a Santa Claus?” asked Desi.

Well, the “tomte” is the Christmas gnome and he supposedly lives under the floorboards of the house or barn. He rides a straw goat, has a white beard and wears red clothes. A straw goat is often put beneath the Christmas tree and is thought to protect the home from fire. “Tomte” distributes the gifts from his sack, sometimes reciting a funny rhyme that gives a hint as to what is in the package so the children can guess what they are getting.”

“What kind of presents do they get? I mean, do they get lots of toys, or clothes?” Desi kept asking.

“Of course, they get a lot of the same presents children get here, but one traditional toy, probably one of the first toys children get, is the carved, wooden horse. They are painted bright orange, and have brightly painted saddles and bridles. Most Swedish homes have at least one.”

“While the children are dreaming of sugar plums and presents, Desi will be thinking of nice warm straw or fluffy snow, carrots and oats,” laughed Beau, “and we’ll all be settling down to a long winter’s nap.”

Molly says, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”