November 8th, 2021

angel

GIGGLING AND GRAVESTONES

This past Saturday was All Saints Day (also known as All Hallow's Day) here in Sweden. It was late this year, falling on November 6. A lot of older Swedes are against Halloween simply because when it falls on a Saturday, which means it is ALSO All Saints Day, the sacredness of the holiday is overshadowed by the newfangled ridiculousness of an American holiday which "doesn't even belong here". So I'm always glad when Halloween doesn't hit All Saints Day.

What's really super confusing is that there are TWO All Saints Days, both of which are celebrated in Sweden. One of them is always on November 1. The first one I mentioned (Alla Helgons Dag) got moved around before settling on the first Saturday between Oct 31 and Nov 6. The other one (Allahelgonadagen) stays on Nov 1 and is solely a religious, mostly Catholic, observance. Here's an article that talks about the two and makes the differences much clearer than I could. November 1 is not a day off in Sweden no matter what day it falls on, though it IS a day off in many other countries, including Germany, as evidenced by my brother calling me to chat in the middle of the day last Monday because he had the day off and thought I did, too (I didn't).

Anyway, if you weren't already aware, on All Saints Day, you are supposed to remember your dead, especially loved ones that have passed away during the year. Florists around the world sell wreaths and candles and other types of grave decorations and on All Saints the cemeteries are full of flickering candles and the memorial gardens and walls are crammed with candles and flowers of all types. In Sweden, many of the grave decorations and wreaths are made with a particular type of white moss (which I startled my husband with my first year in Sweden, because I bought one of the wreaths for our door, not knowing its significance).

Martin and I went to Oxie yesterday, to the church cemetery where Anders' parents ashes were interred in the memorial garden. It's a tiny patch of grass surrounded by hedges on 2 sides and a low stone wall containing about 20 covered candle holders (to keep the ever-present wind from blowing them out). Normally, on the occasions when we've gone, there have been some candles and few holders with flowers. This being the All Saints weekend, the memorial garden was filled to bursting. Every candle holder but one (score!) was full plus candles lined the bottom of the wall and filled a box set to the side to handle overflow. The little strip for setting flowers in was also full, a veritable plethora of memorial flowers in all shapes and colors.

We had stopped at Flyinge Plantshop to buy some flowers and a candle before driving to Oxie. The candles are large white ones set in various sizes of glass jars, some with metal lids with oval openings so the flame won't suffocate but the wind won't get to it. We asked at the cashier if they had matches or lighters, but alas, no. Marketing miss, as far as I was concerned. We didn't really stop to think about it, figuring we could use one of the other sure-to-be-there candles to light ours with.

After getting to the church and parking, we walked through the cemetery to the memorial garden. Martin took a holder and placed the flowers in amongst the others. I took the lid off the candle, but then realized that using another candle as a light would be impossible. Because the candles are all inside glass jars, the wicks are down too far to reach each other. We looked at each other like idiots. "Shit," I said, "now what do we do?" But then Martin saw a half-burned long match on the ground by the candles. So we picked that up, and tried to light it, thinking it would be simple to transfer the flame to our candle.

Not so, said the wind, and promptly blew it out. And then did it again a dozen times. Then the wind blew out the candle we were using to try to light the match with. AAGH. That was someone else's memorial candle! AAAUGH. Martin found another match. We tried again with another candle. It also blew out and so did the match, and our candle was still unlit."Sorry! SORRY!" we kept exclaiming. By now, I was laughing so hard I could hardly hold the candle much less a tiny burning half-match.

We persevered, and finally managed to get all three candles lit and back in their holders with the covers down to protect them from the £@$¤&!# wind. The sun was shining though there were a lot of clouds floating by overhead. We sat on the benches in the sunshine and looked at the flowers and talked about farmor and farfar. I said Märta would have laughed too, although maybe not. She would have had a lighter, though, or matches with her, for sure.

A few minutes after we sat down, an older man who had been at the gravesite behind the hedge behind our bench came stomping around the side into the path around the memorial garden. He stomped over to the water pump and took a flower holder, and then stomped back out, and as he was going back around to the grave, we heard him swearing "Jävlar i helvete..." quite loudly. Which literally means "devils in hell" but loosely translates to "goddammit plus other swear words I won't write here because my mom reads this journal".

Martin and I both burst out laughing, trying very hard to stifle the sound so the man wouldn't hear us. I laughed for 15 minutes straight. Every time I thought I had it under control, I'd bust out again and set off Martin, too. The candles, followed by that very sacrilegious swearing was just too much for my sense of propriety (always shaky at best). Finally, I wiped my eyes, and we left.

I'm probably going to hell, but the whole thing WAS hilarious.