The Dark Side
Swedes grumble about the 18 hours or so of darkness in the heart of winter. I moved to Sweden last November, arriving at the month many Swedes hate the most because Autumn has definitely gone and the December holidays with all their candles and celebrations have not yet arrived.
But you know what? I actually liked the darkness last winter. It seems almost heretical to say it. I marveled that I couldn't even see people's faces when I hurried past on the way to the commuter train in Stockholm. I liked the way you could slip through the shadows. I liked the dark even before I moved to Sweden so I figured that I was strange and also that I was new to the Swedish darkness. I figured the novelty would wear off and I would feel depressed like many Swedes come wintertime.
Only time will tell.
“Early morning Lucia procession in Gustav Vasa church in Stockholm. Lucia is an ancient mythical figure with an abiding role as a bearer of light in the dark Swedish winters.” Photo by: Ola Ericson/imagebank.sweden.se
The Light Side
Now, as we just passed Midsummer, the days are as long as they can be. The sun sets around 10:30pm (but it's still light for quite awhile) and rises at 3:30AM. And you know what? I think it's kind of a pain! It's hard to get a room to be reasonably dark (this said by a person without an unlimited budget nor or even much control over the window coverings in my shared apartment). It kind of wears on a person. You feel like you should be doing something because it's light out.
I thought this, too, was heretical thinking in Sweden. I thought you were supposed to LOVE the 18 or 19 ours of light because you were sort of "banking" it for the dark months. But yesterday, two card-carrying swedes where I work said they felt the same way. They both thought that August was a good time to take some vacation because it is still light but the sun goes down at 9pm or so and rises later. This, they thought, was a happy medium between the two extremes of having nearly no light at all or too much light.
Maybe I'm not such a heretic, after all.
“Midsummer is one of Sweden’s most beloved holidays and ever since pagan times Swedes have celebrated the longest day of the year, around the time of the summer solstice.” Photo by Lena Granefelt/imagebank.sweden.se
A final note about the dark and the light. I was surprised at how quickly things change in Sweden. What I mean is that the transition between the short days to the short nights seems very fast to me--as though it took a week or so. Boom! Suddenly it was light nearly the whole night.
I expect the switch back might be as quick in the Fall.
...Wonder if I'll complain about it. :)