”Deep in the grip of the midwinter cold
The stars glitter and sparkle.
All are asleep on this lonely farm,
Deep in the winter night.
The pale white moon is a wanderer,
snow gleams white on pine and fir,
snow gleams white on the roofs.
Only Tomten is awake.” (3)
As humans we need stories, to make sense of the world. And we need to believe in things and we need trusted leaders to create hope.
Santa Claus roots are nicely explored by History Today, finding a mix of St Nicholas and Father Christmas in his background, and an interesting read how migration formed his new identity…And how he in 1820 got his reindeers.(1)
But somehow they missed the entire Scandinavian background.. And its understandable as he cannot be seen…
In Scandinavia we have have had Tomte and Nisse since Viking and Old Norse time, they appear mostly around midwinter and Yule time. The authorities tried to forbid our belief in them in the 14th century, the Tomte Gods. (2)
Our Tomtenisse protects the house, the family and the animals, helps with chores and can be short tempered if not treated well ( …so you have to forgive Tomten and all similar servant leaders, as they are giving in their nature, but all appreciate to be acknowledged from time to time ….).
One famous Swedish poem that catches the soul of Tomten, and read out loud in many Swedish Christmas homes during Christmas time, is written by Viktor Rydberg, first verse cited at top of this post, and shown in the pictures included in this post (3)
And the poem goes on to share that tomten is similarily curious about us:
”Long generations has he watched
Father to son to son
Sleeping as babes. But where, he asks,
From where, from where have they come?
Families came, families went,
Blossomed and aged, a lifetime spent,
Then-Where? That riddle again
Unanswered in his brain!”
Astrid Lindgren (who also wrote Pippi Longstocking, Emil and Karlsson-on-the-roof) built on that poem and wrote a childrens book about Tomten and the Fox. (4)
”During the night the people at a farm in a forest are asleep. Only Tomten is awake. No one has ever seen Tomten, the people only know that he is there. Sometimes the people only find his small footprints in the snow. Tomten takes care of the animals and gives them comfort through a cold winter’s night. He promises them that spring will be there soon. Tomten also visits the children, who always want to see him. However, they are always at sleep when he comes, so they dream about him.
The fox Mickel is hungry and hasn’t found food for a long time. At Christmas Eve he comes across a farm in the forest. He comes into the chicken’s stable and wants to eat a chicken. However, he is stopped by Tomten. Tomten knows how hungry a fox can be in such a cold winter’s night. When a child leaves a plate of porridge on the doorstep for Tomten, Tomten wants to share it with Mickel. He tells Mickel that he would share it every night with him if he needs to. Mickel is happy, full and goes back into the forest.” Read more and listen to a read out of the story below.
Tomten is a trusted leader and as all servant leaders, you just wished you saw him or her more often.
When I was a small child we always put out a bowl of porridge with some extra butter on Christmas eve for Tomten to thank him for the year. (5)
And it was always empty in the morning. So Tomten must have been there – right?
Listen to a song about TomteNissen in Swedish.
References and Links
1) About Santa Claus from History today https://www.historytoday.com/archive/natural-histories/how-father-christmas-found-his-reindeer
2) About the Scandinavian Tomtenisse https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nisse_(folklore)
3) The poem Tomten by Viktor Rydberg http://www.tomtenposter.com/Tomten.html
4) Tomten and the fox by Astrid Lindgren
5) Porridge gratitude to Tomten https://www.icecreamnation.org/2011/12/swedish-yule-rice-ice-cream/
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