Thursday, December 20, 2001

The Swedes are not a skeptical people. They have an endearingly childlike willingness to participate. They believe in joining in on reindeer games.

Take an office party, just as an example. An office party could start off with everyone drinking vodka cocktails, followed by an office choir singing traditional Swedish and American Christmas carols. Then, everyone could sit down and a toastmaster would present the evening. Then two old guys from the office could get up and play electric guitars and sing songs about the company, but to the tune of "Alice's Restaurant." And everyone, but everyone happily joins in on the choruses, and starts to clap along.

If it were America, everyone would be looking around to see if anyone else was clapping. As for singing along, well, social singing is a lost art in America I fear.

But I digress. At this fictitious office party, everyone could then be asked to participate in a game wherein a table is brought out on which are set 60 presents, which is the same number of guests at the fictitious office party. They are then asked to play a game wherein they roll a die that is passed along the table (or in the case of this particular fictitious office party, there are six dice planted around the big u-shaped table at which everyone is sitting) and when they get a six, they may go up and pick a present, or if they have one already, they may exchange with someone who has a better-looking present.

I can't imagine the people at the public relations firm I worked at in the States playing this game.

The Swedes, however, love it. They are laughing and running and whooping and frantically grabbing presents all over the place. They dive into it with gusto.

Of course, at this fictitious party they do a lot of adult-type things as well, mainly, once the food and games are over, they push aside the tables and get drunk and dance under the twinkling Christmas lights strung up around the room, paper stars in the window, candles all around. This continues until 2 a.m., the winter's first storm raging outside and making everyone feel snug and safe and helping them forget they have to be at work early the next morning.

The only disappointing thing about the party is if they forget to sing "Hej, tomtegubbar," especially since it is about the only drinking song one knows.

The Swedish phrase for the day is att ha roligt. It means to have fun.

- by Francis S.

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