uppsala-river

on the last day of april it’s time to celebrate

there are so many fun traditions swirling around this time of year… we are halfway through spring and headed straight towards summer. and, here in sweden, that is serious business.

the last of april (sista april) is a day that takes all of that excitement about spring and life and warmth and growth and light, and calls for bbqs, bonfires, music, champagne, and outdoor fun, including letting animals out to pasture again. it is a day, especially in uppsala (where i live), where the celebration begins early in the morning on the last day of april and continues on into the first day of may, a national holiday in sweden.

but, why the last of april? where did this tradition come from?

ultimately, in the northern hemisphere, this is the time of year when mother earth opens up and brings new life all around. that’s the basis of this entire celebration. a pagan, hedonistic, ancient day of celebrating the desire to leave winter completely behind, including turning away evil spirits, and welcoming the warmth + light + new life of the spring and summer months.

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 the other name for the last of april is valborg, which comes from the name of saint walpurga, a woman who left england to become a missionary nun in germany in the 700s. may 1st is her saints day. christians took the former pagan festival of the celebration of spring, and turned it into a celebration of st. walpurga.

however, valborg in sweden has very little to do with religion, and everything to do with the arrival of spring. and, this is not a private, family celebration like christmas or easter, mind you. no, this is a very, very public event. whole towns and cities gather together outside to celebrate as a community.

and the biggest community celebration is found in uppsala. lucky me! 

yes, the largest and most traditional valborg celebration is found right here where i live. the celebration begins early in the morning with a breakfast of champagne + strawberries, and ends late at night. in between, all day long, there are tons of traditions and thousands of people. it is estimated that about 10,000 extra visitors will make their way to uppsala on the last day of april to take part in this gigantic celebration of spring. that’s insane! basically, it’s gonna be wall to wall people all over the city, especially in parks. on blankets. having bbqs and drinking massive amounts of alcohol. the city has even ordered 62,400 bottles of water – encouraging everyone to drink a bottle of water in-between drinks. serious business, huh?

this year also marks the 40th anniversary of a rafting competition in the river that runs through the middle of the city. the rafts have to be handmade, therefore they are rickety, funny, and quite easily torn apart, i imagine. i’ve never seen the rafting race, so i hope to make it down there this year!

there are free concerts, with choirs singing very traditional spring songs, a speech by the university’s president from the balcony of the library (where thousands of people gather), and a champagne run. later in the evening, outside of the city there are big bonfires and more songs.

so, the whole day is just one, big, crazy celebration. 

i am most definitely looking forward to celebrating my 2nd valborg in uppsala, my 4th in sweden. the last time i was in uppsala, i was deathly ill with some sort of stomach virus, so i missed out on most everything. i stayed curled up in the fetal position with a bucket beside my bed in the guest room at lina’s brother’s apartment. from my little cot, i listened to everyone in the living room, partying and having fun. poor me, right?

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but, this year, i’m all ready!

we’ve got our champagne and wine chilling, our grill + picnic blanket all ready, and we can’t wait to celebrate the magical, life-giving, beautiful spring + summer in sweden. now, let’s just keep our fingers crossed (and hold our thumbs) for good weather tomorrow!

have a great (and safe) last day of april! and, join in the celebrations wherever you are – celebrate spring or autumn. either way, the seasons are moving forward, and the amazing cycle of life continues. how freaking awesome is it that we get to be a part of that?

i’ll check back in over the weekend + share some photos. after recovering from the celebrations, of course. wink. wink.

onwards + upwards! xoxo

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merry christmas eve: bringing sweden to the states

god jul!! hello, friends! can you believe that it is christmas eve already? how did that happen?!

things are pretty exciting in our home right now. since it’s christmas eve, it’s the big swedish celebration day for christmas, and we are planning on putting on the most swedish julafton (christmas eve) we can! what that means is that we get christmas stockings this morning, search for a donald duck cartoon on the internet to watch (a swedish christmas tv cartoon that the entire country watches at 3pm on christmas eve – don’t ask. hehe. traditions are what they are! and i love donald duck!), make meatballs, potatoes, and ribs for a big dinner this afternoon, listen to christmas music, light candles, have a mid-afternoon fika, and enjoy a slow, cozy day together.

this year, of course, we are celebrating with lina’s parents who are here – soooo cool! and my parents + brother will join us for dinner this afternoon, so they’ll get a little of the swedish christmas vibe, which means so much to me.

it’s a very rainy + dreary day here in the mountains of asheville. no snowy christmas eve, but it’s still cozy. right now it’s early morning, and i’m enjoying a few moments to myself before the festivities begin. by this evening we will make the switch over to celebrating christmas eve in the traditional american way – a trip to the church where i used to work ages ago, for their candlelight service, family movie time with popcorn, and then bed – to wait for santa to come! we are actually going to all sleep at my parents’ home, so we’ll even have a traditional christmas day morning. it’s so much fun to celebrate in two different ways – makes the holiday last even longer. hehe.

basically, it’s just all a bunch of excitement right now. (*giggles + squeals*). wishing you a beautiful christmas eve filled with lots of laughter + a few stolen moments of peace and silence. soak it all in. breathe deep the love. and enjoy the little things. i know i sure will.

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light + love xoxo

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back where i come from

you know, i was planning on doing a big wrap-up post at the end of my beach vacation with the family, but i realized that i will not have time to doing blogging once i get home. why, you ask? because we arrive home on sunday night and on tuesday morning we head to sweden for a month (WOO HOO!) – so, monday will be filled with laundry, organizing, and packing! instead of one big post, i’ve decided that i’ll do updates whenever i can – this might be my only post, but it might not be. who knows… you just gotta stay tuned!

our vacation is happening at atlantic beach, north carolina – a place that my family calls “home”. not only because we have always vacationed here together – since i was 10! – but, also because one of our ancestors was the keeper of the cape lookout lighthouse, one of the famous NC lighthouses. he was keeper in the mid-1800s, the first one actually. he raised his family on these NC islands, known as the outer banks. and, ever since, my family has been represented here and connected to this part of the state in one way or another. so, when i say that this place feels like home, i really mean it. there is just something special that we all feel when we are here.

as i know i have said before at some point, being here is one of the constants in my life. it is just a magical, grounded, completely centered feeling that i have when i stare out at the great, big, wide atlantic ocean – a feeling of belonging and peace. and, of course, fun!

so, here’s what we’ve been up to since we arrived on sunday: fun, food, drinks, sand, surf, laughter, & fireworks. the week has started off with a bang – and it just keeps getting better.

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fireworks fireworks-beach atlantic beach fireworks.

peace & love. from me to you. xx

enjoying the last few mysterious minutes of christmas day…

are you stuffed? or satisfied? do you feel exhausted? or energized? was it a peaceful day? or a wild & crazy one? whatever your christmas day has brought you, i hope that it has been beautiful and meaningful… i hope it has been exactly what you wanted and/or needed.

i have been blessed with a very quiet, calm day. a little different from all christmases throughout the rest of my life, but change is inevitable. and almost always for the better… i’ll admit, i have had my share of sad moments today, but even in those, i have felt a certain peace. a kind of steadiness and security – something that comes from two things: one, is my complete acceptance and appreciation of myself. i’m in a really good place right now… strong, grounded, inspired. my steadiness and security also come from my amazing wife and the unconditional, ever-supportive, always-nurturing love that she gives me. so, those rougher moments were made all the more smooth.

still, as i lay in bed right now, with only the glow of the computer and the star lit in our window, i feel a deep peace within. and a twinge of excitement and hesitation as i embark on the last week of this year, and approach the first week of a new one. i have no idea what is in store for me for 2014… but i am breathless with anticipation and it feels as if the slate is completely blank. like anything is possible.

but, before i get on with those reflective posts about the new year (more to come in the next week), i want to revel in the magic and mystery of christmas for a few more minutes…

so, just to be a little different, i thought i’d share with y’all my christmas photos in video-style. there were many magical, peaceful, and wonderfully shared moments during this advent and christmas season. one thing is for sure… this has been the most spiritual, meaningful, powerful, and disciplined advent season i have ever experienced. interestingly, i did not step foot in a church or take part in any other organized religion’s activity the entire time. what i did do was devote at least 30 minutes every morning to myself for reading, writing, reflecting, and/or meditating. that time every day was perhaps one of the greatest gifts i received this christmas.

anyway… here are some holiday moments that i captured with my camera – some of them spent alone, but most of them spent in the presence of loved ones. enjoy!

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click on the photo to watch the video!

here’s to wishing you a very merry christmas filled with love & peace.

 

 

 

party time!

happy friday, friends! here in the mcguire-eriksson household things are full speed ahead with preparations for a full-blown housewarming/christmas party called “eat, drink, & be merry”! that’s right. tonight we’re the hosts with the most. we’ve contacted friends and acquaintances from all parts of our life here in asheville and invited them to drop in for lots of christmas coziness – food, drink, carols, games, laughter. it’s gonna be legen – wait for it – dary! and we loooove to throw a party.

so, if you’re in the area, drop on by anytime after 5pm. and if you’re not in the area, or can’t come, then we wish you a friday filled with celebrations wherever you are.

i reaaaally need to get busy with all of those preparations, like right now. but first, i’d like to share with you some of the decorations we have in our home: we love to decorate (as you will see) and it’s all about creating a cozy, christmas-y atmosphere for us…

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that’s our place… third floor with the lights on the balcony and stars in the windows!

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ok. time to get busy. wishing you a lovely weekend and lots of moments of holiday cheer!

peace and love. xx

whoa! it’s december already!

click on the photo to watch my november photos fly by... hehe.

click on the photo to watch my november photos fly by… hehe.

i think this month snuck up on me. i was totally not prepared. like, not at all. first of all, november flew by like nothing i’ve ever experienced before. it felt as if it was only a week long. i mean, i have absolutely no idea where the time went or what i did. but, there’s no time to focus on that now…

it’s december! in fact, today it is already late at night on the 2nd of december. i need things to slow down. i don’t want to miss out on savoring the moments that come. i want to live in the present, and be aware and mindful of all that is going on. but, more than anything, i don’t want december to go by in a flurry of activities and miss the meaningfulness of this season – religious, natural, or otherwise . i want to embrace and feel all of december’s days and rituals and traditions.

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but, that’s what’s good about photo journeys, i think. if nothing else, i slow just enough during the day to intentionally take a photo that means something, that represents something. when i make the photo journeys, i also think very long and hard about the season, the month, and all of the cyclical things that will be happening during the month – and i try to keep in mind all my buddies in the southern hemisphere as well. i try really hard to use the happenings of the year in the themes and sub themes of the photo journeys…

so, with that in mind, i decided that december’s theme would be “the gifts of the season”. it is my intentional way of finding space and time every single day to slow down just enough to be aware of one of the gifts that this season gives us. this december, i decided to focus on 5 different sub themes (or gifts):

1. the gift of preparation (dec. 1-7) – if you are religious, then this first week’s sub theme has everything to do with the season of advent in the christian calendar. a season much like lent (before easter), one of preparation for the celebration that is to follow. a time to look inward, to listen, to look, to be watchful and aware. a time to consider who we are, what we hope for, and how we live out that hope in our lives. if you are not religious, no problem. it is still a season of preparation: preparing for the holidays and the end of a year. it’s all too easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle, so preparing ourselves and slowing down and being mindful is something we all need, especially as the year comes to a close.

2. the gift of symbols (dec. 8-14)  – there are symbols everywhere you look throughout december. from stars to lights to trees to noises. we often don’t think of the meanings behind all of the symbols, but there are very deep, powerful meanings behind them all. this december, i hope that we all stop to consider those meanings when we take a photo of some of those symbols during the second week… if you don’t know the meaning of the symbol for the day, then i will be sure to write about it on my instagram photo, so you can find out there. or, you can just leave a comment here & ask me. :)

3. the gift of continuity (dec. 15-21) – during december, the third week of it to be exact, we change seasons in the northern hemisphere… from autumn to winter. we are faced with the longest day of the year, the darkest time of the year, as the sun is the farthest away from us. however, once the winter solstice is past, the days begin getting longer every day from december 22 to june 22 (the longest day of the year/summer solstice). this change of seasons, these yearly cycles, teach so so very much about life and death, hope and promise, even in the midst of darkness and suffering. it is a very symbolic time of the year, theologically and naturally. then again, i’m the girl who believes that nature teaches us about spirituality, and spirituality teaches us about nature. or, to put it another way, all of life is sacred and holy. mysterious. known, and yet unknown. so, the third sub theme is meant to help us focus on nature and all that she teaches us through the mystery of rhythms and cycles. you know, many of our holiday traditions actually come from early pagan rituals of celebration of this time of year in nature… so, it’s only fitting that we celebrate this miraculous and beautiful time of year, thanking mother nature for all she has done.

4. the gift of music (dec. 22-28) – ok. so i got cheesy here. but, we all love some holiday music. and seeing that this is the week of christmas eve and christmas day, i thought we’d take some time to slow down and really feel the music of the season – we’re gonna be singing it and hearing it anyway, might as well focus on it. of course, it was really hard to choose songs for this, because i could do a whole year of photo journeys on christmas songs. but, these, kinda just came to me as i thought about each day and they felt right. so, interpret them however you wish… but at least give them a listen on their day. let the music speak to your soul.

5. the gift of reflection (dec. 29-31) – if you know anything about me personally, you know that i looove reflecting before i move on. so, for the last three days of 2013, i thought it’d be fun to think a little about the year that has been and the year that is to come. and then, on the 31st… it’s all about celebrating!!

i hope that you join in with me during december. i hope that you don’t think of it as “one more thing to do”, but instead, something to help us stay focused and aware. time flies by so fast. life moves at a speedy pace and we miss so much. hopefully this photo journey will help us to take a breath and take a look at all that is going on, and then, take that moment to be grateful for one tiny little thing.

in any case, this photo journey is my holiday gift to you.

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here’s to wishing you a december that is merry and bright! peace & love. xx