Simple and quick jul decorations
Finally the parts for the gingerbread house have been put together. The frosting came off on several parts. Too much sugar in the mix, which made it brittle. But it looks kind of cute anyway.
When I build gingerbread houses I prefer to use caramelized sugar rather than frosting. It holds a lot better. But please be careful if you do! Melted sugar will act more or less like napalm if you get it on your skin. In case you missed the recipe for making your own Swedish gingerbread dough you can find it here.
Put some granulated sugar in a normal frying pan and start heating it up on medium to high heat on your stove. Stir every now and then. At first it seems like nothing is happening and all of a sudden the sugar starts melting rather quickly.
Prepare a baking tray or a board with some baking paper. Also make sure to cover the area between where you will build your gingerbread house and the stove or dripping sugar might damage your counter top.
Once the sugar has melted, put one of the short sides of the house lying down. With a spoon, spread some melted sugar along the edges. Take the long sides and dip the edges that go towards the corners you just prepared as well as the other sides. Press them against the short side until it’s steadily fixed.
Put the house standing. Prepare the other short side and press it against the long sides. Next, do the same for the roof and chimney if you have one.
Once you’re done, try scraping out as much of the sugar as you can onto some kitchen paper. Do NOT flush it down the sink or straight into your trash can, like that you might either end up with a plumbing problem or with a melted plastic bin… Pour hot water into the pan and put it back on the stove. Repeat until you’re able to get out all the remaining sugar.
Even if the decoration partially fell off, the end result is quite cute anyway.
If you want to make some quick candle holders and don’t want to buy them in a store I have a simple trick for you. Use some mason or jam jars after you finish eating the content. Take some gold or silver acrylic paint (around half to one tea spoon in each) and mix with a little water. Stir around with a brush or a stick.
Then let the paint trickle up along the edges of the jar back and forth a few times to create a nice pattern. You can also paint patterns on the outside directly with the brush if you prefer. Let them dry for a few hours afterwards. Put in some tealights or thick candles and you’ll have some jul feeling in an instant.
Why celebrate jul?
What’s all this jul talk by the way? Jul is the Swedish word for Christmas, or Yule if you like. The word and some of the traditions are older than Christianity, but as with many traditions it has gone through a metamorphosis over the years. Some elements remain, some have changed or become distorted, one religion has been followed by the next while some elements in the celebrations remain.
With time I have developed my own interpretation of all of this. I see a point in giving attention to the darkest time of the year. I guess you can call my tradition (since some years now) a form of winter solstice celebration, but probably not in the way pagans of the past would have celebrated it. It’s something more personal, and I mash it up with some elements of Christmas celebrations that many others use. For me it has another kind of significance.
I suggest you take the time to think a bit about why and what you celebrate at this time (if you do it at all). So many people feel forced to buy a ton of things, have this or that food. A lot of “have to” that isn’t necessary. Choose your own way in all of this. As someone who didn’t celebrate at all for some years, I can say that you will survive anyway and you will get another perspective on the consumption madness.
Other Swedish crazy stuff
Another “crazy” thing celebrated in Sweden is Saint Lucia’s day on the 13th of December. I say crazy, because I find it funny that a protestant country decided to pick up celebrating a catholic saint. The first Swedish Lucia celebrations are said to have taken place in the 18th century in the homes of noble families. The tradition spread to a wider audience in 1927 when a beauty contest was held by a Stockholm newspaper to find a Lucia representative to walk in a procession. Since then there are regular processions on this day with a Lucia with candles in her hair and a multitude of singing. Check an example of how it can look below: