Relatives came and joined us around 5 o'clock and we all bundled up for the walk to the Laestadian Lutheran Church just up the road for their annual Scandinavian Bazaar and Bakery. As we arrived, the bright lights and wonderful smells were an amazing welcome. Passing through the doors, young girls in traditional dress handed us gifts of chocolate and glogg(mulled wine). The scents of cinnamon and cardamom from the main hall were almost overwhelming.
The hall was filled with long tables, covered in sweet and savoury baked goods. All manner of Scandinavian specialties; from cinnamon coffee loaves and rich malt bread, to delicate shortbreads and cardamom crisps. And a lovely heated case, filled with freshly fried donuts, from our old friend, Marjo Niemi. There were also displays of Scandinavian handcrafts, including a beautiful wooden Christmas star that had to leave with us.
At the far end of the room a dinner counter was set up and plates full of Swedish meatballs with mashed potatoes and apple beet salad were being loaded up, along with all manner of pies and sweets. Absolutely spectacular! (By the way, it's also running on Saturday the 15th from 9 until noon. If you have a chance you really should check it out!)
We zipped up our coats and donned our hats, and headed out, laden with all our sweet treats. 5 minutes later, were were on the main street, waiting with so many others for the lighting of the town's Christmas tree. This kicked off the Cookstown's Light The Night event. Vendors were giving away candy and hot apple cider and all the shops were open late for early holiday shopping.
We shuffled home for and hour or 2. A steaming pot of soup and thick slices of Finnish potato bread (fresh from the bazaar) made for the perfect warm-up. But by 8 o'clock, we were once again donning our winter gear. It was time for the Cookstown Santa Claus Parade!
There is an honesty and a sweetness to a small town Christmas parade. The local fire trucks and ambulance leading the way along with the police(who block off the whole town for the event). Next the floats from the local businesses; decorated pick-up trucks and lawn tractors. People earnestly showing their holiday spirit and commitment to their town. And last but not least, the jolly fat man himself. As we looked around, we realized that the whole town was out for the event. It wasn't about commercialism and big money advertising. It was about community, which seem like a great feeling to base a holiday season around.
Then along with all our neighbours we trundled off home. Time for the children to head to bed. Aunts, uncles and grandparents headed out for a slow and safe drive home. And Kris and I poured ourselves big glasses(ok, Mason jars) of red wine and tucked into a late "second supper" of Swedish meatballs with all the fixings.
If I didn't get it before, I do now. Thanks for the welcome, Cookstown. You can't imagine how happy we are to be here.