World Café

Travel the World Café at Elizabethtown Public Library

Elizabethtown Coffee Company is the heart of the World Café program at Elizabethtown Public Library and helps to advance our mission. The vision of the World Café is to increase awareness of authors, cultures and realities from around the globe. We want everyone to be able to discover new places and different ideas that expand our thinking and our minds.

Each month the Library selects a different location. Sometimes its a region within the United States. It might be a coffee or tea growing country and it may even be a body of water that houses sea creatures and mythical beings. You can sign up to participate in this year-long program and complete your World Café passport for a year of exploration and a chance to win fun prizes.

December highlights Sweden!

History Overview

Sweden is one of the Scandinavian countries. It shares a land border with Norway and Finland, and has coastline along the Skagerrak Sea, Kattegat Sea, Baltic Sea, and Gulf of Bothnia. Germania by Tacitus provides the earliest, surviving written description of the people living in Sweden. He described the people living their as powerful and said they had an abundance of weapons and boats.

During the Middle Ages, Sweden was home to Vikings. Due to Arab expansion, trade with the Middle East ramped up and the Vikings took control of the major trade routes south through modern day Russia and Ukraine. The Vikings exploited the Slavic people and traded them into slavery and traded their furs. Caches of Arab coins from this period have been found throughout Sweden. The Vikings raided Western Europe as well. Their activity is believed to have caused the founding of Sweden’s oldest town, Birka, in around 800.

Christianity was introduced in Sweden around the 11th century (earlier attempts were made which were largely unsuccessful). The conversion process was long, sometimes grueling and violent. While the Vikings declined, a general rule by a linking of chieftains and provinces existed. The earliest textual reference to Sweden as being an independent kingdom is a papal decree establishing Sweden as a diocese in 1164. Soon afterwards a further consolidation of power occurred and noble rule by heredity was inaugurated under King Mangus Ladulas in 1280. This by no means meant that rule transitioned smoothly; wars and struggles for power occurred both before and continued after this decree.

In 1397, Sweden formed the Kalmar Union with Norway and Denmark which consolidated all three countries under a single monarch. This Union lasted until 1523 at which point Sweden rebelled because of the Danish ruler Christian II’s execution of his opponents, dubbed the “Stockholm Bloodbath.” Sweden gained independence under King Gustav I Vasa who is credited with laying the foundations for modern Sweden. He also split away from the Catholic Church and established the Church of Sweden (which is Lutheran).

During the 17th century Sweden was a dominant military power. Since then, Sweden has remained a remarkably pacifist nation. The Napoleonic Wars were the final ones in which Sweden participated. Sweden did not participate in either World War. They did, however, take in refugees fleeing the Nazi’s during World War II.

Finance and Technology

Swedish banking has been at the forefront of adopting new technologies. When ATMs were invented, Sweden had one open only a week after the first one was released in London in July 1976. Now, they’re at it again.

Sweden is at the forefront of going cashless. Many businesses have QR codes for people to make payments from their Swish account, an app which instantly transfers money. Another prominent mobile app is BankID. With this app, all you need is a Swedish personal identification number and bank account; then you can access public services, make payments, and sign contracts, all with a six digit code. One reason these payment methods are popular is for their convenience. When out to eat with friends, people can easily split the check which is important since many see debt between friends as a threat to their friendship.

As for leading on the side of technology, over 4,000 Swedes have implanted a microchip in their hand. Why did they do this? It saves them from carrying money or IDs. All of the information is stored in their microchip and electronic readers are able to process the information just like the touchless card readers we use.

The Sami People

A group of indigenous people, the Sami are an official minority in Sweden, which grants them special rights and protections. An estimated 20,000 Sami live in Sweden, which is roughly a quarter of the worldwide population. These people are famous for herding reindeer and have lived in northern Scandinavia since at least the 2nd millennium BCE. For more information on these fascinating people, check out the Swedish Institute site here.

Midwinter Craft

For this month’s craft, you can make two figures from Swedish tradition: Saint Lucia or the Star Boy. If you’re asking who these people are, read on to find out!

On December 13, Luciadag, a procession takes place with a girl fulfilling the roll of Lucia. She is crowned with a wreath with candles and wears a white gown and red sash. Other girls follow in the procession as well as boys who wear a conical hat with stars, hence the name “star boys.” They sing a folk song, Sankta Lucia, and bring gingersnaps and saffron buns to people.

Saint Lucia, a Sicilian saint from the 4th century CE, is the namesake of the tradition. As the legend goes, during the Diocletian persecution Lucia took food and drink to Christians hiding in catacombs while wearing a wreath of candles to light her way.

While some people draw a connection to the Christ Child processions in Germany, there is no other Lucia Day event around the world like the one in Sweden. Today, it is largely a nonreligious tradition, in which focus is on Lucia as the light bearer in the dark Swedish winters. For this purpose, Lucia is a fitting name, from the Latin lux, which means “light.” There are many additional traditions associated with this day, such as animals having the ability to talk. You can read some more about this tradition on the Swedish Institute website, or check out our book Sweden: A Portrait of the Country Through its Festivals and Traditions.

Spectacular Swedish Stories

There are many great books about Sweden to read at the Library. You can go on a walk with Nina the cat in A Christmas Sweater for Nina; although her sweater unravels, she is led to friendship and a special gift. Or you can read about Greta Thunberg and the true story of how she came to be a climate activist. This book is in the Little People, Big Dreams set of biographies. For the history buff, we have A Concise History of Sweden by Neil Kent, and the intriguing Made in Sweden by Elisabeth Åsbrink which looks at 25 different aspects of what makes Sweden what it is today. If music is more your style, we have the recently released ABBA Forever: The Winner Takes it All. This documentary DVD starts from before ABBA formed as a group and goes all the way through their career, filled with interviews, behind the scenes looks, and of course many songs.

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