Where is the world’s largest Christmas parade? Somewhere in the United States? Sure! But in Brålanda, Sweden we saw one yesterday that might beat most others. It struck us! With amazement!
Arletta: Have you been in Brålanda before?
Ellington: I was here in 1984, at the road café. My wife and I were on our way to the maternity ward in Vänersborg because the labour had begun. We dared take a break for a cup of coffee there. A late August night it was. Yes, and I’ve been there seeing the vast fields. Then I have been out in the bright summer night to listen to night-active birds. Quail and corncrakes.
Brålanda is situated in the middle of the Dalbo plains in Dalsland somewhat north of Göteborg. You see the fields everywhere as far as the eye reaches. In springtime and autumn harvest time you need patience while driving the E45 here. Tractors big as houses and long vehicles with bulky farm machinery or carriages with harvested cereals. They drive slow and you need to take it easy while waiting to be able to overtake some of those.
Now it’s winter, and tractors and other machines are parked in the garage for the year.
But no! Just where the railroad divides the Brålanda community in two, there’s a long winding line of people moving towards the centre. From Skolgatan they come in one line. Along the street of Allégatan they are coming too. And along Storgatan as well. On the other side of the railroad crossing people are thronged. We go there too, and now we hear them.
The tractors. On the side streets they are parked among candy stands, carousels and flickering light arrangements. Along the extension of Storgatan we see more of them. It is impossible to see how far the line extends.
We have come to see Tomteparaden. We are waiting in the company of thousands of others. Someone says ten thousand and yes, we would appreciate it to six thousand, but it’s hard counting them all in the dark, even for me who sometimes try to count how many birds there are in a flock of starlings or jackdaws that cover the whole sky.
When the parade arrives, we have been waiting for an hour in the raw December evening. ”Tomteparaden”, said our friend from Älvängen, who told us about this.” It would be great if the Santas were combined with what Christmas is about.”
Here are Santas in as many variations as you could imagine. They are on wagons, on horses and tractors, and it almost makes us think of a medieval carnival, when we see partially dramatized situations on some of the carriages.
First of all, at the very front, there’s a carriage with flashy advertising messages, and among all those, it’s a bit surprising to read ”Jesus – the best Christmas gift!”
The Santas and the Christmas Goat, the icicles and the great swan remind of other sources of Christmas – a nature-worship with partially pagan roots.
The evangelical message does not dominate the parade at all. However, as it happens, it frames the whole of it.
For just at the end of the parade comes The Christmas star. There’s a group of three people dressed up as a camel, stirring biblical associations. And then a small following of Santas carrying a banner with the same message as we saw on the commercials in the car at the very front: ”Jesus – the best Christmas gift”.
It is advertised as the world’s longest Christmas Parade. And it may well be. In a stately train, the tractors, carriages and other vehicles are more beautiful than you could imagine. They passed past us slowly, in a never-ending stream. A great job this was, and beautiful. We stood amazed in the gray darkness – without feeling the cold – for over an hour while the train was majestically – and jestingly – sweeping by.
Then it was over. And we thought – what a vision! What a venture!
Arletta: Yes! And I thought – what a possibility! Do we dare ask the Brålanda people if they want to invite us all for a snack and a little conversation and small-talk afterwards next time? In Folkets Hus? In the Community Centre? The Church?
Ellington / Arletta