They were lying there, blatantly open for anyone to see, in the glass counter at our local baker's.
During the first day of my recent Christmas holiday in Arvika, Sweden, I had popped in to get a quick something for our coffee. I hadn't expected this, though. I hadn't expected semlor in December!
"Oh but they are made with saffron" said the lady behind the counter. As if that would alleviate the shock. I kindly turned down the offer, paid for my four lussekatter and left the shop, pondering about traditions.
I have always maintained that it is morally wrong (I exaggerate now, for effect) to provide semlor for public consumption before the time they are meant to be eaten. Just as it would be wrong to throw a crayfish party at Easter, boiled and painted eggs at Midsummer or sing Helan Går on New Year's Eve.
I mean – why can't people just respect traditions? They are there for a reason, you know.
We buy flat screen TVs, Chanel No5 perfumes and X-boxes to celebrate the birth of Jesus, right? Some of us go as far as Boxing Day Sales, to please the Lord. We eat till we drop and stay merry and gay throughout the festive Season, just to celebrate that a child was born in Betlehem.
But as I was strolling along with my newly aquired lussekatter in the centre of Arvika, filled with increasingly desperate shoppers, it dawned on me just how narrow-minded I had been.
If we really like something – whatever it might be and for whatever reason – why shouldn't we be able to enjoy it all year round? Life is too short for avoidances and Bah Humbugs. Like Scrooge on Christmas Day, I changed my mind. I came to the conclusion that whoever felt like stuffing themselves with semlor on Christmas Eve had the perfect right to do so.
For me, Christmas Eve was spent in a somewhat updated family constellation this year. There were Swedish, English, French and Arabic influences. Young and old, men and women. Some were meat-eaters, some ate fish, but not meat. Some were vegetarians, some didn't eat pork. Various cultures, religions – and 'non religions' – were represented amongst our little family gathering. This might sound like a brewing Bergmanesque drama, waiting to happen, but... no. Far from it.
We cherry-picked bits from our varied and unorthodox smörgåsbord, we laughed a lot and had a great Christmas Eve. There was a good mix of languages with not that much lost in translation, even though I must admit, it is never easy to explain to non-Swedes just why a whole nation watches Disney at 3pm, year in, year out. "Look. In the UK, there is the Queen's Speech. We have Kalle Anka. Get over it."
Anyway. The moral of this story is: "To everyone what they want, whenever they want it."
Because they are probably worth it and it really doesn't matter why they want it – as long as it is for a good cause.
And no, there were no semlor on our Christmas table. But... you know what? I might just give it a go, next Christmas!