Christmas this year will take place at my sister’s house in Sweden. A total of three dogs, two cats and five adults will cram inside my sister’s house in Jämtland. Five pets are about four too many for my husband, as is my family’s inclination to talk about them during all waking hours. The house itself is technically large enough to fit most of us; however, some rooms lack doors, others heating, others both – a situation that further puts my husband on edge.

There are two bathrooms, but one belongs to the cats, as does the main guest bedroom. In this room, it’s important to remain perfectly still while sleeping, or you become practice target for tiny but razor-sharp teeth and claws. My sister is a vet, so there tends to be a lot of pet maintenance taking place: dental care, ear cleaning, worming and so on, all of which puts husband right off his imported mince-pies. Dog walks consist of dragging one dog along while chasing a second (the third one is a puppy, who hasn’t yet decided which camp to join).

Swedes wear socks indoors, which – as my husband likes to point out – is a bad idea when large parts of the floor are covered by puddles of melting snow, brought in from outside by 20 furry paws. To a non-pet person, it’s all a bit inconvenient and hectic.

However, once the snow puddles have been mopped up and darkness descends, Christmas peace arrives. Pets snooze in front of the fire, candles twinkle and snow falls softly outside. At this point, husband might agree that Swedish Christmases are quite special. He will, however, be quick to point out that they still aren’t a patch on those spent scoffing pigs in blankets while listening to Slade and torrential rain inside a decent West Midlands pub.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Scan Magazine Ltd.

Maria Smedstad moved to the UK from Sweden in 1994. She received a degree in Illustration in 2001, before settling in the capital as a freelance cartoonist, creating the autobiographical cartoon Em. Maria writes a column on the trials and tribulations of life as a Swede in the UK.

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