Christmas table in Oktorp Farmstead at the Skansen open-air museum, Stockolm
The Oktorp Farmstead (Oktorpsgården) comes from Halland. It shows what a farmstead in the flat countryside there looked like in the 1870s.
In front of the high seat there is a table and in front of the table a movable bench. But it was only on festive occasions that people ate at this table. On ordinary days the food was set out on a so-called chair-table close to the stove.
There are two built-in beds with curtains in the room, separated by a cupboard. It was here that farmer and his wife and the younger children slept. In winter the farm hands slept on benches in the kitchen quarters while in the summer they had their own sleeping quarters. Beneath the bed cupboard there was a space enclosed by a grill in which the ducks and hens were kept in the winter.
As the room appears at Skansen it has been decorated for a festive occasion. The walls and the ceiling have been draped with painted hangings and woven linen cloths. Normally the room did not look like this at all. But in southern Sweden it was not usual to have a separate room for parties. Instead, the living room was appropriately decorated for special occasions. Long painted hangings were fixed to the walls above the benches. Tapestries were woven by the women of the farm. The painted hangings, with Biblical motifs, were bought at markets or from itinerant salesmen. Behind the living room there are two further rooms, one of them furnished for the elderly grandmother Ingeborg. A tiled stove was erected in the room in the 19th century.
More information: http://www.skansen.se
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Europe is generally agreed to be the birthplace of western culture, including such legendary innovations as the democratic nation-state, football and tomato sauce.
The word Europe comes from the Greek goddess Europa, who was kidnapped by Zeus and plunked down on the island of Crete. Europa gradually changed from referring to mainland Greece until it extended finally to include Norway and Russia.
Don't be confused that Europe is called a continent without looking like an island, the way the other continents do. It's okay. The Ural mountains have steadily been there to divide Europe from Asia for the last 250 million years. Russia technically inhabits "Eurasia".
Europe is presently uniting into one political and economic zone with a common currency called the Euro. The European Union originated in 1993 and is now composed of 27 member states. Its headquarters is in Brussels, Belgium.
Do not confuse the EU with the Council of Europe, which has 47 member states and dates to 1949. These two bodies share the same flag, national anthem, and mission of integrating Europe. The headquarters of the Council are located in Strasbourg, France, and it is most famous for its European Court of Human Rights.
In spite of these two bodies, there is still no single Constitution or set of laws applying to all the countries of Europe. Debate rages over the role of the EU in regards to national sovereignty. As of January 2009, the Lisbon Treaty is the closest thing to a European Constitution, yet it has not been approved by all the EU states.
Text by Steve Smith.