What is Årsväntan?
Årsväntan translates from Swedish as “The Year’s Wait”, and is a six-week long countdown between Alvablot (often observed at the end of October or beginning of November in Sweden) and Julblot, which is often held to be the Heathen New Year. It is essentially a Heathen alternative to the Christian Advent, functioning as sort of a borrow-back between Christian and Pagan Yule traditions. It is not a tradition based in pre-Christian tradition, but is still based in traditional Scandinavian customs. This time is also sometimes called Solväntan (The Sun Wait), as the primary purpose (alongside the Christian’s wait for the arrival of the birth of Christ) is awaiting the arrival of Sol’s rebirth, when the days begin to grow longer again.
When is it celebrated?
Most people observing this will do so on the eve between Thursday and Friday of each consecutive week up until Yule. The first week is in mid-November (November 13th for 2014) and it goes until right before the winter solstice.
Who celebrates it?
This is primarily a Swedish Heathen custom, and is thus mainly a feature in Swedish Forn Sed, though that does not necessarily mean that there aren’t others who observe it as well.
How is it celebrated?
Årsväntan is a relatively simple affair, and is observed in similar fashion to Advent, minus of course the overtly Christian elements. For most, they will have six candles set up on a candle holder (called a väntljusstaken) and each week they will light the candle(s) corresponding to the number of weeks that have gone by (first candle on the first week, first and second candles on the second week, etc.). Some will also have a seventh candle that is lit along with the other six at the end of the seventh week, though this is in many cases done for the fact that a lot of candle holders will have seven spots instead of six. A lot of people will make their own holders which can be as simple or complex as they desire, and often they will carve the first six runes into the candles (F,U,Þ,A/Ą,R,K) and meditate on them as they are lit. The rest is basically up to the individual.
Why celebrate Årsväntan?
Though this is essentially a borrowing from Christian Yuletide traditions, the Year Wait functions as a time of anticipation for the return of the sun and the lengthening of days. It is also a way to sort of enjoy and appreciate this time of the year more thoroughly, and to keep a custom in our own way. Many older traditions were borrowed when the new religion was brought to the Nordic lands and Christmas was put in place of Yule, so this is a way of returning the favor as well.