IKEA Tampa’s Julbord and Lucia 2009 – empty promises extravaganza


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IKEA has always had a special meaning for me at Christmas time. When I was a young girl we spent every third Christmas with relatives in Stockholm, from the island of Gotland, in the middle of the Baltic Sea, we travelled for eight hours on a steamboat and then drove for two hours to get to hour relatives house on beautiful Varmdo in the Stockholm archipelago.

In the 70’s Gotland did not have an IKEA store and will probably never get one.  

In Stockholm though, the biggest IKEA store in Sweden opened  in 1965 in a place called Kungens Kurva. The King’s Bend, that got its name in 1946 when King Gustav V’s 1939 Cadillac went off the road and ended up in a ditch.  

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IKEA Kungens kurva, in southern Stockholm, was the third IKEA to open. Unlike the anonymous shopping malls you see in the USA, the architecture is of the store is unique, inspired by the Guggenheim-museum in New York. Even today it is a Swedish architectural landmark.

 
Anyways in when our family went to spend Christmas with our Stockholm relatives in the 70’s we also went to IKEA to walk though the gigantic store, coming from a small island this round, hat-like creation that also had escalators was an almost magic place. In the 70’s no stores had escalators on Gotland.

Behind Hans Ax and Ingvar Kamprad you can see part of the building. It is still the largest IKEA store in the world.

In 2005 when I relocated to Florida from Uppsala, Sweden, I did not know how much I would come to miss an IKEA store nearby.  When I studied at the University of Uppsala my dorm room was furnished by IKEA.

My new home in the USA was actually the first home I decorated without having access to an IKEA store, and boy, did I miss IKEA.  I quickly realized how spoiled I had been by the IKEA concept, affordable design for everyone.  Here in Florida I found everything ridiculously over priced and under designed.  

 Life in Florida certainly improved when IKEA opened their stores in Orlando and Tampa. The Florida stores do not have as much of the new cool design series that I was spoiled with in Sweden.

But it is still IKEA and we can find our Swedish specials in the food store for decent prices, and of course a lot of other neat stuff in the store.

In October we were contacted by a group of Swedish women who are active within the Swedish Tampa Bay community.  It was time to put together a Lucia program for 2009, it included one performance at IKEA during their julbord and one performance at the Swedish Club’s Lucia Celebration. This was an excellent opportunity for me to maintain a little bit of the IKEA magic in my family.  

More than 30 kids met every Sunday for a six weeks to prepare for the songs and the procession,  special costumes and equipment was brought from Sweden and a great deal of planning and preparation went into this important Swedish cultural event. Many of us were proud to participate at the IKEA event as a chance to show one of our most beautiful traditions and Christmas magic to the Floridians.

The Lucia procession was supposed to take place during the Swedish Julbord advertised by IKEA as “an IKEA Swedish 'Julbord' Buffet Extravaganza For Only $15.99”. Us proud parents did not only look forward to seeing our kids singing and bringing light and happiness to people but we also looked forward to a traditional Swedish julbord feast.  

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The press release about the Swedish event actually brought some laughter and giggles even before the julbord was opened, Swedes could read that one of the dishes on the extravaganza buffee was supposed to be “gravid lax”, in English it means pregnant salmon. Yes, Swedes devour a few exotic dishes during Christmas but we do not eat pregnant salmon, we do however love,love, love the cured salmon, called gravad lax in Swedish.  

Later I also realised that IKEA Tampa also had misinterpreted Swedish, julbord and extravaganza as well as the following from the press release “The IKEA Julbord buffet is a scrumptious, endless food offering. So go hungry...very hungry... and bring your family and friends to the IKEA restaurant.”

On December 11, at 6 pm sharp, as promised,  26 Swedish kids in Lucia outfits gathered at IKEA, giggles and laughter filled the IKEA entrance and tall Swedish girls with silver glitter in their hair, and small adorable gingerbred men  awed the IKEA shoppers that walked by the Lucia group.

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Once the Lucia procession started we were surprised to find the kids rushed through the restaurant and lined up outside the restaurant in a corner next to the elevators, out of sight for most of the guests in the restaurant.  The kids looked a little bit confused but as true performers they made sure the show went on. They sang through the beautiful traditional Lucia program, unfortunately I think it was only us parents that could hear them. It got even worse when the Lucia procession was told to perform in the Market Place, where there were no people at all, the kids lined up to sing for the cheap rugs, cook ware and napkins and the proud parents.

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Needless to say, parents and kids alike were very disappointed and some of us actually felt insulted by IKEA.  Why did they hide the Lucia procession to their customers?  Why did they even ask our kids to perform?  It feels like IKEA has lost a lot of the Swedish spirit, Swedishness for IKEA is merely a gimmick to sell on the good name of the reliable Swedes.  And true Swedes are reliable and true Swedes usually trust each other on our word. That is one of the cornerstones of the Swedish society and a part of the Swedish soul.

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We were all hungry after the Lucia procession and even if we felt saddened after the placement of the Lucia procession we at least had the julbord extravaganza to look forward to. The parents and most of the performing kids had days before bought tickets to the julbord as it had not been communicated from IKEA Tampa until the night before the performance that kids wearing Lucia outfits would be allowed to eat for free.  

Unfortunately for those of us that participated in the Lucia procession as parents taking photos and helping out, as well as all the 26 kids that participated found the Julbord in a complete mess, empty bowls, empty plates, spilled food everywhere, it actually looked like ancient vikings had ransacked the Julbord.

There were no “gravid lax”, no prinskorvar, no Jansons frestelse, no ham, no shrimp, no pork ribs left for us and other guests that arrived late. There were some meatballs, some cheese, some unpeeled, half raw boiled potatoes, a few scared pickled herrings, most of them laying scattered on the table.  

Needless to say, the first IKEA julbord I attended was a big disappointment.  Dear IKEA, next year, please leave out Swedish from your marketing of the julbord if you cannot bother to do it the Swedish way.

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