It wasn't until Mans and I went to Sweden to visit his parents for Christmas the next year that I understood why. The moment we arrived at their home in the small southern town of Lund on a frigid mid-December morning, I was enveloped by the warm, wintry smells of baking—butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, yeast. I had barely removed my coat before Mans's mother, Waimi, handed me a cup of strong black coffee and sat me down before a platter of Swedish desserts, including whimsically shaped gingerbread cookies, luscious-looking sponge cakes, chocolate fudge, and caramels. A few hours later, we all took another sweets-and-coffee break, and then another in the afternoon. In the evening, Mans's old friends stopped by with tins of their own home-baked cookies and candies, and his parents' sweets were hauled out again, this time with steaming cups of glogg, Sweden's beloved spiced wine. I never did encounter anything called a tea ring, but the sweets I tasted that day have since become as cherished a part of the holiday for me as anything I grew up with.