The Nordic countries celebrate Advent and Christmas with zeal. The descendants of the Scandinavian immigrants who came to Minnesota may have assimilated in most other ways, but their ability to turn the holiday into four weeks of music, food, light, and joyful celebration hasn’t dimmed. Diane Noble, the artistic director of the Svenkarnas Dag Girls Choir and a tour director for travel to Sweden says, "Some consider Scandinavians and Scandinavian-Americans to be reserved. But there is nothing reserved about their celebration of Christmas." Below is a list of five traditional Scandinavian Christmas celebrations where you are invited to join in the spirit of the season.
1. The American Swedish Institute – 2600 Park Avenue, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 55407. 612.871.4907. The ASI simply calls their celebration “A Nordic Christmas.” That deceptively modest title covers special programming for all ages almost every day from now until January 5. As always, the Holiday Rooms, dining rooms decorated for a Christmas feast, are on display daily. There is a room for each of the five Nordic countries plus a new room this year. In celebration of the west Phillips neighborhood in which the ASI is located, there is a Mexico holiday room. The events range from having children explore the Turnblad mansion while trying to find hidden tomte (elf) figurines, then making a story book, to glӧgg samplings for adults and a behind-the-scenes tour of the Institute. Visit the calendar for details.
2. A Norwegian Christmas on the Farm – Eidem Homestead Brooklyn Park Historical Farm, 4345 101st Avenue North, Brooklyn Park, MN 55444, 763.493.8333
Visit a working, historical farmstead and learn to make Christmas treats like krumkake, kringle, pipparkakut (spice cookies), and mix up a hearty helping of pӧlsa, a sustaining mixture of ground meat and barley. There will be a bonfire, hayrides, Christmas music and caroling, and traditional Norwegian craft demonstrations.
Admission: $6 for adults, $4 for children 3 to 12. Pay at the door.
Saturday, December 7 and Sunday, December 8, 2013 1 to 4 pm
3. St. Lucia Celebration at the Gammelgården Museum, 20880 Olinda Trail, Scandia, Minnesota. 651.433.5053
St. Lucia was an Italian saint whole-heartedly adopted by the Swedes; her generosity and kindness are celebrated in Swedish homes as young women and girls dress as the saint, with a white gown and a crown of glowing candles, and serve saffron buns to their family. Her day will be observed in Scandia as the annual celebrations starts with a brief Swedish prayer service in the Gammel Kyrkan (country church) at 6 and 8 am. The Svenkarnas Dag Girls Choir will present a program of traditional music and there is a full Lucia Fest breakfast at 7 and 9 am. The museum’s extensive collection of Lucia artifacts will be on display throughout December.
Tickets for the breakfast are $10 for adults and $5 for children under 12.
Sunday, December 8, 2013 6 to 11 am
4. A Swedish Christmas at the Alexander Ramsey House, 265 Exchange St., Saint Paul, Minnesota. Many of the servants in the home of Minnesota’s first territorial governor were Swedish. Their lives and traditions are explored in a 60-minute program. There is a craft project available in the Carriage House before the program. Families can then come and listen to Swedish stories, learn a St. Lucia song, and sample freshly baked Swedish treats. This program is intended for children age 8 and above.
Reservations are required and online registration is available. $13 for adults, $11 seniors and college students, $9 ages 6 to 17, and a $3 discount for MHS members.
Thursday, December 12, 2013 7 pm
5. Joulu – A Magical Finnish Christmas – Christ Church Lutheran, 3244 34th Ave S, Minneapolis ZIP, 612.721.1611. Christ Church Lutheran was designed by Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen and the education wing designed by his even more well-known son, Eero. The church is a national historic landmark. It is known internationally by the design community, though it seems few in the Longfellow neighborhood where the church stands know of its significance. Be sure to take the guided tour of the church as well as shopping the Christmas Marketplace, entering the “Design a Wreath Contest”, listening to the choir, or watching a traditional play based on the Three Magi story and directed by Frank Theater director Wendy Knox. There will be children’s activities all day and Finnish holiday films.
All events except the buffet ($28 for adults) and the tour ($5) are free.
Saturday, December 14, 2013 11 am to 4 pm