New York celebrates the season in style

The American Scandinavian Society holds its annual Christmas Ball

Scandinavian american ball

The culmination of the evening was the appearance of Sankta Lucia, wearing a crown of lights.

The Norwegian American

A Scandinavian Christmas Ball at New York’s Metropolitan Club really can’t be anything but special, but this year, after so many months of COVID-19 restrictions, it felt extra special. Last year, this annual event sponsored by the American Scandinavian Society of New York had to be canceled, so there was something both exciting and heartwarming about the community coming together again.

American Scandinavian Society

Lars Nilsen, president of the American Scandinavian Society, gave a warm welcome to his guests.

As Lars Nilsen, president of the society, said in the evening’s program, “After being hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, we are back and thrilled to be celebrating the holidays in the beautiful Metropolitan Club.”

Founded in 1891 by J.P. Morgan, the Metropolitan Club of New York is by all measures one of New York City’s most exclusive private clubs, an elegant setting for a black-tie ball. Located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, its members have included prominent business owners, bankers, industrialists, diplomats, and U.S. presidents. Throughout, there is an ambience of ornate grandeur, typical of the Gilded Age.

But this magnificent elegance did not inhibit the guests from experiencing a warm welcome in the grand foyer of the club. The room was graced by a Christmas tree that seemed to reach the sky, decorated with thousands of lights. Glasses of champagne were soon clinking, as old friends made their first toasts of the evening with a “skål,” and this festive atmosphere did not stop throughout the evening. 

American Scandinavian Society

Photo: The Norwegian American
Editor-in-chief Lori Ann Reinhall (left) was a guest of Publisher Emeritus Ragnar Meyer-Knutsen (center) and his wife, Laureen Stanton Knutsen (right).

Dinner was served to the guests inside the ballroom, where a much more intimate feeling prevails. The ceiling is adorned with baroque-style fresco painting, among other remarkable architectural details. Chris Norton and his band provided the music, as guests were seated to enjoy a full-course gourmet meal. 

The co-chairs of the ball, Anne Karine Skåtun and Annette Theiss, started the official program with opening remarks, followed by words of welcome from Nilsen. The sentiment was one of gratitude to once again be gathering together.

Sandra Lied Haga

Cello virtuoso Sandra Lied Haga delighted guests with her masterful rendition of J.S. Bach.

A highlight of the evening’s program was Norwegian virtuoso cellist Sandra Lied Haga’s interpretation of Bach’s prelude from the Solo Cello Suite No. 3. Haga, a recipient of the prestigious Equinor Classical Music Award and a performer of international renown, is currently in residence at Yale University. Her playing has been described as “heavenly” and “divine,” and she brought her listeners into that realm with her performance.

Another high point was Anita Alvin Nilert’s presentation of the Elfi Art Award to Mia Enell, a New York-based Swedish interdisciplinary artist, who works primarily in painting and drawing as well as photography, video, installation, and sculpture.

And then there was dancing, as elegantly dressed ball-goers took to the dance floor with enthusiasm. Old favorites rang out, creating a classy, yet familiar and cozy feeling.

The evening then culminated in the lobby again, as Sankta Lucia, the saint in her white dress with a red sash at her waist, descended from the staircase, with a glowing crown of candles on her head. The beautiful voice of Swedish mezzo-soprano Karin Osbeck, currently a student at The Julliard School, resounded through the hall with beloved Scandinavian Christmas classics, with everyone joining in on “Silent Night.” It was a moment of camaraderie, warmth, and nostalgia, the perfect finale to a perfect evening.

This article originally appeared in the Dec. 17, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American.

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Lori Ann Reinhall

Lori Ann Reinhall, editor-in-chief of The Norwegian American, is a multilingual journalist and cultural ambassador based in Seattle. She is the president of the Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association, and she serves on the boards of several Nordic organizations.