Norwegian holiday traditions at Vesterheim
Ring in the season with Vesterheim, the National Norwegian-American Museum and Heritage Center, at a Norwegian Christmas Celebration on Sat., Dec. 7, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. This lively day of events features fun holiday traditions, concerts by local groups, take-home crafts, folk art demonstrations and sales, live goats, and a pop-up café serving Norwegian holiday specialties.
Children receive free admission to the main building when accompanied by an adult, and performances in the Bethania Church and outdoor activities are free. The event is sponsored by Duane Bruening, children and family, in memory of Eileen.
Enjoy the holiday atmosphere of Vesterheim’s campus with a juletrefest, where young and old sing Christmas songs around the tree, hear about Christmas in Norway, and meet the julenisse (Christmas elf), who comes with gifts. Don’t be scared by the julebukker, costumed folk who roam the museum complex scaring away evil spirits. In connection with ancient Norwegian holiday traditions, there will be live goats from the Lost Pine Farm in Decorah, Iowa, thanks to Mike and Erin Ryan. Also, there will be an outside campfire to make “Scandinavian s’mores.”
Vesterheim’s Kaffistova (a pop-up café) will offer an á la carte menu of traditional tastes, such as varme pølse, soup, lefse, and a variety of desserts, including rømmegrøt, julekake, and sandbakkeler. It will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Vesterheim’s Bethania Church.
In connection with the release of the Frozen 2 movie, catch the limited-time display of Vesterheim objects that inspired the Disney films. Take advantage of photo ops with life-size cutouts of Frozen characters and dress up in Frozen character costumes.
There will be hands-on activities and the opportunity to make ornaments at “make-and-take” stations throughout the museum campus. “Try making woven heart baskets,” recommends Event Coordinator Martha Griesheimer. “This tradition continues to be part of creating a koselig Christmas for people with Scandinavian/Nordic heritage on both sides of the Atlantic,” she continued, “so it is one craft activity we offer every year at the Norwegian Christmas event.”
There will be folk art demonstrations throughout the museum, including woodworking by Harley Refsal, singlade fiber balls by Kate Sterner and Annie Hanson, and wheat weaving by Beverly Schrandt. Andrew Boddicker will be on hand with his stereoscopes and 3-D images from the past.
The weavers and spinners of the Oneota Weavers Guild will be in the Westby-Torgerson Education Center to demonstrate and sell fiber art gifts on Friday from 1 to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Next door to the Westby-Torgerson Education Center at 508 W. Water St., there will be folk art demonstrations and sales from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Highlights at this location will be youth demonstrators from Vesterheim’s afterschool youth classes and a fun take-home craft.
Decorah area musicians and vocal groups will perform throughout the day, including the Decorah Chorale with the Decorah High School Madrigal Singers at 11 a.m., Northern Lights at noon, and the Luren Singing Society at 1 p.m., all in the Bethania Church, with free admission. Touch of Brass will perform at noon, and local fiddlers take the stage at 2 p.m., both in the museum’s main building.
Norwegian Christmas is a great time to do your holiday shopping. The Museum Store is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and packed full of great Scandinavian gifts. From 1 to 4 p.m., author Kathleen Ernst will sign Fiddling with Fate, the tenth mystery in her series about museum curator Chloe Ellefson.
This celebration is also a great opportunity to see Vesterheim’s special exhibitions, including “Tattoo: Identity Through Ink,” “Museum Lab,” and “Favorite Things.”
Vesterheim, the National Norwegian-American Museum and Heritage center, in scenic Decorah, Iowa, showcases the best in historic and contemporary Norwegian folk and fine arts, and explores the American immigrant experience. This national treasure includes world-class exhibitions and 12 historic buildings. It is also a center for folk art education, offering a wide selection of classes in Scandinavian folk art every year. For more information on the museum’s exhibitions, classes, events, membership opportunities, and ways to donate, visit Vesterheim’s website at www.vesterheim.org, call (563) 382-9681, or write to Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, 502 W. Water St., P.O. Box 379, Decorah, IA, 52101-0379.
This article originally appeared in the November 29, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.