Romjul and the comforts of home

Photographer Erika Skogg captures the Midwest Scandinavian Christmas spirit

Kajsa Anderson

Photo: Erika Skogg

The Norwegian American

The magic of Christmas is that when we come together with our families at home, somehow the cares of the world seem to disappear. It’s a time for enjoying good food, conversations filled with laughter, good books, movies, music, cards, and board games—many of the things that we somehow never can find time for during the rest of the year.

It’s also a time to enjoy the beauty of nature together, whether it be on a pair of skis, at the seaside, or on a walk though a park, depending on where you live.

It’s no secret that Norwegians have a special knack for celebrating Christmas, for creating a special atmosphere of warmth and coziness, traditions that our forebears brought with them to America. And Norwegian Americans have kept these special traditions alive, handing them down with love from generation to generation.

For our romjul issue, we are fortunate to share the extraordinary photography of Erika Skogg, who traveled though the Midwest to celebrate her Norwegian heritage and capture
this special Christmas spirit.

We would like to express our thanks to Erika for her exceptional generosity and wish everyone a wonderful romjul and happy New Year.

Erika Skogg captures romjul in the Midwest

Photo: Erika Skogg
The table is set for Christmas dinner in Sister Bay in Door County, Wis. Attention is given to every detail, beginning with the centerpiece of four Advent candles, holiday porcelain plates, the Christmas goat, elves scattered here and there, and an abundance of candles spread around the table. The Upper Midwest is home to a large numbers of Swedish and Norwegian descendants. Scandinavian architecture, customs, and traditions are present across all of Door County, a popular tourist destination known for its picturesque coastal towns, specialty shops, fish boils, cherry and apple orchards, and scenic beauty.

Erika Skogg's Midwest romjul

Photo: Erika Skogg
Spending time together as a family is an important part of the romjul experience in Norway, and in Decorah, Iowa, the Norwegian-American Hendrickson family carries on this tradition. The kitchen is an important gathering place, where the scent of warm gløgg fills the room with holiday cheer.

Midwest romjul

Photo: Erika Skogg
Each Christmas, Julie Strom Hendrickson and her daughter, Maria, carry on the tradition of making
lefse together in their immigrant family farmstead. Special tools are used to prepare lefse, including
long wooden turning sticks and special rolling pins with deep grooves.

Midwest romjul

Photo: Erika Skogg
The landscape of the Midwest is reminiscent of Norway, especially at Christmastime, when the ground is covered with sparkling white snow. It’s a time to be
outdoors to enjoy the fresh air and the beauty of the landscape. Many Norwegian Americans enjoy winter sports, such as cross-country skiing, or simply a
quiet walk in the woods among the pine and birch trees.

Erika Skogg

Photo: Erika Skogg
Nisser are everywhere at Christmastime, both indoors and outdoors. Here the fir trees come alive in their likeness, adorned with pointed red caps.

Erika Skogg

Photo: Erika Skogg
Christmas in the Midwest means coziness, and there is nothing to keep you warmer that a traditional hand-knit Norwegian sweater.

Photo: Erika Skogg
Maria Hendrickson tends to her family’s Norwegian Fjord Horse. The Fjord Horse is a relatively small but very strong breed from the mountainous regions of western Norway. Used as a farm horse for hundreds of years, the Fjord Horse is today popular for its generally mild temperament.

Erika Skogg

Photographer Erica Skogg’s adventurous spirit has sent her on photography expeditions all over the globe, including Norway’s Lofoten Islands.

Born and raised in Green Bay, Wis., Erika Skogg is a direct descendant of an ancient clan of Norwegian Vikings. A fearlessness of the wild, propensity toward and resilience to freezing temperatures are all traits that encourage her adventurous nature. She graduated from Montana State University in Bozeman with a degree in photography and blended her love of guiding with her photography education to join National Geographic Expeditions, designing and guiding photography trips around the world.

Click here to help fund the research and production of Erika Skogg’s project Scandinavian American.

This article originally appeared in the Dec. 25, 2020, 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.