Vesterheim’s Norwegian Christmas

Holiday traditions, “Frozen” photos, and outdoor activities make the season bright

Photo courtesy of Vesterheim: Enjoy the uletrefest in the cozy Norwegian House during the celebration.

Photo courtesy of Vesterheim
Enjoy the Juletrefest in the cozy Norwegian House during the celebration.

Special Release

Ring in the holidays with a Norwegian Christmas Celebration at Vesterheim, the national Norwegian-American museum and heritage center, on December 6, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. An event that appeals to all ages, Vesterheim’s Norwegian Christmas is a colorful, lively mix of art, music, decorations, stories, hands-on crafts, Scandinavian food, and holiday traditions. The Norwegian Christmas Celebration is sponsored by Duane and Eileen Bruening.

Are you excited about Disney’s film Frozen? Search for Olaf, Sven, Elsa, Anna, and Kristoff in the museum, try on Frozen-inspired costumes, and take your picture with your favorite character. Vesterheim will also have a kubbestol, a traditional Norwegian chair, for pictures in front of a Norwegian landscape mural.

Photo courtesy of Vesterheim: Kids love making heart baskets during Vesterheim’s Norwegian Christmas Celebration.

Photo courtesy of Vesterheim
Kids love making heart baskets during Vesterheim’s Norwegian Christmas Celebration.

Enjoy the holiday atmosphere of Vesterheim’s campus with free activities outside the museum. You’ll be able to make ornaments for the tree in the courtyard and, if weather permits, we’ll make snow sculptures. We’ll have pepparkakor cookies and Norwegian chocolate for making Scandinavian-style s’mores to enjoy with hot cider.

Some exciting authors are coming for the event. Lori Evert, author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Christmas Wish, and her daughter Anja, the star of the story, will be available to sign books from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. in the museum’s Bruening Visitor Center. Kathleen Ernst, whose fifth book in the Chloe Ellefson Mystery Series has just been released, will sign books in the Museum Store from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. Her last story in the series was set at Vesterheim and this one is set at the Mill City Museum in Minneapolis. Popular storyteller of Norse myths and legends, Dag Rossman, will sign his books from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. in the museum’s Main Building by the dragonstyle carving display. He will also be available for “dragonchat,” telling about the lore of dragons in Norse myths.

Many artists will demonstrate their crafts, including Jimmy Miller of New Richmond, Wis., who, at age 17, is Vesterheim’s youngest Gold Medal Winner. He carves inspiring figures in the Scandinavian style.

Vesterheim’s Kaffistova (coffee shop) 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 sandbakkels. Serving 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at Vesterheim’s Bethania Church on North Mill St.

“Bring the whole family,” Vesterheim event organizer, Martha Griesheimer, encouraged. “We’re offering a special family admission price for the day.”

Check for an updated schedule of the weekend’s activities. Highlights of the weekend include:

• Juletrefest, when young and old join hands and sing Christmas songs while they circle around the tree and hear about Christmas in Norway at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

• Julenisse, the Christmas elf, who might bring treats to visitors.

• Julebukker, costumed folk who roam the museum complex during the weekend scaring away evil spirits.

• Storytime with stories by popular children’s author Jan Brett, throughout the day.

• Hands-on ornament making for children includes woven paper heart baskets, straw ornaments, and others inspired by the film “Frozen” and the new Jan Brett book, “The Animals’ Santa.” There will also be a chance to create wrapping paper inspired by classic enamel patterns.

• Demonstrations of figure carving and other forms of woodworking, rosemaling, embroidery, straw-ornament making, spinning, and weaving.

• Performances by several Decorah-area musicians and vocal groups in the museum’s Bethania Church, including the Luren Singing Society, Decorah Chorale, the Decorah High School Madrigal Singers, and Northern Lights, plus in the museum Touch of Brass and local fiddlers will play.

• Special exhibitions—“Scandinavian Modern Design: Norwegian Enamel,” “A Restored Connection: A Dream of a Cultural Identity,” “Love Norway X,” and “Chicago Norske Klub.”

• Artwork for sale by many of the demonstrating artists and gifts for sale at Vesterheim’s Museum Store.

This article originally appeared in the Dec. 5, 2014, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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The Norwegian American

The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.