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Archive for December, 2009

Every family has it’s traditions and Christmas is a time when many of those traditions get put on display. In my wife’s family it is tradition to reuse boxes, bows and wrapping paper that were originally used by their mother. Cancer took my mother-in-law way too early, so “the girls” (her three daughters) make a point of reusing gift tags, paper and boxes from Christmas long past to remember their mother. A typical gift tag could have 10 years or more of crossed out “from/to” names, but on every tag the oldest “from” would say “MOM”. You can imagine some of the confusion (and fun) when a name from a previous year does not get crossed out and the gift goes to the wrong person, or a “Precious Moments” box ends up as a gift box to a teenage boy whose girlfriend is attending her first family Christmas.. It has gotten to the point now that sometimes a year gets added to the “from/to” names for clarity.

I also brought a couple of traditions into our household and Christmas time has it’s share. My father started his Christmas season with Santa Lucia Day (December 13) and carried the holiday to Twelfth Night on January 6. He took the “Festival of Light” seriously and put lights on the large evergreen on the front lawn and all over the house. In Norway the lights are always white, because the light from candles are always white, but dad used a lot of colored lights. My mother, who did much of the cooking, got tired of so much turkey and ham being served between Thanksgiving and the end of Christmas, so she was always on the lookout for other foods to serve and normally puts out a leg of lamb on Christmas. This year we had Christmas Day at our house so we changed it up again and my wife and I made smørbrød (Traditional open-faced sandwiches) and Rice Pudding (similar to risengrynsgrøt, but with eggs in place of heavy cream).

Salmon and Scrambled Eggs

In the early days of making smørbrød we would put a little meat and cheese on a slice of bread and call it a meal. That was until we started making regular trips to Norway to visit family and friends. Norwegian (and Danish) smørbrød take their offerings to an art form, especially in the older generation.

Norwegian Goat Cheese and Apple

Our first exposure to the Norsk style sandwiches was at a luncheon in our honor, put on by a long time family friend in Oslo. The sandwiches we ate were far more that meat unceremoniously slapped on some whole grain bread, these were fine pieces of art carefully constructed to please the eye as well as the mouth. Solveig clearly took a lot of pride in serving her creations, and each time we traveled to Norway, be it with good friends or new acquaintances we developed a new appreciation for the maker and a connection to craft. Soon we were hooked on “building a better smørbrød!”

Rullepølse on Beet Salad with a Boiled Egg on top

Rullepølse on Beet Salad with a Boiled Egg on top


This year my wife made rullepølse (beef roll) and a beet salad for our smørbrød. I tried my hand at making chicken aspic with white asparagus as a garnish and a good hardy bread. (Note: bread is an important element in smørbrød, and not easy to find. But that is a topic for a different entry.) We had the typical smoked salmon with eggs (both hard boiled and scrambled), goat cheese on apples and a few other combinations.
Platter of smørbrød ready for serving

Platter of smørbrød ready for serving


A lot of work goes into the smørbrød, but all things considered, smørbrød for Christmas was a success and of course we finished it off with the rice pudding and a slice of mince meat pie with brandy sauce (not Norwegian but I still love it). Later that evening we poured ourselves a little homemade gløgg (a spiced wine) and our Christmas day was complete.

Christmas Table

Christmas Table

I hope everyone had a great Christmas. We are looking forward to a great and fun New Year.

Contributing Editor
Ken Nordan

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The 2009 Minnekirken Christmas Concert was simply marvelous. Melissa Grant, the music director for the church, brought together for our enjoyment some of the finest voices and musical talents of the Chicago Norwegian and Scandinavian community. Minnekirken (Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church) is one of only a few churches in the United States that still has many of its Sunday Services in Norwegian. The church also provides real-time translation to English.
We were entertained by four choral groups.

Nordic Voices of Chicago

Nordic Voices of Chicago

The first group we heard was the all female group called Nordic Voices of Chicago. The Minnekirken choir also sang – many of the singers are also members of the other two choruses featured this day, the Grieg Ladies Singing Society and the Bjornson Male Chorus. Both of these choruses have long histories singing in Chicago. We also heard traditional Scandinavian music played by the Chicago Spelmanslag as well as two songs from soprano soloist Melanie Carter. The choirs were accompanied by Janet Eckhardt on the piano and Melissa Grant played the church organ for several hymns.
Bjornson Male Chorus

Bjornson Male Chorus

No gathering of Norwegians (or Scandinavians) would be complete without smørbrød (open face sandwiches), cake, and coffee in the church basement . It was a very enjoyable evening, sitting among friends, sharing food and hearing the songs of Christmas, sung and played at Minnekirken.

With pictures of the Royal Family on the wall, no church activity is complete without smørbrød, cake, and coffee in the church basement.

Contributing Editor
Ken Nordan

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Norwegian Christmas Tree Closeup

Each year in Chicago, the Museum of Science and Industry has an exhibit titled “Christmas Around the World”, which showcases the similarities and differences that each country and culture have in their celebration of Christmas. This year my wife and I decided to take the trip to this world class museum, located on the south side of Chicago along the lake front, to see the exhibit.

As they do every year, the Norwegian National League organized a presentation to educate viewers about Norwegian Christmas traditions and culture. My wife, as usual, took pictures – some of them you can see in an up coming article in the Norwegian American Weekly newspaper – and I took notes about the event. Lynn Sove-Maxson as MC, first introduced The Leikarringen Heimhug Dancers” for several Norwegian traditional ring-dances and a bunad show. Lynn later described some of the Norwegian traditions as children trimmed a typical Norwegian Christmas Tree. Leif and Olaf, two Viking that had recently converted to Christianity, gathered the children around them to tell them how the ancient Vikings incorporated their beliefs into Christian traditions. At the end of the presentation everyone gathered in two circles around the tree and danced.

Leif and Olaf

Viking Leif and Olaf

The Participants

Leikarringen Heimhug Dancers with Leif and Olaf

In the main hall of the museum were trees from over 50 countries depicting some of the cultural elements in that countries celebration of Christmas. The Norwegian tree was decorated with Norwegian flags strung vertically, little heart shaped paper baskets, rosemaled ornaments and julenisen. The baskets were familiar to me, but I had not made one since I was a child. So when we got home I just had to build some. The baskets, with a few chocolates inside, are now hanging from our tree.

The Andersen Family

Robert and Michele Andersen with Kayla (13) Robbie (11) JJ (8) Alex (5) and Dylan (3)

The Dhuse Family

The Dhuse Family with children, Zachary (10) Zoe (6) and Zayla (3)

Please check out our photos from the event in an upcoming edition of the Norwegian American Weekly newspaper. And also in subsequent edition photos from the Christmas Concert held at Minnekirken.

Ken Nordan
Contributing Editor

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