For 25 years I’d walked or driven past Poulsbo’s downtown Sons of Norway Hall always assuming membership required a Norwegian pedigree. I grew up in small town Hettinger, North Dakota – the great granddaughter of German/English immigrants living on a street of Norwegian families. As fellow blogger and Hettingerite, Jim Fuglie, describes the demographics: We grew up in Hettinger, North Dakota, where the Germans were Catholic and the Norwegians were Lutheran. For the most part. Catholics were named Schmidt and Nagel and Slater and Seifert and Schmaltz. Lutherans were named Braaten and Strand and Nordahl and Lundahl and Austad. While the German and Norwegian parents played pinochle in each other’s homes and their children mingled at school, the institutions that celebrated their respective heritages required heritage.
Though never stepping inside the Sons of Norway doors, I’d regularly participated in their public community events – the all day Julefest which includes the arrival of the Lucia Bride at the waterfront park in December; Viking Days which celebrates Norway’s independence and Midsommer Fest, the raising of the maypole ceremony at waterfront park in May. In fact, the Sons of Norway sponsor a variety of monthly events open to the public including concerts, pancake breakfasts and dance workshops.
This summer I joined the lodge’s president for their weekly Wednesday Kaffe Stua, a buffet lunch also open to the public. Imagine my surprise when over my open face salmon sandwich he informed me that one doesn’t need an ounce of Norwegian blood to join. So join I did. Primarily because a membership allows me to stay at Trollhaugen, the lodge’s rustic mountain lodge on the eastern side of Snoqualmie Pass where I can snowshoe, cross country ski and read by the fireplace.
This past Saturday was the Sons of Norway’s annual Julefest and for the first time I took in the day’s activities as a newly minted member of the Sons of Norway. I wandered into the lodge for the all day brunch and craft bazaar where I watched the children’s dance group; strolled past tables of decorative folk art called rosemaling (classes available at the lodge), the wool and straw Christmas ornaments and hand carved wooden kitchen utensils and sampled lefse which brought back olfactory memories of the Hettinger bakery and its Christmas lefse. The day was mild enough that out on Poulsbo’s main street, there were people in their lusekofte – the distinctively patterned Norwegian wool sweaters and I heard entire Norwegian conversations in the Nordic Maid – Poulsbo’s store for all things Scandinavian.
Every year as darkness falls the Julefest celebration moves to the waterfront for the coming of the Lucia Bride, a Scandinavian tradition. Escorted by Vikings she lights the Jule log that begins the bonfire and turns on the waterfront Christmas tree lights. Stories are told. Songs are song. The crowd of residents and visitors become part of a tradition that came to our town on the bay with the early Norwegian and Swedish immigrants.
While the holiday season began in the malls right after Halloween, for me – the faux Norwegian great granddaughter of German and English immigrants, Julefest signals the real beginning of the holiday season.