Kick off the holiday season with a Norwegian Christmas Celebration at Vesterheim! All outdoor activities are free and admission to the museum’s Main Building is free for children thanks to support from David and Cyndy Hill.
This annual festival is back with many of the usual traditional activities, but with a new friluftsliv twist! “Friluftsliv is a concept central to Nordic culture. It literally translates as ‘open-air living’ and expresses a Scandinavian passion for nature,” event organizer Martha Griesheimer said. “In fact, there’s a well-known saying in Norwegian that translates: ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather; only bad clothing,’” she continued.
The museum’s Main Building will be open to visit inside and decorated for the holidays, but all special activities for the celebration will be held outdoors in Vesterheim’s Heritage Park.
In this outdoor koselig (cozy) atmosphere, enjoy familiar traditions such as:
• the juletrefest (Norwegian Christmas tree party of singing around a decorated tree);
• live music by local musicians;
• real goats from the Lost Pine Farm in Decorah, Iowa, thanks to Mike and Erin Ryan;
• holiday crafts;
• hot chocolate and Scandinavian s’mores around a fire; and
• a visit from the julenisse!
Visitors will also discover several things unique to this year’s event:
• There will be a bake sale of Norwegian holiday treats organized by Decorah’s Junior Nordic Dancers with favorite Norwegian specialties such as krumkake, kringle, rosettes, sandbakkels, and lefse, made fresh just in time for the holidays. This will be a wonderful opportunity to purchase some delicious Norwegian holiday baking while supporting the beloved Nordic Dancers.
• Find out about snowshoes from Lily Jensen of Winneshiek County Conservation. If there’s snow, visitors can even try them! Also, check out the sparks, popular kick sleds traditionally used in Norway for errands and now used for enjoying the outdoors. There will be a modern spark outside and a historical one in Vesterheim’s collection inside the Main Building.
• In Vesterheim’s Valdres House, a historical home from Norway, there will be an art area with supplies to make traditional Norwegian heart baskets and other fiber art crafts.
• Vesterheim Folk Art School will offer a limited number of free “FamilieKlubb” kits supported by the American Scandinavian Foundation. These activities are designed to inspire families to explore Norwegian folk art and language at home.
• The Norman Borlaug Foundation (NBHF) will sell julenek, sheaves of wheat, grown from Borlaug wheat, which was developed in the 1960s by Howard County’s Dr. Norman Borlaug in an effort to address world hunger. In Norway on Christmas Eve julenek are hung outside to feed the birds. NBHF uses the proceeds of the julenek sales to support supplies for their food program that packages meals for people in areas of the world with food scarcity.
If the weather turns too cold, snowy, or windy for the heartiest friluftsliv event participants, cancelation announcements for the event will be made on Vesterheim’s social media and at vesterheim.org.
For those who can’t make it to Vesterheim, it’s still possible to participate!
Vesterheim is offering lots of fun Norwegian Christmas activities through the GooseChase scavenger hunt app for iOS or Android. It’s almost like being at the museum’s annual event and includes more than a dozen unique activities that can be played from anywhere. Check vesterheim.org for the game code number and specific details in early December.
Vesterheim’s COVID-19 response requires that all visitors wear masks and maintain six-feet social distancing inside buildings.