116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DECORAH — Kick off the holiday season with a Norwegian Christmas Celebration at Vesterheim, the National Norwegian-American Museum and Folk Art School, on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 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,’ ”
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, thanks to Mike and Erin Ryan; holiday crafts; hot chocolate and Scandinavian s'mores around a fire; and a visit from the “julenisse.”
Visitors also will discover several things unique to this year’s event, starting with 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.
Plus, 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.
This celebration is also a great opportunity to see Vesterheim’s special exhibitions, including “Innovators & Inventors,” “Socially Distanced, Creatively Connected,” and “An Artist's Journey: Carl Homstad, 50 Years.”
If the weather turns too cold, snowy, or windy for the heartiest “friluftsliv” event participants, cancellation announcements for the event will be made on Vesterheim’s social media and at vesterheim.org.