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Vesterheim's Norwegian Christmas Has Traditions, Contemporary Art, and Family Fun

Thu, Nov 21st, 2013
Posted in All Arts & Culture

DECORAH, Iowa — Experience the living traditions of a Norwegian Christmas at Vesterheim, the national Norwegian-American museum and heritage center, on December 7 and 8, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. each day. An event that appeals to all ages, Vesterheim’s Norwegian Christmas Weekend is a colorful, lively mix of folk-art demonstrations, live music, decorations, hands-on crafts, Scandinavian food, and many holiday traditions, both old and new. Norwegian Christmas Weekend is sponsored by Duane and Eileen Bruening.

“'The World of Jan Brett' exhibition will add another fantastic family feature to the Norwegian Christmas Weekend,” Martha Griesheimer, who coordinates the event, said. “Not only do we have all of the activities and decorations everyone expects at this beloved annual event, we have an entire gallery dedicated to this fun, hands-on exhibit that all ages enjoy,” she added. “Bring the whole family,” she encouraged, “we're offering a special family admission price.”

Plus, Dragonfly Books and owner Kate Rattenborg are offering $10 off the first 50 new family memberships signed up before December 31. Families who join Vesterheim receive free admission every day, plus other great membership benefits. Memberships also make great Christmas gifts.

Check vesterheim.org 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.

• 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.


• Special exhibitions—“The World of Jan Brett,” “Flora Metamorphicae,” and “Four from the North.” Two Norwegian artists connected with the “Flora Metamorphicae” exhibition will give a presentation in the museum’s Bethania Church on North Mill Street at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 7. Laurann Gilbertson, Vesterheim Chief Curator, will give a gallery talk for “Four From the North” at 11:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, December 8.

• Hands-on ornament making for children includes woven paper heart baskets; origami flowers in connection with the exhibition “Flora Metamorphicae;” and juletråd, a traditional braided ornament that reminds us of the tails on Jan Brett's trolls!

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


• Several Decorah-area musicians and vocal groups will help create a festive atmosphere, including the Luren Singing Society, Decorah Chorale, the Decorah High School Madrigal Singers, Northern Lights, and Touch of Brass.


• Vesterheim’s Kaffistova (coffee shop) will offer an á la carte menu of traditional tastes such as lefse, ertersuppe, smørbrød, tyttebær saft, and a variety of desserts, including rømmegrøt, søtsuppe, julekake, krumkake, rosettes, and sandbakkels. Serving 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days at Vesterheim’s Bethania Church on North Mill St.

Book Signings

• On Saturday from noon to 5:00 p.m. in the Museum Store, author Kathleen Ernst, Middletown, Wisconsin, will sign “Heritage of Darkness,” her new mystery novel set at Vesterheim.

• On Saturday and Sunday from noon to 2:00 p.m. in the museum’s Main Building, Decorah’s Dag Rossman will sign his books inspired by Norse myths, including his newest title, “Walker in Shadows.”


• Many of the artists demonstrating throughout the museum complex offer their work for sale during the weekend.

• Vesterheim’s Museum Store is open during the weekend for all of your Scandinavian shopping.

Vesterheim is a national treasure that explores the diversity of American immigration through the lens of Norwegian-American experience, showcases the best in historic and contemporary Norwegian folk and fine arts, and preserves living traditions through classes in Norwegian culture and folk art, including rosemaling (decorative painting), woodcarving and woodworking, knifemaking, and textile arts. For more information check Vesterheim online at vesterheim.org.

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