Nordic Culture

One of the primary missions of Sons of Norway is to help members explore and celebrate Norwegian cultural heritage. Part of this mission is to provide resources in a multitude of cultural skills areas. You can contact Sons of Norway International directly to gain access to a network of cultural resources in these fields of intest. Common areas of interest include language, literature, music, folk dance, wood carving, etc.: For a free interactive forum for Vonheim Lodge where you can submit and upload information, please go to Vonheim 108 forums to visit. You will need to create a user name and profile to post.

picture of norwegian folk dancers

Norwegian Folk Dancers

Folk Dance

Learn folk dancing with lessons at Tapestry Folkdance Center sponsored by the First District of Sons of Norway. Join the Twin Cities Norwegian Dance Group (Det Norske Folkedanslaget)for adults or the Fjell og Fjord Norwegian Youth Dancers. Carol Sersland is the artistic director for Scandinavian dance at Tapestry as well as the adult and youth dance groups above. Tapestry Folkdance Center, 3748 Minnehaha Ave S Minneapolis, MN 55406, 612-722-2914. Inquiries for Fjell og Fjord to Gracia Strecker 763-571-9336.

Another Twin Cities dance group for adults is North Star Nordic Dancers who may be contacted at northstarnordicdancers@gmail.com

picture of St. Olav

St. Olav

St. Olav's Day

July 29th marks Olsok, or St. Olaf’s Day in Norway and coincides with Olsokdagen, the official Flag Day in Norway, but it’s roots run much deeper. Originally celebrated to honor the King, and later Saint, Olaf, the day has more than 900 years of history behind it. Lavish feasts and pilgrimages have celebrated his name, but who was Olaf II of Norway and why are we celebrating him today?

Much of what we know about King Olaf comes from the sagas, first from an Icelandic writer who penned the Glælognskviða, written in the late twelfth century, about a century after the king’s death. Early Christian monks also contributed greatly to his story, compiling tales in the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Although it’s difficult to separate the man from the legend, much of what we celebrate comes from the Heimskringla. Written almost two centuries after Olaf’s death, these sagas recount the tales of many of Norway’s early Kings.

It’s said that King Olaf was born sometime around 995 near what is now Ringerike. He was the great-great-grandson of Harald Fairhair, the first king of Norway. Olaf himself would take the throne in 1015 at about the age of 20. Within a few short years, Olaf was able to consolidate his power by eliminating rivals to the throne. At the time, Norway was made up of several petty kings who supported a central ruler. The wealthy men in Norway grew discontent with King Olaf’s strong-handed ruling and supported Canute the Great’s invasion of Norway in 1026. After a series of battles, King Olaf would eventually die in the Battle of Stiklestad in 1030.

During his short reign, King Olaf made several significant contributions to Norway, most notably the spread of Christianity. Many of his policies were instrumental is spreading the religion in the predominantly pagan Norwegian interior. His impact was so large that a year after his death, a Bishop named Grimkell formed a cult to celebrate the king. Under the occupation of the Danish forces, this served as a unifier for the Norwegians. The early celebration of King Olaf, coupled with his support for Christianity, led the King to be made a Saint and named the Patron Saint of Norway soon after.

Today, St. Olaf continues to be a major influence in Norwegian culture. Olav has been a popular name amongst Norwegian males for centuries. The St. Olav medal is the highest decoration the Norwegian crown awards. Even King Haralad V proudly celebrates his own lineage through one of St. Olaf’s many children. This year Olsok will be celebrated with festivals and feasts across Norway, to mark the official day of Rex Perpetuus Norvegiae, Norway’s eternal king.

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Bonfire at Midsommar

Midsummer in Norway

Historical Roots

St. John’s Day or Jonsok is celebrated on June 24 and is a religious holiday commemorating the birth of St. John the Baptist. Prior to the introduction of Christianity to Norway, the date was used to celebrate of the summer solstice, the longest and brightest day of the year. Because of the dual history surrounding the date, the remaining Midsummer traditions are an amalgamation of both Pagan and Christian customs.

Did you know?

• The practice of lighting bonfires during Midsummer comes from the belief that fire “awakens” the ground for the next growing season and gives renewed strength to the sun. It was also believed to scare away evil supernatural spirits and witches who were thought to roam more freely this time of year.

• According to folklore, medicinal plants and herbs were believed to be at their peak potency during the summer solstice, lending support to the belief that supernatural beings were prone to scour the countryside collecting ingredients for their potions at Midsummer.

• In the 19th century it was popular in western Norway for children to dress in bride and groom outfits and participate in mock weddings as a symbol of new life.

• According to Christian legends, the crucifix at Rødal stave church in Norway was believed to contain special powers. During Midsummer, the crucifix was said to sweat, giving off healing power to those who touched it. Devotees made annual pilgrimages to the church up until 1840.

• St. John’s Day was observed as a public holy day in Norway until 1771.

• The most popular foods consumed on Midsummer’s Eve are fire roasted items like hot dogs or pølse and picnic fare such as pickled herring, smoked salmon or open-faced sandwiches. Norwegian strawberries and rømmegrøt are also common treats.

• In celebration of Midsummer the Norwegian town of Ålesund constructed a massive bonfire of wooden palettes, topping out at 132.71 feet, in 2010.

picture of Gender Gap Report

Gender Gap Report

Women in Norway Have 3rd Best Ranking in World

In 2014, Norway fared well in the rankings for the Global Gender Gap Report as determined by the World Economic Forum in Geneva, taking third place out of 142 countries. Scoring is based on five categories: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival and political empowerment. In the category of educational attainment, Norwegian females were rated as having total equality at primary, secondary and tertiary education levels. Earned income, literacy and life expectancy rates were also deemed equal to that of men or better.

Norway’s high ranking is a result of grassroots campaigns, government initiatives and quota systems. In 1978, Eva Kolstad was appointed the world’s first Gender Equality Ombud in Norway, whose responsibility was to work toward equality between women and men, specifically in regard to hiring.

Another tactic was to increase the presence of women in positions of power by making it a requirement as of 2006 for all publicly-held companies to have a minimum of 40% women on their board of directors, or face closure. State-owned firms were already required to have at least 45% female board representation. Norwegian equality minister at the time, Karita Bekkemellem, said that "More than half of the people who have a business education today are women. It is wrong for companies not to use them. They should be represented." She added that she didn’t want to wait 20 or 30 years for society to catch up. Currently state panels, committees and boards have only 38 percent female representation. Norway’s largest company, Statoil, meets the 40% requirement. Six European countries have followed Norway’s example and the European Union’s parliament plans to require a 40% quota by 2020.

picture of Reindeer Steak

Reindeer Photo: Flickr by Tuey

New Nordic Diet Hailed as Successor to Mediterranean Diet

For years nutrition experts have been singling out the Mediterranean diet as one of the best ways to prevent some chronic diseases. However, multiple research studies conducted over the past few years are now putting the New Nordic Diet at the forefront of the latest and greatest trends in healthy eating.

If you’re already familiar with the guiding principles of the new Nordic food movement you probably recall that Viking magazine featured “New Nordic Cuisine” a few years ago in the August 2011 issue. Today, the diet has gained so much mainstream publicity that a cursory search of the Internet yields articles hailing the diet’s merits from sources ranging from Prevention Magazine, Vogue and National Public Radio to the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley. Whether it’s articles like, “Beyond Paleo: Is Eating Like a Viking the Next It Diet?” or “Forget Mediterranean, Eat Like a Viking” information on the diet abounds.

Centered around local, seasonal and fresh fare, the diet has its beginnings in Denmark with Noma restaurant chef’s René Redzepi and Claus Meyer. What began in 2003 as a mission to focus on local and seasonal ingredients at Noma; grew into a larger movement of 12 leading Scandinavian chefs who sought to define the elements of modern Nordic cuisine. Their collaborative efforts produced the New Nordic Diet principles being used today.

- More fruit and vegetables every day
- More whole grain
- More food from the seas and lakes
- Higher-quality meat, but less of it
- More food from wild landscapes
- Organic produce whenever possible
- Avoid food additives
- More meals based on seasonal produce
- More home-cooked food
- Less waste

Beyond it’s status as the latest diet trend, the New Nordic Diet does boast reliable nutritional studies that support its current status. In 2013 a study by the Journal of Internal Medicine found that participants with cardiovascular risk factors experienced lower blood cholesterol levels and inflammation on the diet as opposed to a typical Western diet. Just last year the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that New Nordic dieters saw a reduction in their weight as well as blood pressure while on the diet. It is also important to note that participants achieved their weight loss results without calorie restrictions, indicating they were satiated with the foods available to them.

Interested in testing out the New Nordic Diet for yourself? The official website of Denmark offers New Nordic Diet recipes for starters, main courses and desserts at http://denmark.dk/en/lifestyle/food-drink/new-nordic-recipes/

picture of electric car

Norwegian Electric Car

How Electric Cars Went Mainstream in Norway

As of 2014, Norway reached #1 in per capita ownership of elbiler, or electric cars. One in every 100 cars on the road is run solely with electricity. This might not seem significant, but when you consider plug-in auto sales (which include both electric and hybrid vehicles), Norway’s 6.10% is simply staggering compared to the United States’ (0.60%,) and Canada’s (0.25%).

However, this trend didn’t happen overnight, but was the product of a long-term combination of marketing, celebrity endorsements and government incentives. The earliest adopters and promoters of the electric car were none other than the members of Norwegian 80s band a-ha, who imported the first electrical car to Norway in 1989 through a partnership with the Bellona Foundation, an Oslo environmental organization.

Then, the Norwegian Parliament created an incentive package to encourage its citizens to reduce emissions and buy Norwegian brands of electric cars. The Norwegian Electric Vehicle Association, an Oslo nonprofit, also lobbied to make the cars more attractive to buyers, making it possible for electric cars to travel toll-free on all roads and ferries, have access to use of bus lanes, and free public parking. By far the largest benefit is that there are no taxes on electric car sales, something that on regular cars may double or triple the price.

In the early days, having an electric car meant enduring cold rides during the winter and only having room for one passenger in the lightweight plastic-bodied vehicles. Finding a place to charge one’s car also presented a major challenge. Electric cars have advanced significantly over the past 25 years, as has the available infrastructure. As of 2014, there were more than 5,000 charging stations in Norway, which can be located through an online database NOBIL.

The key component that propelled the electric car market, though, wasn’t the monetary or environmental benefits, but getting the word out to the average person and developing an infrastructure. It took several decades, but most Norwegians now know what an electric car is, can name some of the models on the market, and know where to find a charging station. Another incentive to make the leap to electric was the high price of gas (a whopping $9 a gallon). So much so, that sales of electric cars have rapidly eclipsed the addition of charging stations, making it difficult for all commuters to plug in while at work, or fit in the bus lane.

This has resulted in the Norwegian Parliament decided to set a limit for the sales-tax-free status of electric cars: 50,000 zero-emission cars sold, or the year 2017, which ever came first. At the current rate of adoption, this goal may be reached in the summer of 2015. The Norwegian Electric Vehicle Association is aiming higher: 100,000 electric cars on the roads by 2020. They find that this number is the minimum needed to build enough charging stations nationwide.

The History of Name Days in Norway

The celebration of name days is a long-held custom throughout Scandinavia that originated in the early Christian church. It first kept a list of saint and martyr names, with name days celebrated in their honor.

Prior to Norway’s Christianization, neither name days nor birthdays were customary. In fact, at first, there was no standardized order to the name day lists. Then, in 1757, Sweden made an official “almanac,” which included name days. After this point, name days became commonplace in Sweden and Finland. Finland then started the custom of expanding its lists to include the names of the bulk of its citizens, rather than just the names of Catholic saints and martyrs. Thus a name day became a day which, according to the almanac, is dedicated to a certain first name.

The tradition of name days also spread to Denmark, and their list of names was adopted in whole by Norway, based on the Catholic calendar of saints from the Middle Ages. Norway produced its own almanac in 1814 with the same Danish names that had been used since the mid-1600s. In 1912, most of these names were removed, because the Catholic traditions behind them had all but died out. Only the names associated with the most important Catholic feasts were left intact, such as Olsok (Feast of St. Olaf, July 29th), Larsok (Feast of St. Lawrence, August 10th) and Barsok (Feast of St. Bartholomew, August 24th).

Throughout the 1900s, name days held little significance for most Norwegians, while their celebration became increasingly popular in Sweden. In the 1980s, Norwegian radio stations started using the Swedish name day calendar. In 1988, the University of Oslo helped launch Almanakkforlaget (The Almanac Publisher), along with a new calendar of name days based on the Swedish model.

Two names were chosen for each day of the year, with exceptions being January 1st—the day that Jesus was said to have been named—along with February 29th and December 25th. The names are based on the statistics of given names in Norway between 1900 and 1982. The list was again updated in 1998, when 49 new names were added based on the name statistics from 1988 to 1995.

The current list contains a total of 769 names: 386 female and 383 male names. Some names were assigned to dates relating to historical persons of the same name. For example, Snorre is September 23rd, based on the date that Snorri Sturluson died. Hakon and Maud were given a common name day (June 22nd), based on the coronation date of King Haakon VII and Queen Maud in 1906. Interestingly, Adam and Eva are given the same name day of December 24th while Maria and Josef each have their own days in March.

picture of Viking Fortress

Viking Fortress

Viking Age Fortress Found in Denmark

In an exciting new discovery not seen in more than 60 years, archaeologists have found a fifth, ringed, Viking fortress in Denmark. “Although there were Vikings in other countries, these circular fortresses are unique to Denmark. Many have given up hope that there were many of them left,” said Lasse Sonne, a University of Copehagen historian in an interview with Danish newspaper Politiken.

Located in a field belonging to the Vallø Diocese estate roughly 30 miles southwest of Copenhagen near the Danish city of Køge, the fortress is the third largest ever found, measuring 145 meters (475 feet) in diameter. Also known as Trelleborgs, the fortresses have perfectly circular designs with 4 evenly placed gates and a central courtyard divided into four quadrants, which held longhouses set in a square pattern.

Discovered through the use of archaeological geophysics and a technique called gradiometry, researchers measured magnetic field variations found in soil to identify disturbances. Their research provided a detailed “ghost image” of the fortress site. “The technique gave us a surprisingly detailed image of the fortress in no more than a few days," Søren Sindbæk, a professor of medieval archaeology at Denmark's Aarhus University and a member of the research team, said in the statement. "So we knew exactly where to dig the excavation trenches with a view to learning as much as possible about the fortress."

Similar in construction to the other four ringed fortress sites, it is likely that samples collected from the Vallø site will date back to same time period—the late 900’s—during the reign of King Harald Bluetooth. “We can’t wait to find out whether the fortress dates back to the time of Harald Bluetooth, or whether it was built by a previous king. A military fortification from the Viking Age may shed more light on the links between Zealand, ancient Denmark, and the Jelling dynasty – as well as teaching us more about the period during which Denmark became Denmark,” says Nanna Holm, archaeologist with the Danish Castle Center.

picture of Viking Games

Viking Games

Viking Games

During the Viking Age, daily life involved a lot of heavy labor, particularly in agriculture. But the Vikings’ lives were not without fun. In a recent study, Leszek Gardeła, an archaeologist at the University of Rzeszów, matches descriptions from saga literature with excavated artifacts to reveal how Vikings entertained themselves during leisure time. They loved board games, gambling, sports challenges, dancing, music and crafts. Leisure activities were often associated with festivals, weddings, religious events, market days and other social gatherings, though not exclusively.

While being an amusing way to pass the time, many Viking sports served a secondary purpose of preparing men physically for battle, usually involving displays of strength, agility, masculinity and violence. An ideal warrior needed to be adept of body and mind, and the games were part of their preparation.

Weightlifting challenges used boulders as weights to determine the brawniest competitor. Tug-of-war, or toga honk, was also popular. Wrestling ( glíma ) was widespread, and the object was to throw one’s opponent off his feet onto his back using the strength of one’s arms. The matches were violent and sometimes ended in broken limbs or worse. Warriors would also participate in weaponry games to hone their battle skills. Competitions in archery, sword fighting and spear- and stone-throwing offered prizes. Various other physical games were played including animal skin-throwing games ( hornaskinnleikr or skinnleikr ), full-contact ball games ( knatteleik ), turf games ( torfleikr ), and scraper games ( sköfuleikr ), similar to hockey. Though these offered a slightly less rugged type of sport, tripping and shoving were fair play and even these “more civilized” games sometimes turned violent and proved fatal.

Board games were played to develop intellect, strategy and problem-solving abilities, and being adept at these games was considered noble. Hnefatafl was a favorite war board game for two players, an ancestor of chess by about four centuries, having been well-known by 400 A.D. The two players do not start with an equal number of pieces, however. One side is surrounded by the other’s army, and outnumbered, and the object is to protect one’s king and strategize your way to victory, or at least safety, by thinking like your opponent. More peaceful hobbies were also pursued, such as woodcarving, whittling, and embroidery. Also, music and storytelling were other favored pastimes and epic historical tales survived by word of mouth. Being an engaging storyteller was a prized skill, and some people did it professionally.

While Vikings lived hard lives with little time for leisure activities, they were certainly adept at amusing themselves when the opportunity arose.

picture of Leif Erickson

Leif Erickson

Leif Erikson Day – Oct 9

An official U.S. holiday, Leif Erikson Day commemorates the achievements of famous Norse explorer, Leif Erikson. Credited with being the first European to reach the North American continent, Erikson arrived almost four centuries before Columbus. In honor of this special date, let’s take a closer look at a few facts about the holiday and the man that inspired it.

Erikson or Eiriksson or Ericson? - The spelling of Leif Erikson’s name varies in relation to the language it is being translated to. In his own language, Old Norse, his name would have been Leifr Eirksson.

Family Ties - Leif was the second son of legendary Norse explorer, Erik the Red, who is believed to have established the first European settlements in Greenland around A.D. 980. Erik the Red was supposed to join his son’s expedition to North America but a fall from horseback prior to the ship’s boarding left Erik with misgivings about the voyage. Believing his fall to be a sign of an ill-fated trip, Erik stayed behind.

Where in North America is Vinland? - The Groenlendinga saga suggests Erikson made three landfalls: the first at Helluland, now widely believed to be Baffin Island in the present-day Nunavut, Canada; the second in Markland or what we would now know as Labrador, Canada; and Vinland.

Although it is believed that Vinland is located somewhere in Newfoundland, perhaps at the excavated site of an 11th-century Viking base camp found at L’Anse aux Meadows in the 1960’s, the definitive site of the settlement remains heavily debated. In fact, the etymology of the Norse word itself has yielded at least two possible meanings, “wine-land” or “pasture-land” depending on translation and interpretation of the descriptions provided in the sagas. While it is predominantly believed that the correct translation is “wine-land,” theorists point out that the wild grapes described in the sagas cannot be found today as far north as Newfoundland. Explanations for this are varied, offering that perhaps Erikson’s men mistook wild berries for grapes, that the climate was warmer and more hospitable during that time, or that the saga-writers simply embellished the abundance of the land to make it more appealing

picture of Bergen Harbor

Bergen Harbor

What to Expect when Moving to Norway

Have you ever dreamed of moving to Norway? For many it can be a lifelong goal. Moving to a new country with a different culture and language can be an exciting idea but a stressful process. Do your homework and prepare for what is to come in order to absorb some culture shock. Here are some things to prepare for when moving to Norway.

Weather – Norway is one of the longest countries in Europe with approximately one third of its landmass situated above the Arctic Circle. Generally the weather is mild and the country greets all four seasons gladly. The capital of Oslo can often sit at pleasant temps of 75 degrees Farenheit in the summer while spring, fall and winter weather can vary. One day might be perfect for a ski trip in the mountains and the next might produce uncomfortably cold winds. However, as the Norwegian saying goes, there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.

Bright Summers/Dark Winters – Long, bright summer days and cold and dark winters are probably the hardest adjustments when moving to Norway. The abundance or absence of the sun affects your mood and your sleeping habits. On midsummer the earth is tilted perfectly enough to expose the sun all day long which is why Norway is known as the ‘land of the midnight sun’. The winter is just the opposite as Northern Norway remains dark for three months straight and Southern Norway squeezes a maximum of five hours of sunlight out a day. Prepare to buy dark blinds for the summer and light boxes for the summer.

Sticker Shock – Whether you try to travel on a budget or not, Norway is expensive. Consistently ranking among the most expensive countries in the world, Norway makes up for this with its beautiful scenery and people. Most tourists suffer from sticker shock at first glance however cost of living is somewhat relative because Norway’s minimum wage is around $17. Norway’s welfare system is paid for by Norwegian taxpayers and the oil revenue which provide free education and healthcare, so to some extent, you get what you pay for. Advice for visitors: stay with family and friends and avoid eating out.

Public transportation – It is not uncommon for families to have one car in Norway because public transportation is safe, easy to use and well maintained. Big cities have trams and subways while the rest of Norway is connected by trains, buses and ferries. Because of the fjords and mountain passes trips can take longer than expected. However, the views and the experiences are worth the money and time. Get used to spending money on train tickets instead of gasoline for your car.

The Norwegian lifestyle – Norway is unique in that the people are quiet and reserved yet hospitable and cozy. There is a strong emphasis on the family and gender neutrality is extremely progressive. Because Norway is such a long country its cultural norms vary from north to south but one thing that most Norwegians have in common is their love and respect for the outdoors. You will most likely learn to cross country ski in your first winter and probably go on a hike or two. One thing is for sure, Norway is a wonderful country that is ranked consistently as the best place to live in the world.

picture of Draken Harald Hårfagre

Draken Harald Hårfagre
Photo: Marit Synnøve Vea

Viking Longboat Delayed, Not Defeated

The Draken Harald Hårfagre–the largest replica Viking longboat ever built–set sail in late June from Haugesund, Norway toward Liverpool, England. Using only human power to row its 50 oars and the wind behind its 3,200 square foot sail of pure silk, the crew intended to make a stopover at the Isle of Man before continuing to England. Unfortunately, three days into the voyage, the ship encountered large waves and high winds, causing the mast to snap and plummet overboard.

Vicki Inglis, a volunteer crew member who blogs at http://thesevagabondshoes.org/, was asleep on board at the time and recalls being “woken by a loud crack by my head, like the sound of a locker slamming shut, followed by rumbling, then urgent shouting. Wearing only long underwear and a t-shirt, with bare feet, I climbed out of the tent through a tangle of rope. The thick shrouds snaked across the roof of the tent, and had smashed down on the galley, spilling sugar grains across the deck like ice crystals. Turning to look forward, the huge rå (yard) lay across the beam of the ship, the red sail pooling underneath and spilling over the rails into the water. And a space where the mast should be.” Astonishingly, the top 16 feet of the mast fell off to one side of the boat, while the larger part, roughly 55 feet long and 2 feet in diameter, broke off in the other direction. Neither part had damaged the body of the ship, but floated off to the side. Despite the close quarters on board, no crew members were injured during the accident.

On July 10th, the captain announced that the crew and ship would forge on toward Liverpool, with slight adjustments to their route. They would go through the Caledonian Canal rather than sailing around northern Scotland without a sail. They navigated to Inverness, passing through Loch Ness and on to Fort Augustus, Neptune’s Staircase, the Isle of Mull, and Islay. Despite not having a sail, the ship arrived in Liverpool ahead of schedule.

During the ship’s passage through the Caledonian Canal, two crew members who are boatbuilders, Arild and Ola, traveled around Scotland in search of timber for a new mast that could withstand the voyage back to Norway. They selected a massive Douglas fir from Dumfries, which was transported by semi trailer, arriving just after the longship.

Once the boat was docked in Wallasey near Liverpool, the ship was cleaned and re-tarred and the sail stretched, before the boat was opened for public viewing.

picture of movie Frozen

Frozen movie

“Frozen” Drives Increase in Norwegian Tourism Interest

Disney’s latest box-office hit, “Frozen,” has been collecting accolades and breaking records, landing in the top spot on a list of the highest grossing animated films and winning an Oscar for Best Animation Feature and another for Best Original Song for “Let It Go.”

Inspired by H. C. Andersen’s story, “The Snow Queen,” and taking its art cues for the fictional kingdom of Arendelle from Bergen, Norway, “Frozen” offers moviegoers many Nordic influences they will recognize. Art director Mike Giaimo explains, “Norway offered a cultural backdrop we’d never explored before and we thought ‘Wouldn’t it be great to blend its dramatic environment, architecture and folk costume aesthetic?’ It feels like a world from a classic Disney film, but it’s completely new.”

As a result of the film’s Nordic styling and record-breaking popularity, Innovation Norway, Norway’s official tourism organization, and a joint partner in Disney’s marketing efforts for the film, is reporting a 350 percent increase in viewership of their website in the U.S. Per Arne Tuftin, Innovation Norway’s director of tourism, and Sidsel Overgaard, a Scandinavian journalist, identified other significant increases for Norwegian tourism as a result of the film in an interview with NPR in March.

According to Overgaard, the travel site, Kayak is reporting a 14 percent increase in Americans searching for flights to Norway. Tuftin also shares that internal research by Innovation Norway is indicating that more families with children are looking to Norway for travel. In addition, data collected by Skyscanner comparing flight searches from the U.S. to Norway showed a 153 percent increase over the same time period last year.

It remains to be seen whether the boost in travel searches to Norway will translate to booked flights, however Overgaard points to a similar scenario enjoyed by Scotland’s tourism industry after the success of Disney’s “Brave” in 2012. “That country embarked on a similar partnership with Disney upon the release of ‘Brave’ in 2012, Now tourism officials there say ‘Brave’-related visits are expected to bring in $200 million over the next five years.”

A Few of Frozen’s Scandinavian Influences:

• Sámi culture inspired several different aspects of the film including Sven the reindeer, decorations on the sled that mimic duoji décor and the clothing style of the ice cutters.
• Sámi musician Frode Fjellheim's “Eatnemen Vuelie” is the film's opening song. It contains elements of the traditional Sámi singing style, joik.
• Art directors were inspired by elements of Akershus Fortress, Nidaros Cathedral, Bryggen, Stave churches and Viking ships.
• The setting for the film’s fictional kingdom of Arendelle mimics the Nærøyfjord.
• Arendelle’s royal castle interior borrows from hand painted patterns found decorating castle walls in Oslo. The exterior design of the castle references the triangular rooflines and shingles found in stave churches.
• Fjord horses, lutefisk, trolls, northern lights, runes, rosemaling and bunads are all present in the film.

picture of Easter Thrillers

Easter Thrillers

Norway’s Easter Thrillers

Easter celebrations in Norway bring to mind visions of springtime ski excursions to mountain cabins, colorful decorations and time spent with friends and family. However, none of these Norwegian traditions are as unfamiliar and unusual to North Americans as the Norwegian Easter tradition of Påskekrim. Literally translated as “Easter crime,” this phenomenon grips Norway each spring and fills bookstores with dark tales of murder and kidnapping and Norwegian TV and radio programming with popular crime series. Even Tine, a Norwegian dairy product company, gets in on Easter crime festivities by printing crime-related cartoons on their milk cartons.

While it is uncertain exactly how Påskekrim has evolved and grown to become the Norwegian phenomenon it is today, it is believed to have started with a pair of students from Bergen who in the spring of 1923 published a crime novel titled, Bergenstoget plyndrett i natt (“Bergen Train Robbed Tonight”). The students, Nordahl Grieg and Nils Lie wrote the novel under the pseudonym “Jonathan Jerv” and purchased advertisements in Aftenposten and other Oslo newspapers to promote their book. The advertisement, cleverly masquerading as an article headline in big, bold letters just beneath the paper’s masthead, featured the novel’s title “BERGEN TRAIN ROBBED TONIGHT” and caused a sensation among readers who believed it to be a real headline. Readers—concerned for the welfare of passengers on the train—had missed the tiny text nearby (Pris 2 kroner, Gyldendal) denoting the price and publisher of the novel. The ingenious marketing stunt created such a buzz in Norway that the novel became a huge success and later was turned into a film in 1928. Publishers soon caught on to the novel’s Eastertime sales success and Påskekrim became an annual tradition.

While Scandinavian crime writers are enjoying tremendous popularity worldwide as of late, efforts by publishers to replicate Påskekrim in Sweden have been unsuccessful and Easter crime remains an unparalleled Norwegian phenomenon.

To learn more about Norway’s popular crime writers or to find recommended titles, log in to the digital edition of Viking magazine and check out these issues:

April 2010 – Curl Up with an Easter Thriller
http://msp.imirus.com/Mpowered/book/vvk10/i4/p12

April 2011 – Easter Thrillers
http://msp.imirus.com/Mpowered/book/vvk11/i3/p8

July 2011 – Summer Reading: Scandinavian Style
http://msp.imirus.com/Mpowered/book/vvk11/i7/p12

March 2013 – The Golden Touch
http://msp.imirus.com/Mpowered/book/vvk13/i3/p1

picture of norwegian royal stamps

Norwegian Royal Stamps

New Royal Postage Stamps

King Oscar II was honored as the first person to appear on a Norwegian stamp in 1855, just 15 years after Great Britain released the first-ever official postage stamp. Since then, over 150 faces have made their mark on official Norwegian postage stamps including Henrik Ibsen in 1928, Sonja Henie in 1990 and Max Manus in 2005. Queen Maud was the first woman to appear on a Norwegian postage stamp in 1939. Norwegian royals and foreign dignitaries have earned their place on these traveling portraits and this year four commemorative Royal stamps have been added to the list. Dag Mejdell, the chief executive of the Norwegian postal service said that “Posten Norge has a long tradition of issuing stamps in connection with royal anniversaries.”

The new stamps have been created to celebrate of the 40th birthdays of both Crown Prince Haakon on July 20 and Crown Princess Mette-Marit’s on August 19. Both the Crown Prince and Crown Princess received their own personalized stamps valued at 9.50 NOK (USD 1.50) and good for a standard postcard or letter within Norway. The third stamp marked at the same price, include one with the Crown Prince and Crown Princess and their children and the fourth stamp displays those in Norway’s royal line of succession, King Harald V, Crown Prince Haakon and daughter Princess Ingrid Alexandra. All four stamps are beautifully designed by stamp artist Enzo Finger and have been made available in Norway this summer.

Are you a stamp collector? Tubfrim could use your stamps. Tubfrim, established in 1928 in Nesbyen, Norway by Postmaster Ditlef Frantzen was initiated to sell used stamps to help children with tuberculosis. Today, the money continues to help and improve the quality of life for handicapped children and youth. Tubfrim is maintained by The Norwegian Health Association and Sons of Norway is proud to be the largest Tubfrim stamp collector outside of Norway. You can help by collecting your used Norwegian and foreign stamps leaving a small margin around them so as not to damage the stamp. Used telephone cards can also be collected and donated to Tubfrim. To learn more or to donate ask your lodge leaders or contact your district Tubfrim coordinator. For more information contact your Sons of Norway Tubfrim Chairperson, Gene Brandvold at (952) 831-4361 or email at genegbrand@aol.com.

picture of Viking jewelry

Viking Jewelry

Discovering Viking Jewelry

Some of the most basic questions regarding the settlement of Vikings in England have come one step closer to being answered thanks to new discoveries of Viking jewelry. According to a recent entry on Oxford University Press’s blog by Jane Kershaw, a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at University College in London, there had previously been little evidence of where early Viking settlers established themselves in England during the late eighth century. What was even more uncertain was whether or not these settlers were solely men.

Thanks to metal detecting, there has been an increase in discoveries of Viking-Age metalwork; counted among these discoveries are a surprising array of female jewelry items—500 to date—like brooches and pendants. While careful examination and dating identify some of the pieces as having been created post-settlement in Scandinavian style, others align directly with written accounts of settlement (c.870-950) and were likely worn on the clothing of female settlers.

Distinguishing these Scandinavian items from their Anglo-Saxon counterparts is easily done, as the styles are distinctly different. “Although Anglo-Saxon women also wore brooches, they were of a very different style to those favored by Scandinavian women, so it’s clear that the new jewelry finds represent a distinctly ‘foreign’ dress element,” says Kershaw. “The jewelry being unearthed in England is strikingly similar to that found in Scandinavia, particularly its southern regions: there are disc, trefoil, lozenge, oval and bird shaped brooches decorated with animals and plants from Scandinavian art styles of Borre, Jellinge, Mammen and Urnes.”

The discovery of these pieces help build a profile of a group of individuals that historians had largely believed consisted primarily of men. Now it can be ascertained that there was a significant female Scandinavian population in Viking-Age England. It is also believed that these Scandinavian women played a key role in expressing their native country’s cultural values. Illustrating this is the fact that certain trends in jewelry styles lasted significantly longer in their adopted settlement country than they did in Scandinavia—a physical sign of the effort made to sustain and preserve the cultural traditions of their homeland.

Jewelry findings also are helping to identify new concentrated hotspots of possible Viking settlement in England like that of rural Norfolk and Lincolnshire that had not been thought of as Scandinavian settlements previously. Although the concentrations of jewelry finds appear to be more prevalent in these areas, it is important to note the portability of jewelry and the locations must be interpreted mindfully.

Adapted from http://blog.oup.com/2013/04/viking-jewellery-janekershaw/

picture of midsummer bonfire

Norwegian Midsummer Bonfire

Midsummer

The seasons are changing and summer is upon us yet again, which means midsummer is right around the corner.

The height of summer, June 24, marks the longest, brightest day of the year in Norway, the Land of the Midnight Sun. Also known as the Summer Solstice, the axial tilt of the earth rotates around the sun and being exposed to the most consistent sunlight. The sun sets and rises in full view for those in the Northern Hemisphere and after long dark winters, this time is a joyous celebration of a much-awaited summer.

This sunny day is celebrated under different names throughout the Northern Hemisphere with festivals, gatherings, and rituals dating back to Pagan times. It is said that John the Baptist was born on June 24, giving special meaning to this day for Christians around the world. When Christian traditions began mixing with Pagan customs, the day evolved from one celebration to another. Many cultures believe in superstitious rituals; for example, getting married on this day ensures good luck and a happy life for the couple.

Norway celebrates Sankthansaften, or St. John’s Eve, each June 23, the eve before the longest day of the year. It is also called Jonsok which translates to John’s wake, referring to St. John the Baptist’s birth. Rituals carry on each year as little girls pick flowers and put them under their pillows at night with hopes of dreaming of their future husband. Many traditions continue to provide amusing stories and activities for children and the various origins of this day will endure, but the celebrations have and will continue to evolve over the years.

In Norway, festivities typically occur on June 23 and largely give thanks to the bright warm sun and the beautiful sweet smelling flowers in full bloom. Family and friends grill sausages and light bonfires bigger than on any other day of the year. Most bonfires are lit along Norway’s coast and are assumed to protect Norwegians from evil spirits and trolls lurking in the forests. Rømmegrøt is a favorite meal on this day steeped with melted butter, sugar and cinnamon. Once the bonfires die down and the sun begins to set people understand that the cycle must continue. This means the coming days slowly get shorter and shorter until the days grow completely dark. Norwegians live with these polar opposite seasons every year and, therefore, they take full advantage of every summer and enjoy the extended company of the sun on Sankthansaften.

How do you celebrate the summer solstice? Plan an event with your lodge and enjoy the sunny weather, then tell us about it by emailing membership@sofn.com

picture of norwegian bunad

Norwegian Hardanger Bunad

Bunads

There is a something special about owning a bunad and wearing it on Syttende Mai, Norway’s National Day. Let’s take a look at some of the history behind Norway’s national costume. Its roots date back to the Norwegian Romantic Nationalism period in the mid-19th century when, at that time, Norway was determined to secure a solid cultural identity. The Norwegian bunad is unique in that it is recognizable as one Norway’s official dress, but it is individualized based regional characteristics of color, pattern, style, and accessories. Since the 19th century the traditional costume has developed with the modern age and Norwegians who are lucky enough to own a bunad are always proud to show it off at special occasions like confirmations, weddings, funerals and national holidays.

The original costume of Norway has evolved with deep-rooted traditions based on everyday folk attire of old rural farmers mixed with the festive characteristics of old-style customs and local creativity. The interest for a traditional costume for men and woman was popularized when Norwegian Romantic Nationalism became widespread between 1840-1867, although there is evidence that the local folk costumes date back to the Middle Ages in Norway. Norwegians were eager to reinforce their own official cultural identity under Danish control and a strong part of that identity was obtaining a traditional costume that could symbolize national pride.

By the early 20th century the bunad movement was gaining momentum thanks in part to one woman’s inspiration, Hulda Garborg. Garborg was a pioneer in promoting interest in the bunad tradition and rousing a strong Norwegian sentiment for national pride. The appeal grew and eventually distinct regional styles of the costume were fashioned for not only rural folk but for the urban elite as well. Regions of Norway designed special bunads based on the customs and traditions from their area. Descendants must follow stylistic guidelines of their ancestor’s origins when making or purchasing a bunad of their own. Strict requirements are in place by Norway’s National Bunad and Folk Costumes Council (Bunad og Folkedraktrådet) who promote bunad knowledge, sustain traditions of the folk costumes and provide advice in the construction of new bunad models.

Today the bunad is widely recognized as one of the most authentic and popular traditional folk costumes in the world. Making or purchasing a quality bunad can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000 so it is often viewed as a status symbol for those who can afford them. The outfits are often passed down in families and typically when adolescents go through confirmation or turn 16 they are given their own authentic bunad. Because of the hefty cost, it is important that costumes can be easily altered for a lifetime of use. The fabrics used to make a bunad typically consist of wool skirts for women and wool pants and jackets for men. The men’s vests and the women’s bodices, aprons, bonnets and capes may be contingent on what was available when the bunad was first designed, but silk materials and lustrous woolen fabrics are most common, and don’t forget the cotton blouse to go underneath. The embroidery, color and shape give the bunad the most distinction and character, followed, of course by the accessories and unique jewelry called sølje that are key to any genuine bunad.

It is truly a beautiful sight to see all the beautiful bunads out in Norway on Syttende Mai. Folks line the streets waving flags, proud to show off their regional costume and excited to celebrate their enduring cultural identity that their ancestors fashioned so long ago.

picture of knitting needles

Norwegian Knitting

Trendy Norwegian Knitting

Once thought of as a quaint hobby, knitting is shrugging off its traditional image and is quickly becoming a hot trend worldwide. Wool garments are found everywhere from your grandmother's closet to fashion shows and catwalks.

Knitting has always been a prominent part of Norwegian culture, however, in recent years it has grown to include a younger, urban crowd of knitters. In Norway this trend is supported by celebrities like TV personality Dorthe Skappel and actress Sofia Gråbøl. The online release of Skappel's "Skapple jumper" pattern, featuring Alpaca wool, quickly lead to a wool shortage in shops around Norway. The Faroe Isle knitwear frequently worn by Gråbøl is also in high demand.

The effects of this booming knitting industry can easily be found throughout Norway. In Sandnes, a once ailing wool mill is now the biggest wool supplier in Norway and has experienced a 50% increase in sales. Knitting books are also in demand in Norway like that of Fashion designers Arne Nerjørdet and Carlos Zachrison, who's book, Julekuler—featuring 55 hand-knit ball Christmas ornaments—is in it's fourth printing, selling over 37,000 copies.

Norway has a marked history of impacting worldwide knitting and textile trends. The "Marius" pattern was at the forefront of this movement in 1954 when famous Norwegian war hero, actor and skier, Marius Eriksen modeled this unique design crafted by Unn Søiland in the film "Troll i Ord." Featuring the bold colors of the Norwegian flag, the "Marius" sweater was unusual for its time. 60 years later the "Marius" sweater is still the most sold and hand knit pattern in the world and its creator, Unn Søiland, is the recipient of the Royal Medal in Gold for her lifetime contribution to Norwegian hand knit traditions and their promotion internationally.

Want to be a part of the new knitting trend? Be sure to check out the knitting unit of the Cultural Skills Program available for download in the "Members Only" section of the Sons of Norway website or call 800-945-8851.

picture of viking women

Viking Women

The Role of Viking Women

A new thesis by Marianne Moen may offer some new insights into the complexities of women’s roles in Viking society.

In her paper, The Gendered Landscape, Moen cautions that scientific interpretation of archeological burial findings may be selling Viking women short. “To assume that Viking men were ranked above women is to impose modern values on the past, which would be misleading,” says Moen. For example, in the famous Oseberg ship excavation of 1904 archeologists were stunned to discover two female skeletons rather than a king or chieftain. “The first theories suggested that this must be the grave of queen Åsa mentioned in Snorr’s Ynglinga saga, and that the other skeleton was her slave servant,” says Moen. Carbon dating of the ship to around 834 AD later disproved this theory. Since the Oseberg ship excavation bears such similarities to the Gokstad (1880), Moen asserts it is reasonable to believe that the women buried with the Oseberg ship held important status—status that Moen warns may not necessarily be tied to “who she was married to or had mothered.”

Moen also asserts that too much historical credence may be given to historical texts. “Our perception of religion’s influence in the society is based on texts written hundreds of years afterwards, by men from a different and more misogynistic religion.” She goes on to say, “As archaeologists we have to base our analyses on archaeological material. Historical material do have some value, but only as secondary sources,” says Moen.

While more graves belonging to men have been discovered than those of women, Moen suggests that identification of the archeological findings may not be clearly male or female. In situations where human remains aren’t available, archeologists rely on the type of objects present to identify a burial site. “There have also been cases of male graves with beads and woven cloths, and women were sometimes buried with smaller weapons, for instance arrowheads. Generally it is fairly obvious what constitutes male or female objects, but the lines were sometimes blurred,” says Moen.

Moen suggests, “If it is the case that women belonged to the private sphere of the home and men were in the public sphere of society, this should be reflected in the burial landscape.” However, burial sites in the Kaupang area that Moen has studied contain side-by-side graves of both men and women with equal prominence. “The domestic role of Viking women may have been less limited to the private sphere than it is today. The large estates were contemporary seats of power, and the woman of the house had the keys. How private or public this role was should be interpreted outside our own cultural context,” said Moen.