Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween in Norway

Since today is Halloween, we decided to bring you a post about Halloween in Norway, written by our own Cultural Advisor, Colin Thomsen.

Until recently, Norwegians by and large did not celebrate Halloween. In fact, Halloween was virtually unknown in Norway before the late ‘90s. When the cartoon classic It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown was translated into Norwegian, the Great Pumpkin became the Old Man of Olsok. It’s not completely clear how the holiday started to catch on over there. Many Norwegians feel that American candy companies have tried to market trick-or-treating, while others say Donald Duck comics have helped promote the holiday. Whatever the origins, Halloween in Norway is a lot like Halloween in the States, even if some of the finer points have gotten lost in the translation.

Instead of saying “trick or treat” in English when the door is answered, Norwegian kids say “knask eller knep” or “digg eller deng” which both mean about the same thing as the English phrase. According to recent media reports, Norwegian kids tend to take the “trick” part a little too seriously. Egging and other forms of vandalism are quite common, especially because not every household participates.

This recent article from NRK quotes Asbjørn Schølberg, head of Eldreklubben (a club for older people) in Elverum who is not amused by Halloween pranks:

[Schølberg] has himself been the target of the kinds of tricks kids can get up to on Halloween. He has occasionally had to repaint his front door after it’s been ruined by egging…

“Older people are alone and scared of what kids might do when they come…Also it’s very annoying to have so many people coming to the door” says Schølberg.

According to another article, some Norwegian kids don’t stop celebrating on the 31st. If Halloween falls on or near a weekend as it does this year, the trick-or-treating can go on for one or two extra days.

Of course, the vast majority of Norwegian trick-or-treaters are just out for a good time, and the holiday seems like a natural fit for a society that’s so focused on its children. This article from Aftenposten is a virtual how-to for anyone looking to get in on the fun.

Have a fun and safe Halloween everyone!

Getting to Know…District 3 International Director Barbara Berntsen

Our dedicated Barbara Berntsen, recently elected to the position of District Three International Director, began her time with Sons of Norway when she was just nineteen years old! Since then, she can boast a long history with district three, and also a strong family connection—every single family member and in-law belongs to Sons of Norway! What’s kept her going in this great organization? Read on!

Q: Why did you join Sons of Norway? What did it offer you as a young adult that ?

A: At the time, my future in laws were members, so I wanted to get involved in an organization that we could do as a family.

Barbara also said that Sons of Norway was the “night out.” There were a lot of people her age and their kids grew up together in this organization; it was a very big family group.

Q: What initiatives did you start whilst D3 President?

A: I started a new strategic meeting plan. What had happened is, people used to come with reports intact. I started that…everybody now presents their reports early … this way when we got to the board meeting, we had more time for brainstorming, organization and committees. It gave us more time to work things out instead of being more rigid.

Also, as a district board, we revamped and wrote many new procedures for this district for the future.

Q: What changes do you anticipate between being a District President and an International Director?

A: I feel it’s a natural progression, but I also feel that one of my main responsibilities is to report all the great things that are happening in the third district to the international board.

Q: Favorite Norwegian Food?

A: Sylteflesk – like head cheese. My mother in law makes it.

You cook pork and then make a lot of slices and put it together with a lot spice. Then you have to squish it in a press and then cool it down and put in a salt brine. You put in fridge for a month, then serve with boiled potatoes.

That, and waffles.

Q: From what region is your bunad? Does that have personal significance for you / your family?

A: It’s from hardanger. My mother-in-law’s best friend used to be a folk dancer. When she felt that she and her husband were not going to dance any more, [she] asked if anyone wanted a bunad.

Liv remade the skirt and 90 year old Sigrid made apron. My mother-in-law helped me re-bead certain parts. It was a mini-lodge event!

I wore it for the first time at my installation.

Q: What is your favorite Sons of Norway memory?

A: One of them would be having my lodge watch me grow up. We joined the lodge, then got engaged, then married, then children, now I have grand-children. And really move in the organization. We have a great lodge.

When I was elected the first time to the district board. I knew I was prepared, but when I got involved with the district is how I really saw the big picture. That was really a nice time.

Q: What activities do you most enjoy participating in through Sons of Norway?

A: Just visiting with other people when we’re up at Land of the Vikings. A lot of times, we would go up on a lot of weekends (Barbara’s husband, Roy, works on building and grounds). Making new friends from other lodge and meeting the old…

Q: What’s one thing the blog readers should definitely know about you? Any hidden talents?

A: I’m a colonial oil painter, it’s all over my house. I’m from a family of painters.

We’re very involved in the 17th of May parade in Bayridge, Brooklyn. We have a lot of Scandinavian groups--it’s the civic groups, the Sons of Norway groups and the churches.

I’m very involved in the Norwegian Immigration Association. We put on exhibits from late 1800s through just after World War II, mainly about the contributions Norwegians have made to society.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Oslo Goes California

There's an interesting article over at Aftenposten English today. Apparently nearly 40 years after they first appeared in places like Los Angeles, vanity license plates are debuting in Norway.

After public sentiment showed that many Norwegians were not opposed to the idea of having personalized license plates on their automobiles, Transport Minister Liv Signe Navarsete reversed her earlier veto of the idea. The change probably also had something to do with the potential for increased revenue for Norway since vanity plates normally carry extra fees and increased prices. It sounds like that extra revenue will be pumped back into the Norwegian government for things like road construction.

Also, with this change, for the first time license plates will follow the driver, rather than the automobile. You see, in the past when a driver sold their car the license plate stayed with the car. Now, however, if a driver has a vanity plate they can keep it to use on the next car they buy.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Dan Rude in the News

There's a great article about International President Dan Rude in today's Missoulian newspaper online edition. It's a nice profile/interview that expands a bit upon what Dan told us back in mid-September. It's nice to see other news outlets are picking up on stories we think are important.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Our English Cousins

Anyone who has used Sons of Norway’s Norwegian for Reading Comprehension program knows that modern English and Norwegian are closely related languages, due to a shared ancestry and a long history of contact between the cultures that spawned them. But the connections between Britain and Scandinavia go far beyond the languages. To get a sense of why and what that means, we have to go all the way back to Roman times.

Julius Caesar, who had been busy conquering Gaul (modern France, more or less), led the first Roman expeditions to Britain in 55 and 54 BC. Over the next hundred years other Roman generals would visit the island, gradually bringing most of it under Roman rule. The native people living there belonged to various Celtic tribes. The tribes living in modern England and Wales we now call Brythonic peoples, or Britons and they were related to the other local Celts, the Goidelic or Gaelic peoples, living then mostly in Ireland. Later, around 400 AD, the Romans left Britain and some ambitious Germanic tribes called the Angles, Saxons and Jutes swept in from their homelands in Northern Germany. It’s not clear as to whether the invading Germans (typically known as Anglo-Saxons) mixed with the indigenous Britons, suppressed them or just wiped them out. But whatever the case, in a very short time the Anglo-Saxons were the dominant group in central Britain and would remain so until 1066 (see my earlier blog post about that).

When the Anglo-Saxons came to Britain, they brought with them languages, cultures and customs that were very similar to those of their Germanic relatives. The early Anglo-Saxons were pagans, and worshipped more or less the same gods their Scandinavian cousins did, including Woden (Odin) the chief god, Thunor (Thor) the god of thunder and Tiw (Tyr) the god of war, among many others. Although we tend to think of these as being “Norse” gods because the Scandinavians preserved more of their pagan culture, they were in fact worshipped by all Germanic peoples before the expansion of Christianity. The Anglo-Saxons wrote in runes, composed heroic poetry, and buried their honored dead in mounds, sometimes with ships, weapons and armor – much as the Vikings later did.

Relative to Scandinavia, Christianity was established quite early in England, in about 600AD, and so very little information about Anglo-Saxon paganism survives. However there is a wealth of fascinating literature and history from the Anglo-Saxon period including the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the Domesday Book, the Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem and most famously, the epic poem Beowulf. The story of Beowulf actually takes place in Scandinavia, mostly Denmark and Sweden, and contains references to characters later mentioned in Norse sagas.

The Anglo-Saxons also left behind many material artifacts. The greatest Anglo-Saxon archeological site is at a place in Suffolk called Sutton Hoo, which is understood to have been a cemetery in the 6th and 7th centuries. The Sutton Hoo site contains the ship grave of a high-status person, and dozens of other graves. Some of the artifacts have actually been connected to Sweden, indicating that the Anglo-Saxons traded far beyond Britain. Check out this and this for more information and pictures from the Sutton Hoo excavations.

During the Viking Age (approximately 800-1100 AD), Britain was invaded, plundered and at times settled or governed by various groups of Scandinavians, mostly Norwegians and Danes. In the 860s an enormous Danish army terrorized England, and for a time Danish law actually held sway over most of Central England, an area known as the Danelaw. They also established a kingdom in Northern England called Jorvik – modern York – that was later taken over by Norwegians. Other (mostly Norwegian) Vikings expanded into the Northern Isles of Scotland, the Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland. Vikings also raided in Ireland, and established the city of Dublin.

The common ancestry and long contacts between the British and the Norse made deep impression on both cultures. Long after the end of the Viking Age Orkney and Shetland were considered part of the Scandinavian community, and a Scandinavian language called Norn was spoken there until as late as the 1800s. Recent research has indicated that a large part of the genetic makeup of modern British people comes from Scandinavia. More obviously, a large number of British places names come from Old Norse. To learn more about these click here and here.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Secession in Norway?

I was just reading the My Little Norway blog and saw something interesting. It looks like there are the beginnings of a secession movement developing within northern Norway.

Apparently following Tromsø having its 2018 Olympic bid denied a gentleman named Håkon Winther has begun leading a movement to make Northern Norway a separate state. While the movement is still in its infancy, it is starting to get a little traction. Mr. Winther has started a Facebook group for supporters of his cause and it already has 6,000 members. This may not seem like a lot, but remember the northern part of Norway only has about 460,000 total residents. Mr. Winther also has started his own political party in anticipation of success. If you want to read more about it, you can read the full story by clicking here (LGT My Little Norway).

Sounds a little crazy doesn't it? Actually, the idea of secession is as old as time itself. Groups of people who differ in opinion with their neighbors have been splitting up land and geographic lines for coutless centuries, whether it was done under the name of secession or not.

In fact, in the 19th and 20th centuries alone there were more than 30 secession movements around the world. Think about that--a secession every 6 years.

Heck, even the United States has a long history of secession. Think Texas; think The Civil War; think Key West, Florida. Wait--what?

That's right, on April 23rd, 1982 Key West seceded from the Union and declared itself the Conch Republic--independant from the U.S.

Now some will say it was done mostly tongue-in-cheek, but for a few days it was as real as the initial cause of the conflict. The point being that in you have enough people coming together under the banner of geographic identity, you never know what might happen.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Getting to Know…New International Vice President Marit Kristansen

The lovely Marit Kristiansen moved up to the role of International Vice President at this year's International Convention in San Diego. That convention kicked off a very looong trip for VP Kristiansen, so I was lucky to catch her when she had only just returned. Read on to find out more about this outgoing woman who joined Sons of Norway when she was just 24 years old!

Q: Where are you from originally?

A: I was born in Norway in a little place called Vaag and that’s in the kommune of Gildeskaal, but I came to Seattle at the age of five.

Q: Why did you join Sons of Norway back in ’68?

A: Because it was a family organization; it was a place where when my husband was working out of town I could go and bring my two daughters. Everyone was so welcoming, it became my social outlet. And of course my Norwegian roots.

Q: How has the organization changed over the past forty years?

A: It has become more informal in its business meetings and ritual. I do like the ritual, I think it gives it meaning. I think s/n has hit a good balance by having various ceremonies so we can choose what suits out lodge best. I think lodges are doing a good job with programming, and it has changed by focusing on better programming.

Q: What made you initially want to get involved with Sons of Norway leadership?

A: At my very first meeting, the secretary was absent so they asked, ‘Marit, can you take minutes? Can you write English?” I like parliamentary procedure and the business aspect. Once I got involved, it was fun. I went through district board and lodge positions and so moved on up.

Q: Any VP initiatives you are considering for the next biennium?

A: The vice president’s work basically focuses on membership. I think where we need to focus is membership retention. We sign them up right and left, but I think we have to focus more on keeping them.

Q: What’s your favorite thing to do in your free time?

A: To spend time with the family. I have four grandkids. That, and I like to go dancing. And I like play my accordion.

Q: Best vacation? Why?

A: I think the best vacation I had was when my husband and I (back in ‘85) spent two months traveling. We went to London and Aberdeen, then flew to Nice and took a cruise in the Mediterranean and spent some days in Venice and Paris. Then up to Norway. That was the best – that one stands out because we saw so much we hadn’t seen before.

Q: Favorite Norwegian food?

A: Homemade bread with gjetost. I can’t live without my gjetost!

Q: Top convention memory from any convention?

A: Perhaps the one that was meaningful for me was the installation ceremony in Stavanger in Norway. It happened in my husband’s town and my family was there and that they could be present for my installation as international director.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Lutefisk: It's Not So Bad

If you read my post about lutefisk yesterday, two things should have been clear. First, that I am not a fan of the gelatinous whitefish holiday staple that is lutefisk. Second, and more importantly, that even though I am not a fan of the dish, there are a lot of people who are and I think that lutefisk has gotten a bad rap over the years. In an effort to remedy this situation I want to put the spotlight on some other Nordic dishes that are much stranger, in some cases, much more dangerous and would make for a much bigger surprise were you to find them on the table at your family's Thanksgiving or Christmas get-together.

So, here it is, the top five strangest Nordic dishes:

5. Gravlax: Number five on this list is a food that can be found throughout Scandinavia by various names, including gravad lax (Sweden, Denmark), gravlaks (Norway), graavilohi (Finnland) and graflax (Iceland). This dish dates back to the middle ages and found its popularity throughout Scandinavia via trade amongst different countries.

One would think that it must be a very tasty appetizer due to its long history and widespread acceptance throughout the various Nordic countries, right? Maybe it is. If you've tried it, please let me know.

Gravlax made this list (just barely I might add) because of the way it was historically prepared. During the Middle Ages, gravlax was made by fishermen, who salted the salmon and lightly fermented it by burying it in the sand above the high-tide line. The word gravlax comes from the Scandinavian word grav, which means literally "grave" or "hole in the ground" (in Swedish, Norwegian, Danish and Estonian), and lax (or laks), which means "salmon", thus gravlax is "salmon dug into the ground."

Today, that fermentation process is no longer used, rather the fish is cured in salt, sugar, and dill. That actually sounds tasty to me. How about you?

Danger factor: None.

Surströmming: The name means "soured herring" and is considered a Swedish delicacy. The herring are caught in spring, when it is in prime condition and they just about to spawn. Then, the herring are fermented in barrels for one to two months, then tinned where the fermentation continues. Half a year to a year later, gases have built up sufficiently for the once cylindrical tins to bulge into a more rounded shape.

Weren't we all warned as kids/young adults that bulging cans in the cupboard or on the market shelves were never to be consumed for fear of botulism? I'm just asking. In this case species of Haloanaerobium bacteria are responsible for the in-can ripening/bulging. Also, these bacteria produce carbon dioxide and a number of compounds that account for the unique odor: pungent propionic acid, hydrogen sulfide, butyric acid, and vinegary acetic acid. Now here's where it all comes together:

Danger factor: Certain airlines have banned the tins on their flights, considering the pressurized containers to be potentially dangerous. In April 2006, several major airlines, including Air France and British Airways, banned the fish citing that the pressurized cans of fish are potentially explosive.

Now imagine this, you're cruising at 35,000 feet in the middle of a 10 hour flight home from your holiday in Sweden when you hear a loud bang or explosion. Then the air in the airplane's cabin is filled with the smell of rotten-egg, rancid-butter and vinegar. And you've still got at least a couple hours before you are over North-America, where you could land and deplane. Doesn't sound like a very fun scenario to me.

Hákarl or kæstur hákarl: This one is is from our Icelandic brethren and the name translates into "fermented shark" (Now we're getting to the really good stuff, right? Typically made from basking sharks that have been fermented for 6-12 weeks underground, cured and then hung to dry for 4-5 months, Hákarl is known for its "ammonia-rich" smell. Mmmmmm...ammonia...

Danger Factor: What makes this dish interesting is that consumption of this type of shark without proper preparation would be quite dangerous. In fact, due to this species of shark's high content of uric acid and trimethylamine oxide, it would be downright poisonous. It's only during the fermentation process that these toxins are flushed from the sharks body. If the process isn't done properly, some of these poisons can still be found in the shark meat.

The best that can be said about this dish (and it is said by some) is that Hákarl is an acquired taste.

2. Smalahove: The only non-fish entry to this list comes in at number two on today's list. Smalahove, also called Smalehovud or Skjelte, is a Norwegian dish that's typically served up at, or around, Christmas. The reason this dish made the list is because of its danger factor and because its made of sheep's head.

The. Entire. Sheep's. Head.

Once only a food for the poor, but now considered a delicacy, Smalahove is prepared by torching the skin and fleece of the head, removing the brain and salting the head. Then The head is boiled for about 3 hours.

Danger factor: While this dish may seem a bit more benign than the previous dishes listed, Smalahove makes number two on this list due to the fact that the EU forbids the production of smalahove from adult sheep, due to fear of the possibility of transmission of scrapie, a deadly, degenerative prion disease of sheep and goats, even though scrapie does not appear to be transmissible to humans. It is now only allowed to be produced from the heads of lambs.

Rakfisk: This traditional eastern Norwegian dish is the ultimate in my book. Made typically from fermented trout or char, this dish is usually served sliced or as a fillet with raw red onion, lefse, sour cream, and almond potatoes. Some also use mustard-sauce, a mild form of mustard with dill. It is not recommended that Rakfisk be eaten by people with a reduced immune defense or by pregnant women.

Danger factor: This "delicacy" is number one on the list for a reason. The preparation is ver stringent and if done wrong the result can be deadly. You see, to make Rakfisk you need to gut a fish, put it into a vinger solution for a short while, then treat with salt and sugar before burying the fish for two to three months. The danger is that if the Rakfisk comes in contact with with soil there is a great risk of the "wrong" bacteria growing in the fish, especially Clostridium botulinum which causes botulism.

Now, I can't speak to the veracity of this, but I have heard anecdotally about a family in Norway who, a couple weeks after burying their Rakfisk, found their dog dead on the back steps after having dug up the fermenting fish. To me, it would seem that Rakfisk is the Norwegian answer to Fugu and that consuming it would be the ultimate act of culinary bravery.

Yet, even with all that, approximately 500 tonnes of rakfisk are consumed in Norway annually. There's even a festival devoted to this questionable dish!

So there you have it. Five different Nordic dishes that would make anyone glad to see lutefisk as an alternative for dinner. Now, there may be some of you out there who are much braver than I and want the recipes so they can try some of these dishes. You'll have to look elsewhere, I'm afraid, because I don't want to be held liable for a shark attack or botulism poisoning.

Have a great day everyone!

Monday, October 20, 2008

It's Lutefisk Time Again!

As we near the end of October many people are preparing for the coming holiday season. For some that means digging out their various decorations for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. For others, it sifting through their cookbooks looking for the perfect traditional holiday meal. For some it's turkey while others prefer ham. But, for a select group of Americans, it's the more Nordic-centric choice of lutefisk. TYup, it's that time of year again when Nordic-American families break out the cod, slather it in butter and dish it up for anyone and everyone who dares to try (or enjoy) the stuff.

I'll never forget the first time my grandfather, whose parents had emigrated from Norway in the early 1900's, got me to try lutefisk. It was Thanksgiving of 1982 and I was a 5 year-old who, until that time, had been raised on typical midwestern food, like hotdishes, jello and tater-tots. My grandfather called me to the head of the table and placed me on his lap. He told me he had something new to try and proceeded to shove a forkfull of lutefisk into my mouth! At the time I wasn't sure what to make of it other than it reminded me of a buttery, hot jello.

Now, I know many of you may comment and tell me that it wasn't prepared correctly and that lutefisk can be a real delicacy, but to a five-year-old it was not a very pleasant experience (to say the least). In the years since then I have tried lutefisk again and again, but have never been able to acquire a taste for it and thus am not a fan of the dish.

That being said, I also think that lutefisk is a too oft maligned dish. Yes, it has an odd texture. Yes, its flavor is sometimes hard to describe. And yes, its presentation on a plate often makes a bad impression. But even with all that, I think many folks are too hard on this traditional Nordic dish.

To prove my point, that there are much stranger and far less appetizing dishes out there, tomorrow's blog will highlight some of the Nordic world's strangest and, in some cases, most dangerous dishes.

In the meantime, if you are hankering for a hunk of lutefisk, be sure to check out the Sons of Norway Events Calendar to see if there's a lutefisk dinner being served in your area.

Have a great day and check back tomorrow to learn about why lutefisk may not be so bad after all (comparatively).

Friday, October 17, 2008

Want to Learn Norwegian?

This week we've got another great article from the Culture desk! Colin Thomsen has put together a great piece about where folks can find Norwegian language lessons online.

Want to impress your relatives? Need to learn a few phrases for that trip coming up? Got some old letters you’d like to translate? Whatever your goals, Sons of Norway can help you get started learning the Norwegian language.

Our website,, has two great language programs for members. The first one, “Norwegian in 5 Minutes a Month,” consists of 37 lessons of simple phrases, written in Norwegian with English translations and pronounced by native speakers. They are all aimed at the beginner level, but they will give you a sense of what the language sounds like and how it works. The second, newer program is called “Norwegian for Reading Comprehension.” As the title indicates, this program focuses on reading for general understanding, rather than speaking or writing. Norwegian for Reading Comprehension shows you how the Norwegian language works and teaches you a strategy for breaking down sentences, paragraphs and passages piece by piece. Since there’s so much variation in the Norwegian language, this program includes instruction on the two different forms of the written language as well as tips about reading older texts.

To try either of these programs, just sign into the “Members Login” section of If you’re not yet a member, you can join instantly by clicking here.

If you’re interested in studying Norwegian at a local university, check out this list from the Less Commonly Taught Languages project. For more information and help about learning the language generally, check out Norskklassen, a free online community and resource bank. There are also many fine books, CD-ROMs and other tools available from Viking Magazine advertisers.

Lately we at the Culture Desk have been spending more of our free time than we would like to admit brushing up on our Old Norse with this free online introduction to the language. Old Norse, of course, is the language of Viking-era Scandinavia, the ancestor language that spawned modern Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Icelandic and Faroese (and a few others…more on that another time). Generally speaking languages have become much more user-friendly in the last thousand years, so the grammar of Old Norse can be quite challenging. But then again, we at the Culture Desk never shrink from a challenge, especially one that’s grammatical in nature. This course starts nice and slow and uses a healthy dose of humor and sarcasm that we appreciate, plus it emphasizes vocabulary words that one needs for reading myths and sagas. Pretty cool.

Pretty cool, indeed. Thanks again, Colin. We hope you enjoyed today's blog post and hope you'll let us know what other kinds of information you'd like to learn about in the future. Leave us a comment below and let us know your thoughts. Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Hero Among Us

I just read the most amazing article about one of our members in Westby, WI! Member Howard Sherpe saved the life of a Norwegian performer at a recent lodge meeting!

On September 30th there was a group of Norwegian musicians and dancers touring through the Coulee region of Wisconsin. As part of their tour, they performed for the Sons of Norway Solvang 5-457 lodge in Westby. This would prove to be fortuitous for performer Olav Halvorsen because on that night, during the performance, Mr. Halvorsen suffered a severe heart attack.

Howard Sherpe and an unidentified man, who was with the tour group, combined forces and immediately began performing CPR on Halvorsen’s. According to Sherpe, who was a medic in the military years ago, Halvorsen had no pulse and his eyes had rolled back in his head. Sherpe and his assistant worked hard to keep Halvorsen alive until emergency medical assistance arrived. "He was gone at least twice, but we weren’t about to give up. We knew we had to keep the blood flowing until help arrived or he didn’t stand a chance" said Sherpe.

In the end, Mr. Halvorsen survived and was sitting up and talking by the next day.

We should all be proud of Mr. Sherpe, for he truly is a hero among us!

News from Sons of Norway

I found a couple great news articles about Sons of Norway lodges this morning and wanted to share them with you.

First, there's an article about the Vikings of Lake lodge 6-166 winning an International Lodge of the Year award at this year's International Convention. Congratulations, again, to Mary Beth Ingvoldstad and all the members of Vikings of Lake!

Next, there was a nice article in the St. Cloud Times about Trollheim lodge 1-511 in St. Cloud, MN. The members of Trollheim sponsored and helped plan a Norwegian Cultural Arts fair at the Stearns County History Museum. Good job!

You know, this latter article really highlights some great points. The most important of which is that members can get together in small or large groups and accomplish some really wonderful things.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

This Just In...

It appears that the Holmenkollen ski jump, which dates back to 1939, will be torn down.

But have no fear because this landmark, which can be seen from almost anywhere in Oslo, is going to be completely rebuilt by 2010 and in time for the Nordic Skiing World Championship preliminaries and the actual Championships in 2011.

Getting to Know...International Treasurer Gene Brandvold

International Treasurer Gene Brandvold is a busy man. On his second term as treasurer, he took time out from his bowling to talk to me about his membership in Sons since he first joined in 1983.

Q: Favorite Norwegian food?

A: Lefse and torsk.

Q: Favorite Norwegian beverage?

A: Akevit (which Gene said without skipping a beat!).

Q: How many times have you visited Norway?

A: Five times. Myrt [Gene’s wife] has been there seven –not bad for a Swede.

Q: What city in Norway you’ve visited do you like best? Why?

A: I visited the Brandvold family farm twice in Hemsedal. It’s only 10 acres on the side of a mountain. Otherwise, just seeing Norway – it’s so beautiful, the mountains the rivers the valleys.

Q: Why did you join Sons of Norway?

A: At that time, they had on Sunday mornings on WCCO a five minute Sons of Norway show. I called the headquarters and somehow I filled out an application and I ended up in Vonheim. At that time, Vonheim had about 4000 members.

Q: What is your favorite Sons of Norway event in the Twin Cities?

A: Visiting other lodges, attending their events and meeting their members.

Q: What other lodge, district or international positions have you held?

A: International Director for District One, District One President, District One Treasurer and five different offices within Vonheim.
Sounds like Gene is quite the renaissance man.

Q: What made you run for treasurer?

A: Finance is my background, and auditing. The position came open, so why not?

Q: What have you gotten out of being treasurer that you didn’t receive as a district or lodge officer?

A: I guess being involved and making decisions that effect the whole organization. As a member of the executive committee, we get involved more so. It effects the future, you might say. It’s exciting, but at times there’s a little pressure because people want the organization to grow and it’s up to us to approve the programs to make them grow.

When I asked him if there was anything else, Gene told me that he is in the Minneapolis bowling hall of fame for meritorious service. That seems a fitting close.

Get up close with International Vice President Marit Kristiansen in our next installment!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Elgnytt – Moose News

We've got another great blog post from the culture desk at Sons of Norway! This week, Colin Thomsen will educate us about a very Norwegian topic: Moose. Enjoy, and please let us know if you've had any moose sightings so far this fall.

Ah, autumn and a young man’s thoughts turn to moose. It’s moose season in Norway, and we at the Sons of Norway Culture Desk have put together a few interesting thoughts and facts about Norway’s national animal.

Norwegian moose – called elg in Norwegian – are actually the same species as American moose, known in Latin as Alces alces. The Norwegian word elg is related to the English word “elk” which, confusingly, refers to an entirely different animal. According to The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and The Proto-Indo-European World the discrepancy seems to be due to the fact that Alces alces was extinct in Britain by about the year 900 AD, but the word “elk” remained in the English language, probably as a vague term meaning “large deer.” Much later as British explorers traveled the New World, they needed words to describe the animals they found there. “Elk” came out of retirement to describe a different species (Cervus elaphus, aka red deer) while a local Algonquin (American Indian) word – mooz – was brought in to describe Alces alces.

But an elg has always been an elg in Norwegian. Whatever you call it, Norwegians love their elg, which is sometimes stylized as skogens konge, or “King of the Forest” and often appears as an artistic motif known as elg i solnedgang (“moose in the sunset”).

Perhaps this explains the obsession the Aftenposten English Desk has with what we like to call elgnytt – “moose news.” In their English-language service, Norway’s largest daily newspaper seems to spend more time reporting on moose-related events than any other topic. Readers could be forgiven for thinking that the Norwegian people live in constant peril of being overrun by drunken, burping moose who terrorize the countryside. Here are a few of only the most bizarre pieces of moose news from the last couple of years:

Burping moose bad for the environment
Drunken moose terrorizes family
More crashes in the full moon
Moose on the loose at Kristiansand’s airport
Moose rampage in Skien
Thieves felled by moose
Moose canceled ski race
Moose meat in space

Despite by the apparent excess of moose, hunting the animals is both legal and popular in Norway. In most places the hunt starts in mid-September and lasts until the end of October. For all the statistics about hunting moose you could ever want (and probably a lot more) click here and here.

And finally, just because it’s too weird not to mention, some people have actually tried to domesticate moose. In fact there’s a moose farm in Russia, where moose are born and bred in order – and we are not making this up – to be milked.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Daniel O'Donnell and Sons of Norway

As you know, Sons of Norway was giving out autographed Daniel O'Donnell t-shirts to new members who joined at Hostfest, as well as to those who renewed their membership. Well, now we have some video of Mr. O'Donnell talking about the shirts. Take a look here.

Also, in the background you'll see a number of Sons of Norway staff and members sporting the new t-shirts, which are sure to be a big hit with O'Donnell's fans!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Norsk Høstfest: Day 3

Today was very exciting and very busy. All morning we had current members renewing and new members joining so they could get their hands on the two Norsk Høstfest exclusive gifts we were giving away! People loved the cookbook and the autographed t-shirts. Big thanks to Astrid Karlesn Scott and Daniel O'Donnell for helping us out!

Also, I have some great photos for you to look at from Høstfest.

Bjøro Håland sharing a quiet moment with a fan.

International President, Dan Rude and Fraternal Director, Eivind Heiberg meeting Daniel O'Donnell

International President, Dan Rude being interviewed with Daniel O'Donnell for a T.V. show

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Norsk Høstfest: Day 2 & 2nd Big Announcement

Today was awesome! The booth in Oslo Hall was hopping with activity, we had a number of new members join and A LOT of members renew their membership! Best of all, our International President Dan Rude was on TV!

Today at about noon, there were some TV stations on hand to interview Høstfest entertainer Daniel O'Donnell and Dan was part of the interview! This is where the 2nd big announcement comes in. You see, for two days we will be offering a second recruitment incentive--an autographed Daniel O'Donnell t-shirt, signed by the man himself!

Because of this offer, the TV stations wanted to interview Dan Rude about it, and about Sons of Norway. Dan did a great job and it created quite a buzz around Høstfest!

So, beginning tomorrow, anyone who joins Sons of Norway will receive one of these awesome t-shirts! So come on out and join! This is for two days only and once Høstfest is over, this offer will be, too.

In the meantime I'm trying to get a copy of the TV interview so I can convert it for the blog.

Have a great day everyone!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Norsk Høstfest: Day 1

Today was the first day of the festival and the Minot Fairgrounds were hopping with activity. Since this is the largest Scandinavian festival in America, people travel from all over the North America to be a part of the excitement. As I was walking to the festival I passed motorhomes with license plates from all over the U.S. and one thing really struck me-everyone here is so nice! It's about a quarter mile walk from the hotel to the festival and the entire way there I had complete strangers waving, saying hello and wanting to chat when they saw my Sons of Norway polo shirt. It's a great thing to be surrounded by so many people who are all so nice and happy.

The day itself went by very quickly. I met a lot of members from around the world and signed up a few new members as well. Overall, it was a great day for everyone and, in terms of membership retention, the cookbook I mentioned yesterday was very popular! More to come tomorrow!

Norsk Høstfest: Big Announcement #1

I've got a big announcement for everyone! This year we have a couple of new recruitment incentives at Norsk Høstfest and I'm about to announce the first!

This year, at Norsk Høstfest, we will be offering a free, autographed copy of "Authentic Norwegian Cooking" by Astrid Karlsen Scott! This hardcover cookbook is amazing and has a lot of great recipes and accompanying photos. We've been working since this past summer, trying to put together a deal and now I can finally announce it!

Anyone who signs up for Sons of Norway membership, or renews their current membership will receive this gorgeous book. Enjoy!