Sunday, June 26, 2011

Marking Time

This week, Norwegians celebrated Sankthansaften, or St. Hans Eve, on June 23. Also known as Jonsok, or "John's wake," the day was originally a pre-Christian celebration of midsummer, marked by feasting and dancing around bonfires. With the coming of Christianity in the 11th century, the day was rededicated to St. John the Baptist (aka St. Hans) and the church required attending mass on this day.

"If you weren't in church on saints' days, you were fined," says Kathleen Stokker, professor of Norwegian at Luther College, in a Viking magazine interview. "So it was important to know when they were."

Norwegians kept track of the days by using a calendar stick called a primstav. Each day was represented by a notch on the stick and the year was divided into two halves, a winter side and a summer side. Symbols were carved into the calendar as a reminder of important dates. For example, the symbol for St. Hans was an hourglass or the sun.

While medieval Norwegians embraced their newer Christian practices, they also hung on to their traditional folk culture and continued to celebrate Jonsok the night before with bonfires and dancing.

For more information on primstavs, including directions on how to make your own more modern version, check out the July issue of Viking magazine!

Amy Boxrud is editor of Viking magazine. She lives with her family in Northfield, Minn., where she’s a member of Nordmarka 1-58.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Signe Karin.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Norwegian Coastal Voyage: LIVE

Like a lot of folks this year, vacation and travel plans have probably been curtailed due to tighter finances. More people than I can count have told me, wistfully, that they’d love to go to Norway this summer, but just can’t afford it. It’s a common tale, but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the beauty of Norway.

If you haven’t heard about this yet, you need to check it out: Norway’s state broadcaster NRK and Hurtigruten, The NORWEGIAN COASTAL VOYAGE is making history with 134 hours of round-the-clock LIVE television coverage of the voyage up the Norwegian coast. The journey is considered the “world’s most beautiful voyage” by several top travel publications.

This is an amazing fete in that it’s 5 and a half straight days of video being broadcast! The scenery is awesome and it’s definitely worth checking out. I know it’s not the same as seeing it all in person, but it’s definitely better than a post card and, if what I’m hearing is correct, it will be watchable over and over again via the web. This means you can visit Norway any time you like.

Sons of Norway sponsors active, healthy lifestyles

This past Friday Sons of Norway sponsored the Uptown Minneapolis Criterium, which is the 4th stage of the Nature Valley Grand Prix/Bicycle Festival. This was a great event for because it brought together some of the country’s most elite cyclists and thousands of people who are interested in leading active and healthy lifestyles.

The event was important for Sons of Norway because we, also, believe in the importance of active and healthy lifestyles. So much so, that we have redeveloped our Sports Medal program to better reflect the fun and excitement that comes with being active. We’ve already rolled out two new medals and every quarter we will introduce another new design for our program.

Combined with this new look, we have also added a new sport, swimming, to the list of activities that are eligible for medals. If you’d like to learn more about this new svommerke medal, or any of the redesigned programs, don’t hesitate to contact or call 800-945-8851.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Hurtiguten: The World's Most Beautiful Voyage

MS NordnorgeThere's been a unique live TV broadcast coming out of Norway this week. NRK, the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, is streaming a broadcast of Hurtigruten, Norway's coastal express. The program, called "Hurtigruten—minute by minute" began on June 16 and continues for a six-day voyage along Norway's coast.

Hurtigruten means literally "the fast route," and for many years it was the most reliable link between Southern to Northern Norway. The express route began making runs along Norway's northern coast in 1893, carrying passengers, mail and cargo. Today, a ship leaves the city of Bergen every day, traveling north to Kirkenes, near the Russian border, stopping at 34 ports of call along the way.

It's been more than a dozen years since my husband and I took Hurtigruten from Bergen to the polar circle. Being land-locked midwesterners, neither of us had much experience traveling by boat and we weren't sure what to expect. We were mesmerized by the incredible scenery and the long, sun-filled evenings. In fact, the only hardship I experienced while on Hurtigruten was forcing myself to go to bed each night—I hated to miss a minute of it!

If you haven't traveled via Hurtigruten, now is the chance to experience it. Or, if you've been lucky enough to take the "world's most beautiful voyage," it's a great time to relive some of those incredible memories. If you'd like to read more about Hurtigruten, check out "Of Sled Dogs and Snow Crabs" by Colleen Friesen in the January issue of Viking.

Amy Boxrud is editor of Viking magazine. She lives with her family in Northfield, Minn., where she’s a member of Nordmarka 1-58.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Dance Your Way Through Summer!

Have you had a chance to check out the June issue of Viking? After reading our cover story about Hallgrim Hansegård and his innovative FRIKAR dance company, you might be inspired to bust some Nordic moves. Luckily for you, there are plenty of opportunities to improve your dance skills or learn some new ones in the summer months ahead.

For instance, here are three upcoming events in different regions of the United States:

And if you happen to be in Norway this June, you can enjoy watching the country's best folk dancers at Landskappleik, the national folk music and dance competition, held this year in Seljord.

Keep an eye on the Viking Kalender, as well as the events on Sons of Norway's website, for more opportunities to enjoy Nordic dance this summer!

Photo courtesy of Flickr user hythlodaeus.

Amy Boxrud is editor of Viking magazine. She lives with her family in Northfield, Minn., where she’s a member of Nordmarka 1-58.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Eclipse of the Midnight Sun

For most of us, the idea of a solar eclipse at midnight would sound impossible. However, to those living in northern Norway, Sweden and Finland a solar eclipse at midnight is not only a possibility, it is an event set to occur tonight.

At midnight, Norwegians will be treated to their first midnight solar eclipse since 2000. Rarer still is the depth of the eclipse, at almost 50%; tonight’s eclipse will not be surpassed until 2084.

In the Land of the Midnight Sun, spectacular displays of light phenomena aren’t uncommon. Recently, Norwegian artist Terje Sørgjerd captured one of these light displays with an incredible time-lapse film created in the Lofoten Islands from late April to mid May. Terje describes what he calls “Arctic Light” on his page by saying, “My favorite natural phenomenon is one I do not even know the name of, even after talking to meteorologists and astrophysicists I am none the wiser. What I am talking about I have decided to call The Arctic Light and it is a natural phenomenon occurring 2-4 weeks before you can see the Midnight Sun. The Sunset and Sunrise are connected in one magnificent show of color and light lasting from 8 to 12 hours. The sun is barely going below the horizon before coming up again. This is the most colorful light that I know, and the main reason I have been going up there for the last 4 years, at the exact same time of year, to photograph.”

For those of us who won’t be able to experience the eclipse firsthand, visit at 5:00 P.M. CST, Knut Joergen Roed Oedegaard, astrophysicist with the Norwegian Centre for Science Education in Oslo, will be documenting the eclipse.

Update: Interested in taking a closer look at last night's midnight solar eclipse? Check out these fantastic photo submissions from Norway, Russia, China and Finland. You can also click here to see reader submitted eclipse photos on Enjoy!

The Arctic Light from TSO Photography on Vimeo.