Barnesklubb: Make Your Own Primstav or Calendar Stick

People have devised ways to keep track of the passing days for millennia. In Scandinavia, where the growing season is so short, this was particularly important. It was imperative to know the best time for the sowing of seed, or the time when cattle might safely be let out to graze.

In measures that varied from valley to valley, they notched off the days from that week in winter when the sun barely crept above the horizon, or from the day the ice broke up on the lake. The days were carved on a stick or board and eventually an elementary almanac of weather and crops evolved – the first “Farmer’s Almanac”, if you will.

Make Your Own Primstav or Calendar Stick @EvaVarga.netThe Primstav, or calendar stick, served our nordic ancestors for seven centuries as a guide long before the invention of  printing. With the arrival of Christianity, the Primstav evolved as a religious calendar to keep track of the saints’  days.

Each day was represented by a notch on the stick and the year was divided into two halves. One side of the Primstav represented the summer season, beginning on April 15, and the other side represented winter, beginning on October 15. Symbols were carved onto the primstav as a reminder of merkedager (significant dates). Saints’ days were often marked by symbols representing the circumstances of their martyrdom.

Red Letter Days

A red letter day is any day of special significance. In Norway, Sweden, Denmark and some Latin American countries, a public holiday is sometimes referred to as “red day” (rød dag), as it is printed in red in calendars.

Here are a few of the merkedager Norwegians observed throughout the year.

  • April 14 – Summer Day (symbolized with a tree or branch) – The beginning of summer
  • June 24 – St. John the Baptist or Jonsok (an hourglass or sun) – Originally a solstice celebration and rededicated to St. John the Baptist
  • Oct 14 – Winter Day (a mitten) – The beginning of winter
  • Feb 22 – St. Peter’s Day (a key) – According to legend, St. Peter threw hot stones in water to keep it from freezing. His keys to the kingdom of heaven serve as a  reminder that ice may be too thin to walk on safely.

Look here for examples of Primstav dates, symbols and meanings.

Make Your Own Primstav or Calendar Stick @EvaVarga.netMake Your Own Primstav

For Barnesklubb this month, we learned how to make our own Primstav using the tutorial provided by Keith Homstad in the July 2011 issue of the Viking (a magazine for members of Sons of Norway).  I have summarized the steps here for those interested in taking on this challenge – a wonderful hands-on history project.

Materials:

  • Pencils and erasers
  • Sandpaper
  • Flat piece of wood (3 feet long, 1 1/2 inches wide, and 1/4-inch thick)
  • Permanent markers or wood burning tool
  • Howard Wood Polish or other furniture polish (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Sand the stick to remove any rough edges.
  2. With a pencil, mark 1 1/2 inches from each end. One end will be the handle and the opposite end will be the “far end”.
  3. Choose one side for “summer” and measure 22 3/4 inches from the far end. Starting here, use a pencil to make 182 marks along the edge about 1/8 inch apart and 1/8 inch long.
  4. On the reverse side, measure 23 inches from the “far end” and mark off 184 marks along the edge for the “winter” side.
  5. On the “winter” side, the first mark (nearest the handle) is Winter Day on October 14th. Continue marking off 30 days for November, and 31 for December and January. Mark off 28 days for February, then make one marks for February 29 (Leap Year Day). Continue marking off 31 days for March and the first 13 days of April.
  6. On the “summer” side, Summer Day marks the beginning on April 14.  Count off the remaining 17 days of April. Continue marking 31 days for May, 30 days for June, 31 days for July and August, 30 days for September, and the first 13 days of October.
  7. You may now begin to customize your Primstav by adding important family dates and any major holidays. Create a special icon or symbol for each event.
  8. Decorate the handle as you desire – perhaps with your name and the year you made your primstav.
  9. When you are happy with the design, consider using a wood burning tool to mark them permanently. Younger children can use a permanent marker.
  10. To protect your Primstav, you may also wish to apply a coat of furniture polish.

Make Your Own Primstav or Calendar Stick @EvaVarga.netPrimstav Alternatives

As an alternative to the traditional carved or wooden Primstav, I can’t tell you how much I LOVE this Embroidered  Primstav. Embroidery is an art that has always enchanted me. I love this so very much that it is now a goal of mine to create my own. Thank you, Pam!!

 

Alle Hjerters Dag: Valentine’s Day in Norway

In Norway, Valentine’s Day is referred to as Valentinsdagen. Also called All Hearts Day (Alle Hjerters Dag), Valentinsdagen is a celebration of love and romance. Only in recent years has the business sector promoted this tradition in Norway.

valentinesday

The day may have its roots in the Roman celebration of the goddess Juno representing women and marriage (14 February), and the start of the Lupercalia festival observed on February 13 through 15 to avert evil spirits and purify the city, releasing health and fertility.

In Norway, Valentines Day is not celebrated with as much fanfare and grandeur style compared with many other parts of the world. However, the expression of emotions and ardent love is still important and Norwegians enjoy spending time together to discover more about each other’s lives.

People do take time to be romantic in Norway and often celebrate the expression of love with cards, flowers and chocolate. Many Norwegians now send postcards to the ones they love on Valentinsdagen.

Norwegian words for love and romance

Ord for kjærlighet og romantikk

  • Elsker/ Love
  • Kjæreste / Boyfriend
  • Kjæresten / Girlfriend or Sweetheart (depends on context) 
  • Kjærligheten / Love 
  • Glede over å være sammen / Joy of being together
  • Jeg elsker deg / I Love You
  • Jeg er så forferdelig glad i deg / I am so terribly fond of you
  • Savner deg veldig mye! / Miss You Very Much!
  • Du vet hvor mye jeg elsker deg / You Know How Much I Love You
  • Vil du være min Valentin? / Will you be my Valentine?
  • Ha en fin Valentinsdag / Have a nice Valentine’s Day
  • Kjærlighetens magi til evig tid / Magic of love everlasting
  • Du er min Valentine / You are my Valentine
  • Jeg er en håpløs romantiker / I am a hopeless romantic
  • Jeg er så glad for at jeg traff deg / I am so glad that I met you
  • Til min kjære på Valentinsdagen / For my beloved on Valentine’s Day
  • Fra din Valentin / From your Valentine
  • Det er kun med hjertet, man kan se rigtigt / It is only with the heart, one can see right
  • Jeg elsker deg .. Du er mitt liv! / I love you .. You are my life!
  • Jeg elsker deg over hele mitt hjerte / I love you all over my heart
  • Elske deg / Love youTenker på deg / Thinking of you
  • Elske deg så mye / Love you so much
  • Åh eg bare elske deg / Aah I just love you
  • Ha en fin Valentinsdagen alle sammen / Have a nice Valentines day everyone
  • Du betyr alt for meg og jeg elsker deg! / You mean everything to me and I love you!
  • Jeg er så forelsket i deg / I am so in love with you
  • God Valentinsdag, vennen min. / Good Valentine’s Day, my friend.

Julehjerter (Christmas Hearts)

It is a Danish Christmas tradition to make these paper heart baskets for the children to hang on the Christmas tree.  The oldest known plaited Christmas hearts were made by the Danish author Hans Christian Andersen in 1860.

The Danish architect Hans H. Koch (1873 – 1922) had great mathematical and 3d talents. The story goes that his Christmas tree was terribly overloaded by all his intricate paper ornaments. In 1916 patterns and instructions for seven complex woven Christmas baskets were published in the children’s journal ‘Børnenes Magasin’  issued by a leading department store in Copenhagen; Magasin du Nord.

These lovely hearts work equally well for Valentinsdagen as well. Follow the step-by-step tutorial with the simple pattern provided in the post or create your own.

In the past, when I have shown kids how to do this with construction paper, I have found that the paper tears easily as they are weaving the strips together.  This can be frustrating to little ones. I highly recommend using wallpaper would be more durable. Discontinued pattern books are available often for free. 🙂

Norwegian Games: Let the Fun Begin

Have you ever played Norwegian Bingo? How about Hnefatafl? Or Kubb? Not only are these Norwegian games fun for all ages, they also provide a great opportunity to teach children about Norwegian culture. With three different games or spill to choose from, you’re sure to find something everyone will enjoy.

norskespille

Norwegian Bingo

Calling out the numbers in Norwegian—one (ehn), two (tooh), three (treh)—gives this familiar game a little Norwegian flair. It’s also a fun way to teach Norwegian counting. Five in a row makes ‘Bingo!’ Using a pencil and ruler, help your child draw a grid on a sheet of paper to make the Bingo board. Number the grid and use coins as game pieces. Ready to practice the Norwegian alphabet? Instead of numbering your Bingo board, write and call out Norwegian letters—a (ah), b (beh), and so on.

Hnefatafl

Hnefatafl (pronounced NEF-uh-tahf-ahl), is one of the oldest games in the world (traced in various versions to the Vikings, Welsh, Saxons, and Irish) and is similar to chess. The Vikings played this game to sharpen their minds for battle. The goal is to capture your opponent’s pieces before the ‘king’ reaches safety.

Also known as The Viking GameThe King’s Table or simply Tafl, is one of the rare breed of games with two unequal sides. The defending side comprises twelve soldiers and a king, who start the game in a cross formation in the center of the board. Their objective is for the king to escape by reaching any of the four corner squares. The attackers comprise 24 soldiers positioned in four groups of 6 around the perimeter of the board. All pieces move like the Rook in chess and pieces are taken by “sandwiching” (i.e. moving your piece so that an opponent’s piece is trapped horizontally or vertically between two of yours).

You can purchase a Hnefatafl Tournament Set as shown here online or at a specialty game store.

Kübb

Kübb, (pronounced KOOB) is a Viking lawn game that is played with three types of wooden pieces: kubbs, batons, and a king. Using your batons, the point of the game is to knock down the other team’s kubbs, and finally the king. Challenge your children to a one-on-one game, or get the whole family involved. Kübb can be played with two teams of up to six people.

If you or your child enjoy woodworking, consider making a Kübb set for yourself or as gifts. Alternatively, you can purchase a pre-made Triumph Sports Wooden Kubb Set as shown here.

For an instructional video, watch Justin Ross explain How to Play Kübb on YouTube. Kübb is a game for all ages and skill levels. For information about national competitions, be sure to check out the US National Kübb Championship’s website.

For more details on each of these games, subscribe to my newsletter for a free eBook, Norsk Spille (Norwegian Games). It is available for Subscriber’s Only.

Norwegian Folkarts: Rosemaling

One of the activities my children most enjoyed about summer camp was the opportunity to explore the folk art of Rosemåling in more depth. We had been introduced to this delightful art a year or so ago when I invited one of our talented lodge members to give a presentation to Barnesklubb (Scandinavian Kid’s Club).

You ask, What is Rosemåling? If you have seen the latest Disney movie, Frozen, you are likely familiar with Rosemåling.

Rosemåling, or rosemaling, Norwegian for “decorative painting”, is the name of a form of decorative folk art that originated in the rural valleys of Norway. Rosemåling is a style of decorative painting on wood that uses stylized flower ornamentation, scrollwork, lining and geometric elements, often in flowing patterns. Many other decorative painting techniques are used such as glazing, spattering, marbelizing, manipulating the paint with the fingers or other objects, etc.

When the kids wrote home, they hinted about a project they were doing in Rosemåling class but they didn’t give any details because they wanted it to be a surprise.  When I picked them up at the conclusion of camp, I was indeed surprised. Their work was astonishing … especially for beginners!

Pictured below are the two Mangebørds they painted in class. Traditionally, Mangebørds were made by young men wishing to marry a young lady.  He would place the Mangebørd on her porch or doorway and return the following day. If the Mangebørd had been brought into the house, her reply was yes. However, if the Mangebørd was still where he had left it, her reply was no. If he wanted to marry another young woman in the future, he would have to make another Mangebørd (on a cautionary note: beware of the man with many Mangebørds).

rosemaling

Question :: Can you identify which style of Rosemaling is shown here?

Various Styles of Rosemaling:

  • Telemark
    The Telemark style is asymmetrical with a root center from which a scroll branches out with leaves and flowers that are varied and irregular. Designs are “fantasy-like” and transparent. (In recent years a shaded, opaque Telemark is preferred.)
  • Hallingdal
    Baroque scrolls and acanthus leaves wrap around a central flower. The designs are symmetrical, using opaque color and not generally shaded. Backgrounds are red, black-green, dark green, and a lighter blue-green.
  • Valdres
    Flowers are grouped in a bouquet or garland, gathered in an urn or hanging from a rope. Realistic flowers can be identified and given a name. Leaves are slender, long, s-shapes with a second s turning it at the end. Flowers grow from blue landscapes.
  • Rogaland
    In Rogaland, flowers are more important than scrolls and leaves. Tulips, stylized roses, 4 and 6-petal flowers, and the daisy pull-out are used. Designs are symmetrical. Opaque colors on dark backgrounds, and the use of cross-hatching, dots and teardrops characterize Rogaland.
  • Os
    Typically backgrounds are white or red. Designs include geometric shapes such as cubes and squares, and architectural motifs such as churches or fine houses. Flowers, both symmetrical and asymmetrical are grouped on stems. Heavy line detail on leaves. Transparent, bright colors,and saw-toothed borders are used.
  • Gudbrandsdal
    Gudbrandsdal style is an imitation of carving. Acanthus scrolls and leaves predominate in a C with an S extension. Shading gives leaves a 3-dimmensional look. The flowers used are tulips and 6 or 8-petal roses that center in the C and, again, in the S above. Often symmetrical.
  • Vest Agder
    Symmetrical and somewhat geometric. Typified by light colors on a dark background, teardrops by the dozen along the leaves and scrolls. Opaque colors, not shaded, and with red, black and white overlays are typically used. Oval flowers are split down the middle with contrasting colors.
Answer :: The Rosemaling style that is pictured above is Valdres.
 

Upon their return from camp, the kids said they wanted to explore Rosemåling in more depth and to earn the Cultural Skills pin. In Barnesklubb, we thereby kicked off the new school year with an introductory lesson.

My kids, now more knowledgeable than I, gave a short lesson to their peers about the styles of Rosemåling and then led them through a few simple strokes.

Syttende Mai :: Norwegian Constitution Day

Constitutions are groundbreaking documents that establish fundamental principles by which a body of people are to be governed. Norway’s Constitution was written in 1814 at a time when cultures were emphasizing democracy and free will. The start of the 19th century brought with it new concepts on politics and national independence. The revolutions in the US (1776) and France (1789) paved the way and Norway was intent on following their lead.

Syttende mai constitution day
Norwegian Constitution Day
 is the National Day of Norway and is an official holiday observed on the 17th of May each year. Among Norwegians, the day is referred to simply as Syttende Mai. Signed at Eidsvoll on May 17 in the year 1814, the constitution declared Norway to be an independent kingdom in an attempt to avoid being ceded to Sweden after Denmark-Norway’sdevastating defeat in the Napoleonic wars. 

Vi Feirer Grunnlovsubilet :: We Celebrate Constitution Day

A noteworthy aspect of the Norwegian Constitution Day is its very non-military nature. All over Norway, children’s parades with an abundance of flags, national costumes, and big smiles are the heart of the celebration. Decorations of leafy birch branches, in celebration of winter’s end, and ribbons of red, white and blue make for a festive atmosphere.

Syttende Mai is also celebrated in many Norwegian immigrant communities throughout the world, with traditional foods (I share one of our favorite recipes below), sometimes including lefse and lutefisk, but simple hot dogs are equally popular.  In the United States and Canada, the local lodges of the Sons of Norway often play a central part in organizing the festivities. Our small lodge is no different; we gather for an annual brunch and special cultural programming including games and folk dancing.

syttende maiLitt På Norsk :: A Little Norwegian

syttende mai – 17th of May

Norge – Norway

nasjonaldagen – national holiday

festdag – celebration

barnetoget – children’s parade

flagg – flags

Barna jublet og vinket tilbake med sine flagg. :: The children cheered and waved back with their flags.

Barna fant igjen foreldrene sine, og nå fikk de spise så mye de ville av iskrem og varme pølser. ::  The children found their parents, and now they got to eat as much as they wanted of ice cream and hot dogs.

 

One of our favorite treats on Syttende Mai are Fastelavnsboller:

Fastelavnsboller :: Shrovetide Buns

fastelavnsboller3 1/2 cups (800g) plain white flour
3/4 cups 140g) sugar
10 1/2 tbsp (150g) butter
1 7g package active dry yeast
2 1/4 cups (525g) whole milk
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 1/3 cups (300g) whipping cream
powdered sugar for garnish
1 egg

  1. In a large bowl mix together the flour, sugar, cardamom and yeast.
  2. In a medium saucepan melt the butter.
  3. If you are using fresh yeast, in a small bowl mix together the yeast with some of the milk.
  4. Add the remainder of the milk to the melted butter and mix.
  5. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add liquid ingredients. Mix well, work into a smooth dough and knead lightly.
  6. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise until it has doubled in size.
  7. Turn out the dough on a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth. Form into 20-24 buns, rolling them into an even size with your hands.
  8. Put the buns on a baking sheet and leave to rise for another 15 minutes.
  9. Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C).
  10. Beat the egg and lightly brush onto buns with a basting brush.
  11. Place the buns into the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes.
  12. When the tops of the buns are light brown and there is a light brown ring underneath them, remove them from the oven and let cool on a wire cooling rack.
  13. While the buns are cooling whip the cream, add superfine sugar to your taste. Place whip cream in refrigerator while the buns finish cooling.
  14. Halve the cooled buns and fill with the whipped cream and sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve.
  15. ** We like to mix lingonberry preserves into the whipped cream.

For more activities and ideas to explore Scandinavian culture, check out my Barnesklubb Pinterest Board.

Barnesklubb: Learning the Norwegian Lyrics to “Let it Go!”

la den gå

I was excited when Disney announced the release of their new animation, Frozen, in November of last year. It was the first Disney animation to be set in Norway; a stunning big-screen comedy adventure.  It features the fearless optimist Anna as she sets off on an epic journey — teaming up with rugged mountain man Kristoff and his loyal reindeer Sven — to find her sister Elsa, whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom of Arendelle in eternal winter. Encountering Everest-like conditions, mystical trolls, and a hilarious snowman named Olaf, Anna and Kristoff battle the elements in a race to save the kingdom.

Frozen is inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s classic The Snow Queen, about a young girl who saves her friend from a magic mirror and wicked snow spirit. To adapt the story to the screen, Disney needed a suitable setting to match. After traveling to several Nordic locations, the art direction team settled on Norway as the perfect backdrop for the fictional ice kingdom of Arendelle. The Norwegian influence is reflected not just in the wintery landscape with snow-capped mountain tops and deep fjords but also in characteristic Norwegian elements like the ancient stave churches, the traditional Norwegian folk costume the bunad, and even in the typical Scandinavian hairstyle with braided plaits.

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.”

My kids and I have been singing the theme song of the film since we first saw it in theaters months ago.  We have enjoyed the film so much (my daughter is not into Disney princesses – so this is saying a lot) that I thought it the perfect opportunity to learn a little Norwegian with our Barnesklubb friends – Norwegian Lyrics to “Let it Go!”

La den gå

Det glitrer hvitt over fjellet i natt,

det er vakkert vintervær.

I riket jeg bor alene,

og som dronning står jeg her.

Og vinden hyler lik som

stormen i mitt bryst.

Holdt det ikke ut, himlen så min dyst.

Slip ingen inn, la ingen se,

slik er plikten, jeg er jo født til det.

Jeg dekket til. Det ingen så,

det vet de nå!

La den gå, La den gå.

Den kraften jeg skjulte før.

La den gå, La den gå.

Jeg har snudd og stengt en dør.

Jeg er lei, alt de tror de har sett.

La det strome nå,

litt frost gjør meg ingenting unasett.

We focused on learning only the first verse in Norwegian but the kids thought it would be fun to learn another verse in Chinese and then sing it in three languages. I would love to see them follow through. 🙂

To accompany this language activity, the kids enjoyed creating snowflakes using Disney snowflake templates as well as their own designs.