Sons of Norway Archives - Page 4 of 7 - Eva Varga

July 23, 20134

Over the past few months, our Barnesklubb (Scandinavian Youth Club) has been learning Norsk or Norwegian folk dance. It has been a very fun endeavor and admittedly, a little challenging as well for I have not had prior folk dance experience. This undertaking has, therefore, been a little scary for me. Motivated to earn the cultural skills pin from our Sons of Norway lodge, however, and coincidentally satisfying course requirements to renew my teaching certification … we got underway.

folkedans gruppe
The history of Norwegian folk dance is a rich heritage. It is a fixed gem in Scandinavian culture now and will continue far into the future.  Early dance in Norway consisted of song dances. The songs that accompanied traditional dances told the stories of heroes.

With the arrival of musical instruments in the 18th century, the song dance began to decline. Influences from Europe brought new ideas in music and dancing. Couples danced the polka and waltz. The accordion, flute, violin, and zither ingrained themselves in the culture along with the movements meant to be companion to them.

All of these traditions are nurtured in present day Norway. Efforts by the Norwegian Traditional Music and Dance Association, founded in 1987, along with Sons of Norway lodges the world over, ensure that the traditions of old will continue into the future intact and adored. In March, I introduced my Barnesklubb (Scandinavian Youth Club) to folk dancing.

I had watched a few videos on YouTube, took copious notes, read a few books (Folk-dances and Singing Games and many more are available for free on Google Play), and worked through the basic steps on my own.  When Barnesklubb met at the library each month, I brought along the music and walked the kids through two dances, Klappdans and Seksmannsril.

Klappdans, or the Swedish Couple Dance, is danced in a double circle, with the partners side by side with the girl on the boy’s right, inside hands joined and the free hands on hips.  It is sometimes referred to as the Parisian Polka and Children’s Clapping Dance.

Seksmannsril translates to 6-man Reel and is a bright, lively 3-couple set dance.  As with several other folk dances of similar nature in Norway, it is generally considered to have been an import from Scotland centuries ago, but over the years has acquired a typically Norwegian character. The tune most frequently used for the dance is well known to both British and Americans: “Soldier’s Joy.”

As I researched the history of folk dance, I learned that folk dance is meant to be danced, not watched; it is performed for joy of participation, not the art of exhibition. We certainly had a lot of fun learning these two dances and performing them at our lodge’s Syttende Mai (17th of May) brunch.  To our delight, we have already been invited to perform for the Swedish lodge and have thereby pledged to continue.

Our own experience has been wonderful and we look forward to putting our dancing shoes on again in the fall.

July 10, 2013

The recent sale of The Scream at a Sotheby’s auction in New York for $119+ million has underscored the resurgence of interest in the Norwegian artist, Edvard Munch, and marks the 150th anniversary of his birth in 2013.  To celebrate the sesquicentennial of his birth, Sons of Norway members all over the world are developing programs to explore his life’s work.  Today, I share an Edvard Munch lesson plan with you.

Who is Edvard Munch?

Edvard Munch was born in Ekely, Norway on December 12, 1863 – the son of a military doctor. As a youngster, both his mother and his teenage sister died of tuberculosis.  Their absence left a profound mark on Edvard – the youngest of the Munch family. At the age of seventeen, after beginning to pursue a career in engineering, young Munch decided to give it all up to devote himself to painting. After studying at the Oslo Academy and under leading Norwegian artist Christian Krohg, he began showing his work – at times causing quite a stir.

Spending summers in Norway and dividing the rest of his year between Paris and Germany, Munch attended literary circle meetings, exhibited regularly and experimented with woodcuts and etchings (in addition to paintings). As with most artists, much of Munch’s subject matter came directly from his life experiences. From the death of family members to love lost, the images in his art were at times too much for the general public to bear. Often called the first of the expressionists, Munch left an indelible mark on the history of art.

the scream

His Most Recognizable Painting

The Scream is his most recognizable painting, arguably it is one of the most recognized paintings of all time. Munch painted many variations of The Scream, depicting a ominous red sky in each. Admirers of his work have often debated the cause for the fear depicted in the painting. Donald Olson, a physics and astronomy professor at Texas State University, and his colleagues determined that debris thrown into the atmosphere by the great eruption at the island of Krakatoa, in modern Indonesia, created vivid red twilights in Europe from November 1883 through February 1884. The local newspaper in what is now Oslo reported that the phenomenon was widely seen, the astronomers said.

Edvard Munch Lesson Plan

I introduced Munch to our Barnesklubb group earlier this week by reading the short biography described above.  I then shared several of his paintings with the kids that I had saved to the camera roll on my iPad.  Some of his work deals with themes that can be rather dark.  Many of his paintings are self portraits that reveal his troubled mind.  Prior to the lesson, I thereby took time to select paintings that predominately featured landscapes or people casually walking.  I’ve pinned the images I used in my Barnesklubb board on Pinterest.

young artists inspired by edvard munchThe kids each selected a favorite painting and thereafter tried to recreate the image themselves.  I had printed each painting onto paper, approximately 3″ x 2″ in size so the kids could reference it quickly.  I provided each child with drawing paper (11″ x 9″) and a variety of media choices was made available – crayon, colored pencil, watercolor, and chalk pastel.

Interestingly, the boys all chose crayon and most of the girls chose chalk pastels (with the exception of the youngest, age 3, who contentedly explored  the blending of colors with watercolors and my daughter, though she crumbled it up and explained she would try again at home with fewer distractions).  I also found it interesting that the boys all drew a small square on their drawing paper, creating something of a frame.  The girls on the other hand used the entire sheet of paper, though some cut it to a smaller size before beginning.  In the group photo (above), the boys had asked that I trim their paper but you can still see that there is a small white frame around their art.

You can read more about Edvard Munch on the official Norwegian anniversary page, Munch 150. You may also be interested in a beautiful digital magazine, Norway Today, offered free by  the Norwegian Embassy.  The current issue features an article on Munch on page 6.

June 10, 20132

kids club fair boothA year ago .. our Barnesklubb (Scandinavian Kids Club) took part in the county fair and entered a  Junior Feature Booth  exhibit (or fair booth) in the ‘Activity Class’.  To our surprise, our entry was not judged – we were informed that we did not meet enough of the criteria and were thereby ‘disqualified’.  We were heartbroken. Angry. Mystified.

Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements, and impossibilities: It is this, that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.  

~  Thomas Carlyle 

As we reflected on the experience and reviewed the score sheet, we had to agree that we missed the mark in numerous areas (we lacked lighting, we didn’t use all of the available space, and our message was indeed unclear); though we are still perplexed as to why they claim to use the American System of Judging.  We talked it over and conferred with our other Barnesklubb members.  Everyone agreed we wanted to give it another go, proving Vikings are persistent and will persevere!

youth group fair boothWe opted to use the same Viking ship we had used a year ago, though we had to create a new mast.  Fortunately, we were able to salvage the Sons of Norway logo.  For a backdrop, we hung a tie-dyed sheet with white holiday lights twinkling behind to resemble an Aurora Borealis.

To fill the space, the kids created cardboard cut-outs of all the club members (a mini-me, as we came to call them).  The kids had a blast cutting out their mini-me and personalizing it.  The girls created Norwegian bunads for each mini-mi, whereas the two youngest (both boys) decorated theirs to match their Viking spirit.  The oldest (also a boy), dressed his mini-me in modern day clothes, jeans and a Lego mini-fig t-shirt.  After all, Legos were invented in Denmark.  For the faces – we wanted the judges to know that this club is indeed youth – and we thereby used a photograph on each mini-me.

Regardless of the result come Wednesday, we know in our hearts that we did an awesome job. Ultimately, it was the joy of coming together and collaborating on a fun project that we will remember.

April 11, 20134
Throughout life, I suppose, everyone looks for connections with others, a feeling of worth within a community.  For some, this need is met through Greek fraternities and sororities at the university. For others, this need is met through their church or spiritual center.  While attending university, I sought out cultural groups in an effort to discover who I was and where I fit in.  As I was minoring in Spanish, I joined the Latin American Cultural Center – but as I was too timid to speak in Spanish in small groups, I often felt out of place.
When I had submitted a paper for my U.S. History class about Norwegian Americans, my professor had asked if I was familiar with the fraternal organization, Sons of Norway.  To his surprise, I was not. I had come from a small community on the coast where the lodge did not have a presence, despite a large number of Scandinavians.  Upon looking into Sonja Lodge in Eugene (where I was attending school),  I also learned that an aunt and uncle were active members.  I thereby joined the lodge and attended a few social events.
Within a few years however, I sadly let my membership lapse because as a university student paying my own way and thus working 30+ hours a week, my social calendar and my pocket book were both pretty slim.  I had enjoyed receiving the Viking magazines in the mail, however, and often wished that I had had the opportunity growing up to take part in a lodge.
After graduating, I returned to the same community where I had grown up.  I taught in the public school for several years and then welcomed my first child.  Shortly thereafter, we moved to central Oregon where I rediscovered Sons of Norway.   Fjeldheim Lodge is very active in the community and has a strong public presence, taking part in the annual Christmas parade, hosting an annual bake sale, and coordinating Ski for Light programs.  They are also very fortunate to have a broad, multi-generational membership – with an active youth group, engaged adults who were active in the community, as well as numerous retired members.   We joined as a family and immediately felt a sense of family and connection.  I knew this is where we belonged.
We now belong to Shastafjell Lodge in northern California.  While I still have that same sense of family and the connections with the other members are strong, I realize more than ever the struggles that fraternal organizations are encountering today.  Like many lodges, Shastafjell’s membership is declining and we struggle with filling board positions.  The active members are frankly tired.  They are willing to pass the torch to the next generation.  The problem is, this generation – MY generation – are not involved in the organization.  Why?? Are we too busy? Perhaps we aren’t interested?  Maybe we just aren’t aware?   I really don’t know the answer and as I discuss this with other members and other fraternal organizations, I have come to discover we all have the same concerns and frustrations.
This past weekend, the Sheriff’s Association put on their 17th Annual Multicultural Faire. I coordinated our lodge’s participation in this event and helped to man the booth while also enjoying the entertainment.  The older members of the lodge remember in years past that the mall was lined with booths from a large number of different organizations.  This year, there were only eleven.  The bag pipers were noticeably absent.  The German Edelweiss Singers and Folk Dancers performed but did not have a booth for the first time.
As I looked around at the cultural groups that were taking part in the event and observed the interactions between visitors, a few things became evident.  First, as a society, we are distracted.  The majority of people walked past the booths without making eye contact or smiling.  Many walked with their heads down, intent on whatever was engaging them on their mobile phones.   I realize that we have become immune to salespeople pushing products and trying to sell us something.  In essence, that is what we are trying to do as a fraternal organization.  But what I observed was also a lack of social courtesy and community engagement.  We seem to be scared to talk to people, to hear their story.
I also observed that the cultural groups from Europe that took part in the faire were represented by the ‘Greatest Generation’ as coined by Tom Brokaw (with the exception of myself and my two children).  The cultural groups and dancers from Asia and Latin America, had participants of all ages.  When immigrants come to a new country, they typically settle in areas where there are similar ethnic groups for support both spiritually and financially.  The groups taking part on Saturday were representative of the immigration trends in the U.S.  Perhaps over time, as successive generations begin to identify themselves more as American, they begin to loose the connection with their ancestral heritage?  Here is an interesting graphic I found to illustrate this.

Source –
I am not exactly sure what contributes to what I perceive to be a decline in volunteerism and participation in fraternal organizations.  I know, however, that it is not restricted to cultural groups.  Lions Clubs, The Grange, and Kiwanis groups are experiencing the same declines.  Lodges and Grange halls are closing all over.  It saddens me that we as a society no longer see the value in these unique communities.

I want to encourage you to consider joining a lodge as a family.  Look around you and see what opportunities may be available to you. If you are interested in getting involved in a fraternal organization yourself, there are many organizations to choose from.  I have listed a few below.  I encourage you to take some time to explore those of interest to you.  Read their missions statements.  Talk with members in your community.   Discuss the options available with your family.  Perhaps you will find a group that feels like home to you as well.

Alternatively, if you are a member of one of these groups, I would love to hear about it.  How long have you been involved?   How did you first discover the group?  If you know of a group that I neglected to mention – please leave a comment.   Perhaps your family volunteers in other ways.  Please consider sharing your thoughts and experiences.

December 12, 20121

Barnesklubb met yesterday afternoon and our activity centered around the Nisse of Norwegian folklore (also known as Tomten in Sweden).  I began by briefly touching upon a few details about the characteristics of these “household spirits” who are believed to care for the prosperity of a farm. Typically, nisse are short dwarf-like men with long red stocking caps who reside in a barn.  If you care for the resident nisse, leaving a bowl of rice porridge on Christmas Eve, the nisse will return the favor and look after things.  If you disregard the nisse, he will cause troubles.    

I then read aloud a story, Snippen’s Dilemma by Edna and Howard Hong.  It is a cute story of a Nisse named Snippen who makes the decision to leave a farm where he is unwelcome in search of a farm where his life will be easier.  Along the way, he encounters a little girl who is praying, “You understand, dear God, that we are glad our dear mother can be with you this Christmas.  We know that for her it is the best Christmas ever.  But down here, we miss her terribly.  I’m little and inexperienced and can’t do the things the way dear Mother did them.  The oatmeal is lumpy and little brother won’t eat it,” she prays. “Everything has gone wrong since Mother went to heaven.”  Hearing this, Snippen grapples with the decision to continue on to the farm where life will be easy or to stay and help the little girl and her family.   [Snippen’s Dilemma can be found in the book, Christmas Comes to Blueberry Corners: And Other Christmas Stories for Children]

After the story, I passed around the three little wooden nisse that I purchased while in Norway (pictured in front of the red tree above).  I then demonstrated how to make a similar little nisse in polymer clay (like those surrounding the tree).  The activity was a hit … even the adults got into it including a gentleman and his 18-month old daughter who also happened to be at the library.  Sadly, I again failed to take photographs of the kids engaged in the activity.  When will I remember!?

Sons of Norway has captured a little nisse magic in this month’s Viking by sharing the photography of Per Breiehagen. A native of Hallingdal, Norway, Breiehagen now lives in Minneapolis and has photographed his adorable daughter, Anja, as the model for his wonderful “Winter Magic” photo series.  His photography is also featured in this month’s issue of Norwegians Worldwide magazine.  I encourage you to check out these links … Per’s work is both stunning and heartwarmingly adorable.  

I was happy to be able to give each family a copy of the current issue to take home with them.  For additional ideas of integrating Norwegian traditions and learning more about the nisse, see My Little Norway’s post, Nisse Parties

September 28, 20121

As a Norwegian-American (like most, my great-grandparents emigrated to America in the late 1800s), it has been my goal to incorporate more Norwegian traditions into our daily lives. Serving Fårikål is just one of the new traditions we honor.

Fårikål is Norway’s national dish. A casserole of seasonal lamb and cabbage makes this simple dish a favorite autumn treat. Fårikål season is from September to October when the fattened lambs come down from the mountains.  In fact, the last Thursday of September in Norway is National Fårikål day.

lamb shanks and cabbage
 prepped for cooking
Lamb shanks prepped for cooking

Fårikål used to be made from mutton for flavor but over time lamb has become more favored as it is more readily available in our supermarkets.  It is traditionally served with new potatoes, cowberry sauce or lingonberries, and crispy flat bread.

1 ½ kg lamb or mutton stew meat

1 ½ kg white cabbage

4 teaspoons whole peppercorns

2 teaspoons salt

3 cups water

  1. Cut the head of cabbage into wedges.
  2. Add meat and cabbage in layers in a casserole dish. Sprinkle salt and pepper between layers. Pepper grains can possibly put in a special pepper holder. (Some people also like a smooth fårikål. Sprinkle a little flour then, about 1-2 tablespoons per 4 portions, between the layers.)
  3. Pour the water into the dish. Bring to a boil and let fårikål draw on low heat until meat is tender (it separates from the bone), ca. 2 hours.
  4. Serve steaming hot with boiled potatoes
Image of Fårikål ready to serve
Fårikål ready to serve

This humble stew of boiled lamb and cabbage, has been Norway’s official national dish for more than 40 years. The last Thursday of September every year is National Fårikål Day. I have recently learned, however, that Norway has launched a nationwide competition to replace it.

In our home, we eat it with potatoes and crispy flat bread (sometimes even Naan – a traditional Indian style bread that is readily available at our local supermarket).

The recipe I shared here is a traditional recipe.  For a variation of this traditional recipe, visit My Little Norway.