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Julefest

Later on Sunday, December 2nd, we attended the Ohio Norsemen Julefest held at the Perk-Cup Cafe and Grill on West Bagley Road in Berea.  We were really looking forward to being part of this year's annual event because we had gone to the 2017 gathering and just loved it because it consisted of mostly old friends with common heritage getting together to enjoy a fine supper and share memories. Accordingly, the ambiance of the Cafe was very warm and loving. We were greeted by people we already knew, like Ms. Catherine McCutcheon and her husband, Mr. Ron McCutcheon, as well as Ms. Caroline Kuhl and Ms. Jo Ross who worked very hard to put this event together.

We also got to make a couple of new friends like Mr. Joe Prada, who remembered frequently seeing us at the First Friday Club of Cleveland, and Mr. Peter Jones, who recalled that Ms. Margaret W. Wong helped him obtain his green card when he immigrated to the United States in the late 1980's. 

 Ms. Ihms and Maria

Ms. Ihms and Maria

It was also a pleasure to meet an exchange student from Norway, named Maria, who is in her senior year in high school here. However, while her classmates in the United States will graduate, after spending a year here she will return to her native land to complete her final year; unlike the United States, young people in Norway attend school for 13 years instead of 12 years. Interestingly, Maria came from the same region of Norway as Ms. Birgit Ihms who immigrated here in 1961.

Kransekake.jpg

Sadly, Mr. Todd Mueller, a very gifted chef who is 3rd generation Norwegian, couldn't make it here on this day but he still sent a "kransekake" which can best be described as a wreath cake resembling a Christmas tree.

Soon after dinner we had to leave so we missed a lot of the songs and the recollection of memories of Christmas in Norway but we did some research and discovered our write-up of last year's celebration in wherein Ms. Ihms talked about what it was like to experience Julefest (i.e. the equivalent of Christmas here in the U.S.) as a child in Norway. Her memories included:

On December 1st, children were given an advent calendar that contained a window for each day until December 24th. So each day she opened a window to view a lovely Julefest-themed picture. Nowadays, though, there is a piece of candy inside the window too.

People didn't display decorated Julefest trees in their living rooms for the month before Christmas as we do here in the U.S. Instead, the only time that they children saw the tree before Julefest Eve was when it was taken into the house shortly before that time. It was locked up in the parlor/living room and the children were forbidden to view it.

While Americans generally open gifts on Christmas morning, in Norway, the accepted time for this was on the eve of Julefest. Therefore, on the evening of December 23rd, porridge was always left in the barn for "Julenisse" (a sort of rustic version of Santa Claus) and it was always gone by the time the children inspected the bowl on the morning of December 24th.

Around 3pm on the Eve of Julefest (December 24th), her father took she and her siblings to church for a special children's service but her mother stayed home to finish preparations for the holiday dinner. Going to church at this time was always a lovely experience because carols were sung and the church was filled with decorated trees.

After arriving home, a terrific Julefest dinner was served followed by a dessert of rice pudding with a lucky almond in one of the bowls. It was THEN that the youngsters were permitted to go into the living room/parlor and view the decorated tree with presents at its base. BUT they couldn't touch the presents until their father lit all the candles on the tree. Even then they couldn't open the presents; instead the whole family joined hands and danced around the tree singing carols for an extended period (Ms. Ihms smiled as she remembered thinking that the time length was interminable) and it was only when the caroling ended that the youngsters were allowed to open their presents one at a time.

Justin Faulhaber