On Sunday, November 9th, our event for the day was the annual Danish Christmas Party that took place at Tom’s Country Place On Stoney Ridge Road in Avon which was organized by the local chapter of the Danish Sisterhood of America whose mission is “to strengthen, maintain, and preserve the Danish heritage and traditions for future generations to come.”
We used to consistently attend this event but we hadn’t in a long time but we were still promptly recognized by Ms. Minna Mortensen, the chapter president, who made us feel right at home.
Ms. Mortensen also introduced us to some friends of hers who were visiting from Copenhagen named Henning and Alice who really enjoy visiting the United States; we learned that before coming to Cleveland they always stop off in New York City and take in some opera. Another person from Denmark that we met was a young exchange student named Mathias who later sang a song from his native land as we danced.
The person who we especially liked talking to was Ms. Cecilia Smith who lived in Denmark for quite a few years in the 1960’s and early 1970’s as an upholder of the Baha’i Faith. In addition, she worked as a medical technologist for prestigious organizations as the Finsen Institute. Ms. Smith recounted to us that as an African-American it was particularly interesting to live abroad at that point in time and just loved Denmark and its people. Thus, very soon after returning to the United States, she reached out to Ms. Minna Mortensen in order to stay in touch with the country which had become a second home to her.
The program consisted of everyone joining together to sing Christmas carols and to engage in folk dances and polkas with the Christmas tree as a centerpiece. These were largely organized by Ms. Ruth Mortensen, who is the daughter-in-law of Minna. Then, of course there was a visit from Santa Claus who was welcomed by those of all ages.
To be sure, our good friend, Mr. Fred Zwich, noted Cleveland musician provided the music largely on his accordion but also with the help of his “International Sound Machine”. Mr. Zwich has been playing at the Danish Christmas Party consistently since 1977 and told us that it is his longest running job. In fact, people in attendance who had children were children themselves when he started to play there.
Our conversation with Mr. Zwich motivated us to ask how long had this annual gathering taken place. We talked to several people including the club’s historian but no one could pin down the exact year; possibly it was as far back as the 1930’s. But it didn’t really matter, people just wanted to celebrate their heritage and have a good time together and we certainly plan to join them once again in 2019.