Holiday Gift Ideas for Scandinavians at Heart

It’s that time of year again when we all welcome gift ideas for friends and family in our lives. Do you have some Scandinavian enthusiasts on your gift list? Here are some gift ideas that might be of interest. If books are on your gift list, read on to find out how to save on physical books at Amazon.

Recently Released Scandinavian Cookbooks

This year has seen the release of some notable Scandinavian cookbooks. Buy now and save $5 when you spend $20+ in physical books sold and shipped by Amazon by using code GIFTBOOK18 (expires Friday, December 21, 11:59 p.m. PT).

                  

Nevada Berg is an American transplant to Norway. She lives on a mountain farm with her Norwegian husband and son. She has a beautiful blog, North Wild Kitchen, that I follow and now the recently released cookbook North Wild Kitchen: Home Cooking from the Heart of Norway, which has been selected as one of the New York Times Best Cookbooks of Fall 2018.

Magnus Nilsson is a Swedish chef who is head chef at the famed restaurant Fäviken in Sweden. His 2015 documentary cookbook, The Nordic Cookbook, was very well received, and his newest cookbook, The Nordic Baking Book, is not to be missed. It contains 450 recipes for home bakers chosen from across the Nordic region — Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Faroe Islands, and Greenland. Watch Magnus Nilsson introduce The Nordic Baking Book.

                    

Rene Redzepi is a Danish chef and co-owner of the world renowned restaurant Noma in Copenhagen. David Zilber is the chef who runs the restaurant’s acclaimed fermentation lab. At Noma, named the world’s best restaurant four times, every dish includes some form of fermentation. Fermentation is one of the foundations behind Noma’s extraordinary flavor profiles. This cookbook has also been named one of the New York Times Best Cookbooks of Fall 2018.

Anyone who has ever been in Scandinavia in December will know that Scandinavians really love Christmas. From huddling up in candlelit snowed-in cottages to consuming gløgg at every opportunity, Christmas is peak-hygge season all over Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. Bronte Aurell of The ScandiKitchen Café in London shows how to celebrate Christmas Scandi-style by sharing her delicious recipes and family traditions.

Books & Reading

Books are always a wonderful gift. Are you looking for gifts for young kids, tweens, and teens? For books relating to Norwegian culture and history, take a look at my Book List: Norwegian History and Culture. Or see Book List: Christmas in Scandinavia for seasonal books the whole family will enjoy. But otherwise here are some suggestions for the adult readers in your life.

Limited time offer: Buy now and save $5 when you spend $20+ in physical books sold and shipped by Amazon by using code GIFTBOOK18 (expires Friday, December 21, 11:59 p.m. PT).

    

  

Household Items

   

Personal Gifts

Family Entertainment

                            

Music

 

This collection of solo piano music was inspired by the Scottish musician’s journey along Norway’s ancient pilgrimage route from Oslo to Trondheim. You can read more about the musician and his journey at The Norwegian American and sample his music.

Aurora is a up and coming singer-songwriter from Bergen, Norway. Her music is unique pop — emotional and dreamy. In the new year, she will perform in Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Denver, Minneapolis, Chicago, Toronto, Montreal, Toronto, Boston, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, and Washington DC.

Norwegian Pride

    

I hope you’ve found some gift ideas here. I’d love to hear if any of these make it to your friends and family. I wish you a wonderful holiday season!

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‘Tis the Season for Scandinavian Christmas Fairs!

Norwegian Swedish Danish Christmas Los Angeles

Thanksgiving may still be a couple of weeks away, but the season for Scandinavian Christmas fairs has arrived in Los Angeles. Norway, Sweden, and Denmark all offer events with a cozy Christmas atmosphere and unique vendors, foods and drinks, and entertainment. The fairs may require a bit of driving, but they’ll be worth it. Presented in order of occurrence, here are the upcoming Scandinavian Christmas fairs in the greater Los Angeles area. Did I miss one? Please let me know in the comments.


Norwegian Christmas Fair – Julebasar

First on the calendar is the three-day Norwegian Christmas fair Julebasar hosted by the Norwegian Seaman’s Church in San Pedro on the weekend before Thanksgiving. I’ve been at this event several times both as a guest and as a volunteer and it never disappoints. Warm gløgg (traditionally, mulled red wine with cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, raisins, and slivered almonds, but for this occasion, non-alcoholic) and ginger snaps welcome you as you arrive. Christmas decorations, music, candles, and the smell of freshly baked goods set the mood as you wander the booths filled with Scandinavian goods of all kinds. There are daily raffle drawings with wonderful prizes and even live entertainment if you‘re there at the right time. On Saturday there’s a children’s workshop to occupy the young ones while you can enjoy festivities on your own. And of course, the kitchen offers a wonderful assortment of traditional Norwegian foods. My favorite is rømmegrøt (sour cream porridge served with butter, sugar, and cinnamon), but there is so much more to choose from such as open-faced sandwiches, meat stew, pea soup, and Norwegian sausages (at least in previous years). And don’t forget to check out what’s for sale in The Bakery and in the church’s store! The Julebasar is free to attend and all are invited. You do not need to be Norwegian nor a member of the church.


SWEA Orange County Swedish Christmas Fair

On the Sunday before Thanksgiving, SWEA Orange County (Swedish Women’s Educational Association) hosts its annual Swedish Christmas Fair in Huntington Beach. Come for Swedish handicrafts, traditional Swedish foods and home-baked goods, a gløgg bar, dancing around the Christmas tree, and Lucia pageants (at 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m.). There will also be a fish pond and jultomte and much more! Entry fees are $5 for adults and $2 for children ages 5 to 15.


Scandinavian Christmas Fair – Julemarked

On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Scandinavian enthusiasts can visit the Danish Church’s Scandinavian Christmas fair Julemarked in Yorba Linda. This annual event features Scandinavian vendors selling items imported from Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, and Finland or that feature Scandinavian themes as well as traditional Danish foods and drinks such as smørrebrød (open-faced sandwiches), æbleskiver (Danish pancake balls) with powdered sugar and raspberry jam, strong Danish coffee, and gløgg. Danish pastries and selected meat products are also available for purchase. I have not attended this event, but maybe this will be my first year.


SWEA Los Angeles Swedish Christmas Fair

Last on the calendar is the Swedish Christmas Fair organized by SWEA Los Angeles (Swedish Women’s Educational Association), which is another favorite yearly Scandinavian event of mine. It takes place the first Sunday in December in Torrance. The event is in its 38th year and welcomes about 3,000 visitors during the one-day event. Highlights of the fair include a multitude of vendors selling Scandinavian gifts, books, music, handmade crafts, traditional holiday foods, and baked goods as well as traditional entertainment with folk dancing and Lucia pageants. When you go, make sure to be there for one of the two Lucia pageants. They perform at 12:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. There is also a children’s corner where kids can create crafts to take home and visit with Santa. To top it all off, there is also a gløgg bar and Café SWEA serving traditional foods and baked goods.


Are you unable to attend a Scandinavian Christmas fair or would you like to bring the cozy Scandinavian Christmas feeling home? See my list of books for the family written by classic and contemporary authors from within and outside Scandinavia about Christmas and wintertime in Scandinavia at Book List: Christmas in Scandinavia.

What I’ve Read: Lars Mytting’s Svøm med dem som drukner (The Sixteen Trees of the Somme)

Svoem-med-dem-som-druknerLars Mytting’s Svøm med dem som drukner was my Norwegian read this year in anticipation of my yearly trip to Norway. I had not heard of the book, nor the author, until I received it from my parents for my birthday. It came highly recommended from friends of theirs, and it had received the Norwegian Booksellers’ Prize for 2014. I started reading it without any ideas of what it was about.

Not only did the book meet all my criteria for my Norwegian book selection (it was by a Norwegian author, it was in Norwegian bokmål, and it generally took place in Norway), but it had the added bonus of bringing alive a bit of Norwegian history with which I was not very familiar. My hope is always that my book selection will transport me back to life in Norway while also refreshing my Norwegian language skills. This book went above and beyond what I was looking and hoping for.

I loved the book! And  – updated 8/15/17 – I am extremely happy that I can recommend it to English readers now. The novel is now available in English with the title The Sixteen Trees of the Somme, translated by Paul Russell Garrett. Continue reading

What I’ve Read: Min Kamp (My Struggle, Book 1) by Karl Ove Knausgård

Min Kamp KnausgårdIn my desire to read a Norwegian book once in a while to maintain my language skills, I recently read the first book in the six-book autobiographical series, Min kamp (My Struggle) by Karl Ove Knausgård. Interestingly, it wasn’t my choice, but the pick for my book club here in Los Angeles. I don’t even know if the woman who suggested it knew that I was Norwegian. Knausgård and his work had been in the book news a lot recently in conjunction with his US tour for the release of the English translation of his third book. Knausgård’s first book was suggested in hopes that it would be a little more serious and discussion-worthy than some of our more recent reads.

The timing worked out perfectly because I was right in the middle of trying to decide what Norwegian book to read next in anticipation of my upcoming trip to Norway. Last year I read the first of the Harry Hole series by Jo Nesbø. This year I was looking for something new. A cousin in Norway had suggested Knausgård’s Min kamp last year when I put out a request for suggestions for my next Norwegian read so it was on my list, but I didn’t know if I was ready to read it yet. I had the impression it would be a long, heavy read about someon’s life I wasn’t necessarily very interested in.

The book turned out to be much more engaging than I expected.  Continue reading

Celebrating the Norwegian Constitution’s 200th Anniversary

We pretty much overdosed on Norwegian culture this past weekend when we celebrated Norway’s Constitution Day. Maybe that’s par for the course since it was the 200th anniversary of the constitution. (A fact we learned, it’s the oldest constitution in Europe and the second oldest in the world after USA’s!) Every year there are two main events in the Los Angeles area to celebrate the Norwegian holiday. The first one is always on the actual day of May 17th at the Norwegian Church in San Pedro, and the other one is on the closest Sunday at Nansen Field in Rolling Hills Estates. We’ve never attended both in one year, but this year we did, and they were one right after the other!Nansen Field parade

The celebration at the Norwegian Church has traditionally been hard for us to attend since it means driving to San Pedro, about 30 miles away, on a weekday after school for a 5 o’clock event. After-school activities, sports, homework, and traffic have made that close to impossible. But this year, the seventeenth of May fell on a Saturday so many of the factors prohibiting us from going in the past were a non-issue this year. I seized the opportunity. As did over 500 other people! It was the biggest gathering ever. Continue reading

Winter Olympics Excitement and Pride

Sochi 2014These two weeks of the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi have been an exciting time to be Norwegian. At the start of the Olympics, we read several places that Norway and the USA would be neck in neck in the medal count competition, and some sources, such as the Wall Street Journal, even predicted that Norway would beat the USA, if only by a slim margin. It’s pretty fun that a little country like Norway with only 5 million people could maybe beat the USA with its population of 313.9 million, or at least give it a good run for its money!

Norway Sochi Opening Ceremony

Source: Pascal Le Segretain

I’m always proud to be Norwegian, but the feeling certainly intensified when the Opening Ceremonies began. It was with great anticipation that I waited for Norway to enter the arena. Even the kids, who by then had lost some interest in the Parade of Nations, eagerly focused on the TV again to see Norway enter. We were tracking the number of athletes each nation had, and Norway’s 118 athletes certainly surprised the kids, who had predicted about 20 since they knew Norway is so small compared to other countries.

I love watching all the countries enter, some nation groups are very large and others extremely small, at times just one athlete, but each and every one of them is equally excited to be there. I’m fascinated by the stories behind each country’s participation in the Olympics.

As the Winter Games progressed, we enthusiastically followed both Norwegian and American athletes in their events. There wasn’t too much competition directly between the two countries, so we could generally cheer for each country in their respective events without feeling unpatriotic towards the other.

We did have a couple of conflicts, though. In Men’s Slopestyle and Men’s Super-G, both Norway and USA were in the running for medals, and happily for us, they both ended up on the podium. USA took gold in Slopestyle while Norway’s Ståle Sandbech took silver. In Super-G, Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud won gold while USA took silver and bronze. They were exciting days for our Norwegian-American household.

Mens Super-G Podium           Mens Slopestyle Winners

The kids are now familiar with events not normally in the forefront of American minds—biathlon, cross-country skiing, and Nordic combined—but very popular with Norwegians. And they know about a new Norwegian hero, Ole Einar Bjørndalen. They may not be able to spell or pronounce his name, but they do know that the athlete with the most medals in the history of the Winter Games is a Norwegian biathlete.

Biathlete Ole Einar Bjoerndalen

Source: Lee Jin-man/Associated Press

An unexpected amusement from these Olympic Games has been Norway’s bold fashion statements. The men’s curling team’s pants made headlines before the Games even opened. The team wore nine different pairs of pants during competitions, and there was even a Facebook page for fans. I was not able to see all the pants in action, but I scoured the Internet to find pictures for you. Click on the photo to see the patterns even better.

Norway-curling-pants-collage

And Norway’s hockey team had very cool goalie masks… They pictured the Northern Lights, a Viking warrior, and a tribute to the Norwegian movie Trollhunter.

Norway-hockey-helmets-collage

An added benefit of Norway making headlines and doing so well in the Winter Olympics is that people are becoming more aware of Norway and maybe even learning a bit about our culture. The Wall Street Journal had an interesting article about how Norway’s culture and lifestyle could be the reason for Norway’s success at Winter Olympics. Norwegians thrive in the great outdoors. “Norway remains a largely agrarian society that places a large premium on being outside. A Norwegian concept called friluftsliv—enjoying outdoor life—has been studied in books and represents whole areas of study at universities.” The author remarks how Norway’s cities are relatively close to the wilderness, and children are encouraged to play outdoors even on the coldest days. There’s a saying in Norway, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.”

The author also noted many other specific reasons that may contribute to Norway’s success: skiing is fundamental the country’s culture, athletes benefit from the large annual budget of Norway’s main organization for elite Olympic sports, high paying jobs allow people to enjoy much leisure time and spending money, and Norway competes in a sport—cross-country skiing—that has limited interest elsewhere and isn’t very competitive. The article is definitely worth a read if you’re interested and have the time.

These couple of weeks we’ve proudly worn anything with the Norwegian flag. I found a t-shirt at Sports Chalet with lots of flags on it and the Norwegian one stood out so of course I bought it, and I’ve worn it several times. Sonny has even worn his Norwegian sports jersey to soccer practices.

No matter what the final medal count is, I will be satisfied and proud. I feel the Olympic Games bring a great sense of community to the world. Everyone has something in common and can relate to it in one way or another. I feel kind of sad when it’s all over. I will watch the Closing Ceremonies with a mixed heart. The party is over and it’s back to the daily grind.

Now we wait anxiously to see if Oslo will bid for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games. Sports Illustrated writer Alexander Wolff makes a great plea here in an open letter to the citizens of Norway. I personally would be thrilled if Oslo were to host the 2022 Winter Games. I know there’s great debate and opposition in Norway, so we’ll see what happens.