‘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.

Nothing Compares to a Norwegian Shrimp Fest!

Experiencing shrimp the Norwegian way is a special treat. Nothing compares to it in the United States, but attending a Norwegian Shrimp Fest at a Norwegian Church gets you pretty close. And that’s what I had the pleasure of doing earlier this month.

Thank you to Sjømannskirken for letting me use their photo.

This year’s Shrimp Fest at the Norwegian Church in San Pedro took place on St. Patrick’s Day so the ubiquitous green made its appearance. There were green napkins; otherwise, I would have expected red or blue napkins. Also, there was the occasional very green shrimp sitting on the edge of a shrimp bowl. Apparently, it was edible but no one near us was tempted to try it.

The evening was really a very simple and casual affair. Tables were set with large bowls of shrimp (in this case, Arctic Greenland shrimp), freshly baked bread, mayonnaise (real Norwegian mayonnaise!), fresh dill, lettuce leaves, and lemon wedges. Then it was up to the guests to handle the rest themselves. (And the hosts to refill the shrimp bowls, which they did gladly and diligently.)

It was very quiet to begin with as guests set to work peeling shrimp and making their open-faced sandwiches. There’s nothing really too gourmet about this meal. Some people might even be shocked at the amount of mayo that goes into a sandwich. It’s hard to eat fast at a shrimp fest because the shrimp are small and each one takes a few seconds to peel. But the result is certainly worth the effort.

For those of you who are curious about what makes this meal so special, it’s the shrimp. The shrimp enjoyed at Norwegian gatherings are a coldwater species caught at the bottom in the deep waters of the North Atlantic and North Pacific Oceans. They are most often cooked and quick-frozen within a few hours of leaving the water.

While we all were enjoying our shrimp, with discussions of what body part to rip off first, the Slow TV program Saltstraumen minutt for minutt was playing in the background. Saltstraumen is the world’s strongest tidal current located near the city of Bodø (about 50 miles north of the Arctic Circle). I was too busy with my shrimp so I didn’t see much of it, but the glimpses I did catch were a perfect accompaniment to the meal.

Thank you to Sjømannskirken for letting me use their photo.

There were other highlights of the evening as well. When guests had started to slow down their peeling and eating, we did a sing-along of the Norwegian song “Rekevisa” (“The Shrimp Song”) as Sverre, the priest, played the guitar. It had the melody of a traditional children’s Christmas song (“Musevisa”, “The Mouse Song”), but the lyrics about a mouse family getting ready for Christmas had been replaced with lyrics about the joys of a shrimp fest. Another highlight of the evening was a quiz. It included multiple-choice questions on a wide variety of topics, some relating to the evening (like “How many species of shrimp are there?”), others totally unrelated (“How many times a day does a person touch their phone?”). It was really the luck of the draw as to who would win, which made it fun for all ages.

We finished off the meal with some vanilla ice cream with chocolate and caramel toppings. As we enjoyed our desserts, we went over the answers to the quiz. I believe I heard the winners came down from Santa Barbara for the Shrimp Fest. They deserved that bag of seigmenn!

When I return to Norway every summer, a shrimp meal is always on my wishlist of foods. The opportunity to enjoy one here in the States with like-minded people was wonderful, and I look forward to next year’s fest!

Volunteering at Norwegian Church’s Christmas Bazaar 2016

volunteering

This year I switched things up and volunteered at the Norwegian Church’s Christmas Bazaar instead of just attending as a guest. My day was all about food which suited me perfectly.

For me, food has always been a main reason for going to the event. I come to eat foods I only eat once a year, to buy freshly baked goods from the bakery, and to stock up on foods and drinks for Christmas time. On this occasion, I was assigned to the kitchen and café, and that was an assignment I appreciated and enjoyed greatly.

My day started out with getting wienerpølser (Norwegian sausages) in a pot for simmering, stirring lapskaus (meat stew), and slicing geitost (goat cheese) for julebrød (sweet bread with raisins). Once the event officially began, I headed out to the café and served cake and sandwiches to eager guests. Continue reading

Norwegian Language Opportunities in Los Angeles

norwegian-alphabet-jana-johnson-schnoor

Norwegian Alphabet by Jana Johnson Schnoor

Norwegian is not in high demand so opportunities to learn and use the language here in Los Angeles are very limited. There are, however, two establishments that stand out as centers for Norwegian language and culture here in the Los Angeles area: Norwegian Church in San Pedro and Scandinavian Center in Thousand Oaks. At both places, you can not only pursue your interest in learning Norwegian, but you can also learn about Norwegian culture and customs. Continue reading

It’s Norwegian Christmas Time!

2015 plakat julebasar

Click image to clearly view details

I’ve gotten used to the fact that the Norwegian Christmas Fair happens before I’ve even had a chance to plan my Thanksgiving. I look at it as a way to begin the whole holiday season. This year I was grateful to have an American friend whose other half is Norwegian join me for the excursion to San Pedro. We headed down Friday morning to be there when the fair opened.

I love the warm welcome we receive as we enter, and the offer of gløgg (mulled wine, in this case non-alcoholic) and pepperkaker (ginger snaps) certainly helps put you in the mood for what’s waiting inside. The inside of the church is festive with Christmas lights and decorations.

Just as you enter, you’ll see The Bakery. Don’t delay buying baked goods because they run out. I especially like the ones that come right out of the oven. I always buy to bring home. The after school treat that day for my boys was a fresh skolebolle each along with saft I’d bought from the church store.

Norwegian Christmas Fair BakeryIn the nave of the church you’ll find all the booths. They offer Scandinavian goods of all kinds, both imported from Scandinavia and homemade by members of the church. We arrived when the fair had just opened so the area around the booths was packed with eager shoppers. There was no way to take a picture that would actually show anything. I had to return and take pictures when all the first attendees were enjoying their lunches from the café. Continue reading

Norwegian Language Courses in Los Angeles

Bunad and reading* For more current information, please go to my new post: Norwegian Language Opportunities in Los Angeles. *

Occasionally, I receive inquiries from people in the Los Angeles area wanting to learn Norwegian. Norwegian is not in high demand so opportunities are very limited, if not non-existent. However, in the new year, the Norwegian Church in San Pedro will offer a course in conversational Norwegian with some emphasis on Norwegian culture and lifestyle. Starting January 10, 2015, instructor Olaug Macmillan will lead a class on Saturdays from 11am to 1pm for 10 weeks. A textbook will be available for purchase in class. The suggested donation for the whole course is $50. A minimum of 10 students is required. Please contact the Church at losangeles@sjomannskirken.no for more information.

Norwegian porridge(To make your trip to the Church even more worthwhile on the day of class, stay for some traditional Norwegian porridge. Every Saturday they serve porridge at 2 o’clock.)

The Church also offers a Norwegian course for children in grades 1 to 10. Skolegjengen currently meets every other Sunday at 1 o’clock. The fall semester is drawing to a close, but you can contact the Church about joining in the new year or next fall.

Skolegjengen consists of children who have Norwegian as a first or second language. All students work on the same topics, but tasks are adapted to different ages and levels. Students are taught Norwegian and given projects and activities about Norwegian culture, history, and geography. One parent must speak fluent Norwegian.

Skolegjengen 17 maiSkolegjengen performs at the Christmas Bazaar, Christmas service, and 17th of May celebrations at the Church. We had the pleasure of hearing them at this year’s 17th of May celebrations and they were a wonderful addition.

For more information on Skolegjengen, contact instructors Fredrik fbo@sjomannskirken.no or Marianne mhb@sjomannskirken.no.

* For more current information, please go to my new post: Norwegian Language Opportunities in Los Angeles. *

Christmas Bazaar 2014, just the beginning

Bazaar openThe season for Norwegian and Scandinavian events has begun. Yesterday I went to the annual Christmas Bazaar/Fair at the Norwegian Seamen’s Church in San Pedro. It’s always held jointly with the Swedish Church the weekend before Thanksgiving. I’ve gone every year the last few years. I’ve even volunteered a couple of times in the past. This year I went alone on Friday, the first day it was open. Last year I went on the weekend with the kids and my parents who were visiting. The year before that it was just me and the kids (about which you can read more here). It’s always a very pleasant, low-key event.

A warm cup of gløgg and tasty ginger snaps welcome you as you arrive. And there’s a nicely decorated Christmas tree to put you in the mood as well. There’s Christmas music in the background, and on the weekend, you may be lucky to hear some live music as well. 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

Celebrating Norway’s Constitution Day in Los Angeles

For me, celebrating Norway’s 17th of May in Los Angeles began by vicariously experiencing it through pictures posted on Facebook by Norwegian friends. I woke up to a newsfeed filled with bold and bright Norwegian flags, happy families dressed in beautiful bunads, and smiling kids in parades. It was a lovely start to the day and I much appreciated them sharing their celebrations!

(Photos courtesy of M. Eriksen, E. Strøm-Gundersen, and S. Mjeldheim)

(Photos courtesy of M. Eriksen, E. Strøm-Gundersen, and S. Mjeldheim)

Ideally, I would have attended the festivities at the Norwegian Seamen’s Church in San Pedro that day. It’s a simple celebration with traditional foods (hot dogs, waffles, and Solo are our favorites), a parade around the block waving flags and singing, speeches, and fun and games for the kids. And let’s not forget the ice cream! But this year, “17. mai” fell on a Friday and the kids had after-school commitments until 5 o’clock. The idea of driving in Friday afternoon traffic to San Pedro was unfathomable.

Moods of Norway LA infoSo I had to find an alternate way to mark the day. I had seen that the store Moods of Norway was having a celebration. I was intrigued. Continue reading

Norwegian Church’s Christmas Bazaar (2012)

Thanksgiving hadn’t even passed yet, and we attended our first Christmas event. Every year the weekend before Thanksgiving, The Norwegian Church in San Pedro hosts their annual Christmas Bazaar. It’s an opportunity to not only support the church by buying handmade goods and Scandinavian products, but also to remind Sonny and Doobie of some of the unique qualities of their heritage. Christmas is a special time in Norway and the church certainly recreates some of that.

The kids were a bit reluctant to go. It is a 30-minute drive away on the freeway (assuming no traffic) and they were happily and lazily enjoying their first days of Thanksgiving vacation at home. The promise of Solo and waffles did help get them motivated to go, however. I also told them they could help pick out something special to bring back home.

The bazaar is nothing super big and fancy, but it is very cozy and joyful. We were warmly welcomed with hot gløgg and gingerbread cookies in the entryway which was decorated with a Christmas tree. Just beyond that, we could see the Christmas lights on the booths and hear Christmas music playing. Right away the Christmas spirit came over us. Continue reading