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CELEBRATING JULE

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Pilot story and photos

by Bill Lundquist

Brookings' Scandinavian community celebrated Jule Saturday night with a traditional Santa Lucia procession and Julefest.

Some of those attending were Scandinavian by birth, and they were not necessarily the elders.

Others were descendants of Swedes, Norwegians, Danes or Finns, or had married into their families.

Just as all Americans can be Irish on St. Patrick's Day, the Julefest also welcomed those who were Scandinavian in spirit only.

All those attending were offered a warm cup of glogg or punch as they entered the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Hall.

The citrus-based punch was familiar to even non-Scandinavians, but hot glogg almost defies description.

It is based on red wine and vodka or Swedish aquavit, though folks have been known to dump in just about anything handy from their liquor cabinets.

Glogg literally means "glow" in Swedish, which one recipe attributes to the burning of sugar over the drink.

The name could just as easily have come from what happens to the noses of those who have had too many cups of glogg.

Added to the liquid are cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves. The concoction also includes fruits such as oranges or orange peel, lemons, prunes, figs and raisins. Each cup contains whole raisins and almonds.

After the glogg had helped attendees shake off the effects of the weekend storm, Gro Lent welcomed everyone to the 16th annual Lucia and Julefest.

"This is not a profit-making event," said Lent, who had been involved with the Julefest for 12 years. "It's a genuine experience for all of us."

Lent was costumed in what might be mistaken today for 19th-century Scandinavian finery, but she explained it was what workers wore on Norwegian farms.

The Lucia tradition is based on the legend of Lucia of Sicily, who was martyred for her Christian faith. Centuries later, according to legend, she brought food to Sweden during a famine.

The name Lucia is from the Latin word for light. The Santa Lucia festival is traditionally celebrated on Dec. 13, the longest night of the year in Sweden, according to the old calendar.

In Sweden, the oldest daughter in each family would rise early and, clad in a white robe and red sash, bring saffron buns, ginger cookies and coffee to members of the household.

Brookings' Lucia this year, Heather Bodmer, wore the traditional crown of greenery and candles, as did her attendants Lisa Bernhard and Lena Peterson.

Two boys also participated in the procession: Willy Bodmer as a "star boy" and Kyle Gordon as a tonttu or Finnish elf.

The Bodmers moved from Brookings to Grants Pass, but returned to participate in the celebration. Heather has been in the Lucia procession since she could walk.

The procession wound around the hall, which was lit only by candles and Christmas tree lights.

Brookings' Lucia did not come bearing saffron buns and coffee, but Julefest celebrants more than made up for it with a pot-luck smorgasbord.

The feast was anchored by a turkey and a ham, but there were also three kinds of meatballs and various red cabbage dishes, which were similar to sauerkraut.

Jansson's Temptation is a baked dish of potatoes, onions anchovies and cream. Pickled herring is self-explanatory, but generally appreciated only by true Scandinavians.

Appetizers included rye breads and marinated salmon. One snack consisted of buttered rye bread topped with sliced hardboiled eggs and anchovy paste.

The smorgasbord may have been impressive, but true Scandinavians view dinner as little more than the prelude to dessert.

While the buffet table was being switched from the former to the latter, the audience was entertained by children singing old favorites like "Jingle Bells" and "Santa Clause is Coming to Town."

The audience joined in too, with familiar tunes like "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," and genuine Scandinavian songs like "Pa Laven Sitter Nissen."

Stories were part of the festivities too. Lent told of her recent trip to Norway, where it snowed every day.

She said the Christmas season used to begin the day before Christmas when she grew up in Norway, but now it begins early, as in America.

She said Christmas bazaars are popular in Norway, and the Advent season, beginning the first Sunday in December, is celebrated more than in America.

Norwegians put out four candles for the four weeks of Advent. Lent said the color of Advent is purple, then decorations are switched to red and green for Christmas.

She told of Christmas in her hometown, where a Christmas tree in the snow outside the graveyard of a 1600s church was strung with lights, and people walked around it singing.

People reflected on that image while feasting on several types of cookies, sweet breads, cakes, and rice puddings.

Then it was time for the traditional reading of "T'was the Night Before Christmas," to the children.

The reading was performed this year by Dick Edmiston, Scottish by heritage, but Swedish by marriage.

Edmiston said 10 years of Swedish classes enabled him to read, write and speak the language. He even served as president of a Swedish organization.

Just as Edmiston got to the part in the story about Santa arriving, Santa actually did arrive at the VFW Hall through a decorative chimney conveniently built over the back door.

Santa had a present for each child in his bag, and also fielded several questions. It turns out he squeezes down chimneys with the help of a "skinny pill," which doesn't last long.

Rudolph's famed red nose is actually a super infrared detector that spots children by body heat.

Santa is able to get to every house in the world on Christmas Eve by using "vapor time."

A side-effect is the vapor makes people sleepy, so no one ever stays awake to see Santa.

Santa left the children with the message that there is both good and bad in the world.

"Make sure the good outweighs the bad," he told them.

The story concluded shortly after Santa departed, and everyone joined hands and sang while they danced around the tree.

Lent said Norwegians just walk around the tree, but dancing is more popular in other Scandinavian countries.

The evening concluded with the drawing of raffle prizes, including a Danish kransekage, or tower of marzipan rings.

Walt Thompson won a large pepperkakehus, or gingerbread house, to add to his already impressive list of Driftwood properties.

There was even a gingerbread trailer, complete with outhouse in back and junk cars out front, for the less well-to-do.

One prize, a julbock, or straw goat, actually represents Lucifer, who was conquered by Saint Nicholas and forced to help distribute gifts to children.

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