May 2023: Nordic Events & Norway’s National Day

A big month for Norwegians, both at home and abroad, is coming up! Norway’s national day, known as 17. mai or Syttende mai, is Wednesday, May 17. Norwegians celebrate the signing of their constitution in 1814 with flags, children’s parades, traditional costumes, and ice cream, plus more of course, but those are the cornerstones. Read more here about the history of Norway’s constitution and Norway’s unique traditions for the day.

Once again, Norway’s national TV station NRK will broadcast live on the big day starting 7:50 a.m. Central European Time (Monday, May 16, 10:50 p.m. PT). In addition to glimpses of celebrations from all over the country, viewers will enjoy delicious food, special guests, lively entertainment, and of course beautiful traditional costumes.

Locally and in person, SoCal readers are invited to celebrate Norway’s national day at the Norwegian Church in San Pedro on Wednesday, May 17. Doors open at 5 o’clock. The program will be a varied and entertaining mix of professionals and amateurs. Enjoy food and drink for sale, games, speeches, singing, music, and raffles. And as always, there will be a parade around the neighborhood. A recent addition to the entertainment program is violinist Alexander Rybak, winner of Eurovision Song Contest in 2009 with this song Fairytale.

Also happening in Southern California this month is the Scandinavian Heritage Fair in Mission Viejo on Saturday, May 27, hosted by the Daughters of Norway, Turid Jespersen Lodge #44. There will be demonstrations of spinners, weavers, rosemaling, wood burners, and wood carvers along with displays of bunads and knitted sweaters. Watch the making of aebleskiver, krumkake, lefse, and waffles and enjoy open face sandwiches, soups, kransekake, and other Scandinavian desserts. Admission is free. View their flyer for details.

Vesterheim Folk Art School registration for July through September 2023 opens on Wednesday, May 10, with new online classes in rosemaling & painting, Nordic cooking, Norwegian language (classes start in August), weaving, fiber arts, and woodworking. View the class list here. If anything catches your eye, sign up quickly because spots go fast.

And finally, if you’re a reader, consider joining an online Nordic book club. Visit my page Online Nordic Book Club Meetings for details on reading selections and meeting dates for May and the upcoming summer months.

What’s on your calendar this month as the summer approaches?

Virtual Events in May

Eurovision 101 (Wed., May 3, 7:00-8:00 p.m. CT)

Thanks at least in part to a Will Ferrell movie and a band of Italian heartthrobs, the annual Eurovision Song Contest has finally piqued the interest of viewers throughout the U.S. So what’s the big deal? In this musical evening program taught by Vanessa Vaughan, learn the history of the longstanding music competition which launched Swedish pop icons ABBA into stardom, and get a taste of what’s to come for this year’s event. Participants will leave with an understanding of how, why, and when to watch Eurovision this year, and why Swedes in particular go so wild about this competition.

Vesterheim FamilieTid: The History of Trolls (Sat., May 6, 11:00 a.m. CT, Free)

Once upon a time, strange and dangerous creatures known as trolls roamed freely in the mysterious Norwegian mountains and forests. But the trolls only went out at night, in the dark, because there was only one thing that could scare a real troll – sunlight. Gather the family together and join celebrated storyteller Lise Lunge-Larsen as she shares stories and the history of trolls in Norwegian folklore. This is certain to delight both the young and the young at heart!

Nordic Language Café (Sun., May 7, 5:00-7:00 p.m. PT)

Join The Scandinavian School & Cultural Center for their virtual Language Café meet-up to practice your Danish, Finnish, Norwegian or Swedish. This is a perfect opportunity for you to practice your speaking and listening skills and meet other people who share your passion for all things Nordic. All levels are welcome. The Cafés are very relaxed and friendly, and if you feel more comfortable listening rather than speaking we have a spot for you in our Café too. Participants will be divided up into different breakout rooms in their chosen Nordic language. You don’t have to be a student at the SSCC to join. And are you a native speaker up for a chat? They would love for you to join us as well!

My Polar Experience (Wed., May 10, 7:00-8:00 p.m. CT, Free)

Fjällräven Polar is an annual event developed to show that with the right knowledge, equipment, and support anyone can learn to appreciate nature – even in arctic winter conditions. For several days each year, participants drive their own dog sled across the vast landscapes of northern Scandinavia, experiencing a world completely different from their own. Join Vesterheim for an hourlong conversation as Lacey Jean shares about how winning a contest to participate in an opportunity of a lifetime connected her to her roots and acted as a catalyst for a life of adventure and tradition. You’ll be inspired by the Norwegian concept of friluftsliv, embracing living outdoors as part of everyday life.

Aquavit Cocktails for Syttende Mai with Emily Vikre (Fri., May 12, 7:00 p.m. CT)

Skål! Back by popular demand, join Vesterheim for this cocktail class featuring aquavit, the traditional Scandinavian spirit with centuries of tradition and celebration. (This class is a repeat offering of the class taught in May 2022.) Emily Vikre of Vikre Distillery will inspire you with her creative cocktail tips and her storytelling about the history of aquavit, as well as her memories of celebrating Syttende Mai as a Norwegian-American dual citizen. Be prepared to concoct delicious aquavit drinks while engaging with Emily and other cocktail enthusiasts during this fun evening class. Enrollment Deadline:  May 5.

Nordic Spirit Classics’ Second Friday Series (Fri., May 12, 7:30 p.m. PT)

Save the date for this session of Nordic Spirit Classics’ Second Friday Series presented by the Scandinavian American Cultural & Historical Foundation in Thousand Oaks, California.

Celebrate Syttende Mai with the World’s Best Cake: Kvæfjordkake! with Nevada Berg (Sat., May 13, 10:00 a.m. CT)

Join Vesterheim and celebrated cook and author Nevada Berg in making one of Norway’s most beloved cakes from her new cookbook, Norwegian Baking through the Seasons. Vanilla sponge baked with meringue becomes the centerpiece of this dreamy layer cake filled with custard and whipped cream. Come ready to learn, eat, and have fun! This Vesterheim cooking class is designed as a small-group cook-along. Enroll by  May 5.

Stolen Virtual Book Talk with Ann-Helén Laestadius & Mathilde Magga (Tues., May 16, 12:00 p.m. ET, Free)

Join Scandinavia House for a virtual book talk with Swedish Sámi author Ann-Helén Laestadius on her new novel Stolen, out now in translation by Rachel Willson-Broyles from Simon & Schuster. The discussion will be moderated by Mathilde Magga, and will later be available to stream. Based on real events, Ann-Helén Laestadius’s award-winning novel Stolen is part coming-of-age story, part love song to a disappearing natural world, and part electrifying countdown to a dramatic resolution—a searing depiction of a forgotten part of Sweden. This program will be followed by Nordic Book Club Online discussion of Stolen on June 6 (learn more and sign up here).

Syttende Mai Live with Vesterheim featuring Vidar Skrede (Wednesday, May 17, 12:00 p.m. CT)

Vesterheim invites everyone to celebrate Syttende Mai, Norway’s Constitution Day, with them with a livestream performance by Nordic folk musician Vidar Skrede. Vidar Skrede is a freelance Nordic folk musician, playing fiddle, Hardanger fiddle, and guitar. He is from Norway and currently lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He has a background in the traditional music of Rogaland, his home area in the south west of Norway, and has a masters degree in Nordic folk music at the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm, Sweden. No registration required. View on YouTube.

Summer Family Book Adventure: In the Hall of the Mountain King (Register by May 18)

Join Vesterheim for this family-fun reading adventure that begins June 1 and is available all summer long. You will be reading, thinking, creating, and even up and moving – indoors and out – with Luther College Nordic Studies instructor Evelyn Galstad. A kit delivered right to your home contains supplies for book-reading, a fun craft, a snack, and a scavenger-hunt-type adventure. This summer you’ll be reading The Story Orchestra: In the Hall of the Mountain King. Discover the spellbinding magic of Edvard Grieg’s musical retelling of Peer Gynt, and push the button on each beautiful scene to hear the vivid sound of an orchestra playing from Grieg’s score. You’ll also learn more about the composer and the instruments, rhythms, and musical techniques used. In the spirit of the Norwegian concept of friluftsliv, the scavenger-hunt-type activity will get your family out into the great outdoors.

Rhubarb in the Nordic Kitchen with Kristi Bissell (Thurs., May 18, 1:00 p.m. CT)

Celebrate rhubarb in all its forms! In this virtual class presented by American Swedish Institute, Kristi will demonstrate a trio of rhubarb recipes, taking inspiration from Nordic ingredients and traditional dishes. From dessert to beverage and sweet to savory, this class will cover a range of ways to incorporate rhubarb’s tart flavor and beautiful color into anyone’s early summer kitchen. Finally, Kristi will tackle rhubarb’s savory side. After all, it is botanically a vegetable, so it’s about time to try using rhubarb beyond crisps and pies! This is a live, virtual class taught through Zoom. This class is designed as a demonstration, so students can watch the entire process and ask questions before tackling the dishes at home at a later date.

Billedvev Frame-Loom Weaving Virtual Workshop with Allyce Wood (Sun., May 21, 1:00-5:00 p.m. ET)

Learn the basics of weaving through the use of humble materials and step-by-step instruction in a Billedvev workshop. A common picture frame, with glass and backing removed, becomes the ultimate structure with which to create upon. Learn how to wind it with cotton thread to create your warp, and build up your piece weft by weft with a variety of yarns. Discover how color blocking, thread patterns, and textured effects can yield endless possibilities!

Intro to Swedish (Tues., May 23, 1:00-3:00 p.m. CT)

Are you curious about the Swedish language, but not ready yet to commit to a multi-date class? Are you looking for a quick and low-pressure way to get excited and prepare for an upcoming visit to Sweden? This two-hour introductory workshop taught by Jean Hanslin is the perfect way to get a feel for Swedish, pick up a bit of grammar, and learn how to pronounce some words as part of basic conversation.

Painting with Wool: Robin Needle Felting Virtual Workshop with Laura Berlage (Thurs., May 25, 6:00-9:00 p.m. ET)

Have fun with needle felting in a virtual class teaching you to make your own wool robin! Fiber arts instructor Laura Berlage will guide you step-by-step through transforming carded wool into your own adorable spring critter, using a kit of supplied materials including hand-dyed wool from  her farm’s flock of sheep, robin-specific accoutrements, and a foam work surface. Enjoy the process of making your own cute wool friend! The kit supplies enough materials to make a second robin later, offering further practice in your newfound felting skills.

Which events or experiences look interesting to you?

Be sure to visit previous months’ listings of virtual Nordic events. Many of the events are now available to view as saved recordings.

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