Saturday, June 26, 2010

Sankthansaften at the Lake

Today was our Sons of Norway lodge's celebration of Sankthansaften or St. Hans Aften ["St. John's Eve"] or Jonsok ["John's Wake"], all ways to refer to the Scandinavian celebration of Midsummer's Eve.  The summer solstice is June 21, but Norwegians celebrate it on June 23 (and our lodge waited until today to take advantage of the weekend).  Like many holidays, Sankthansaften has pagan roots but became a Christian holiday that, by now, is mostly a secular event: an annual excuse for Norwegians to party.  They go to beaches or rivers to fish and play in the water, they barbecue pølser ["sausages" or hot dogs] and roast marshmallows and drink alcohol, and they light bonfires and enjoy the evening sun.

What Norwegian-American wouldn't want to add this to his/her calendar?!

Our lodge's plan was to have the monthly business meeting followed by a potluck meal and then Sankthansaften festivities.  Today was also the day for Scandinavian Saturday supper in our household (Susan was my co-cook this week), so I decided to look up some typical Nordic Midsummer's Eve foods for us to share at the potluck.  Numerous online sites confirmed that pølse was a must-have item, and most indicated that jordbær ["strawberries"] are frequently served because they're so delicious this time of year.  So we sautéed onions, cut up some turkey sausage, and put it all in a crock pot to heat through--that was our first dish for the potluck.  We also sliced strawberries, sprinkled them with sugar, and made a dozen parfaits in clear plastic cups by topping the scoops of strawberries with whipped cream with mascarpone cheese, vanilla extract, and sugar in it--that was our second dish.

For a third dish, I found a recipe for nye potetsalat ["new potato salad"] from the "Midsummer's Picnic" section of a Beatrice Ojakangas cookbook.  In a clear glass trifle bowl, we layered slices of boiled new potatoes with chopped scallions and parsley and sprinkled diced pickled beets on the very top.  Over that we drizzled a dressing of white wine vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper, and it seeped through the layers to coat everything on its own.

The meeting was supposed to occur at Lake Ilo Park on Lake Ilo, between Killdeer and Dunn Center, ND, just over a half-hour to the north of us.  However, stormy weather was on the horizon (literally!), so we held the business meeting and potluck in the city's community center instead.  As the lodge musician, Suzanna is in charge of leading a song at the end of each business meeting; today she enlisted her sisters' help to teach our lodge members one of the songs that we learned at Camp Trollfjorden, a participation song called "Og Han Ola."  In it, Ola goes for a walk and, in each verse, encounters something or someone new--and when he does, we singers do an action and make a sound to symbolize that thing or person.

Each verse adds to the list of motions and noises to remember and do, which was a challenge for a roomful of adult Scandinavian North Dakotans.  It was amusing for me to watch them, but several of them found it even more hilarious to watch our daughters in their commitment to the silliness of the song and their lack of shame while performing it.  Our dishes were a hit at the potluck afterward (especially the potato salad).  The rain occurred while we were safe and dry inside, and then it moved on, enabling us to go to the lake for the post-potluck events.

We were supposed to go to Lake Ilo for Sankthansaften last summer, but a spring fish kill made the lake too stinky to endure.  Still, the Mobergs had never been to Lake Ilo (including Susan, who grew up in this area!), so we drove around the lake on our way home last year just to look around a bit (remember?).  We thought it was pretty then, but it was much better this year to be able to go stand on the dock and walk the nature trail to see things up close (enlarge the photos by clicking on them):





One lodge member, Dave, started the bonfire while the rest of us went out on the dock for a boat race!  Our lodge's program director, Muriel, provided a remote-controlled boat so that we could have boating contests on the lake.  It took awhile for us to get the hang of operating the remote control, but soon we were racing to see who could make the fastest figure eight around two prominent reeds near the dock.  The winner: me!  And the prize: one can of salmon and one can of oysters.  (You should have seen the look on my face when I opened the gift bag and unwrapped the "prize.")

There's the little boat!

And there's Hillary operating the remote control from the shore.  Behind her in the red is Clara; near Hillary in the plaid (partially obscured) is Clara's husband "Inky" standing beside Paul; and in the foreground is Abigail, who is obscuring Barb, who is standing by Lynette.

While some of us played with the boat on the lake, others walked the nature trail to observe the birds in the blue heron rookery nearby.  Some lodge members had brought musical instruments, so we gathered to sing some songs while Inky played mandolin, Paul played guitar, and Lynette played accordion (and I even got to dance with my daughters).

Inky and Hillary

Suzanna, Abigail, and Hillary took charge of roasting marshmallows and delivered them to the adults.  After the rain, the rest of the evening was calm and beautiful, especially near the still lake; and the sun was well on its way below the buttes of the Badlands before we decided to call it a night and drive home.  What a fun afternoon and evening!

P.S.  The Sons of Norway blog earlier this month featured this post about Sankthansaften.  A British woman living in Norway wrote about all the pølser she ate when celebrating Sankthansaften this year and about what she did to celebrate last year.  And an Australian woman living in Norway wrote last year not only about  the festivities but also about the history of the holiday . . . and she shared some terrific photos, too.

1 comment:

  1. Such a busy Norwegian summer you're all having! Maybe next summer I can coordinate some vacation time to go to the camp with you!

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