Norwegian Language Blog

En smakebit av Norge i USA Posted by on Feb 25, 2009 in Culture

A taste of Norway in the U.S.  That’s what you’ll get if you attend one of the Norwegian celebrations around the U.S.  Go to Decorah, Iowa at the end of July and you’ll experience ‘Nordic Fest,’ a weekend to celebrate Norwegian and all things Norway.  You will find music, dancing, fireworks, a parade, an antique and craft show, a bunad show, a children’s carnival and petting zoo, traditional Norwegian sporting events, as well as lots of traditional food!  The tradition of Nordic Fest in Decorah began in 1966 when the Luther Women’s Club wanted to expand the celebration from a Syttende Mai (17th of May, Norway’s Constitution Day) dinner on campus to a bigger and better party.   They certainly suceeded.  Over 1.5 million people have attended Nordic Fest since the companys finding.  This year will mark the 43rd anniversay of Nordic Fest.

Another big and well-known Norwegian celebration is ‘Høstfest’ (Fall Festival) in Minot, North Dakota.  This festival actually celebrates Scandinavian cultures as a whole.  That means Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland, and Denmark are all represented at Høstfest.  This year will mark the 31st year of Høstfest.  It usually falls at the end of September to really kick off the fall (høst) season.  This festival is quite a bit bigger than ‘Nordic Fest’ in Iowa: 200 internationally known chefs, craftsman, and artisans participate every year.

Have you heard of Syttende mai?  (The 17th of May, Norways’s Constitution Day)  It is arguably the most important day in modern Norway’s history, if not the entire history.  Syttende mai is also right up there with Christmas as the most important day of the year.  There are parades OVERALT (EVERYWHERE)-small villages, big cities, hva som helst (whatever).  I attended the parade in Oslo on the 17th of May, 2006 and it was insane!  So many people in traditional dress, so many people.  I will go into more detail about Syttende mai in a later post.  It really is an incredible event.

The point is you can enjoy the kind of Syttende mai spirit here in the U.S. if you can get yourself to a city that celebrates it!  The city I live in, with a population of about 18,000, does not have a parade, but at least 2 institutions celebrate the important date.  At St. Olaf, there is a huge Syttende mai frokost (17th of May breakfast) with homemade waffles, strong coffee, bunads, and delightful fiddle music.  At a lutheran church 2 blocks from my house there is a Syttende mai frokost with everything from laks (salmon) to lefse.  I know that New York City has a very large Syttende mai celebration with a parade and lots of music and food as well.  I think it’s great that there is still plenty of interest in communities for this type of thing.  It would have been easy to think 10 or 20 years ago that as more and more young individuals mate outside of their ethnic heritage group, interest in cultural celebrations of one’s ancestors would diminish.  At least in my area of the country, I have not seen evidence of this.  I know quite a few people that attend one or more of these events a year and they are very enthusiastic about it. 

Find yourself a place to celebrate something Norwegian, whether it be the language, music, history, or hva som helst, put yourself out there, meet people with similar interests, and perhaps learn something new!�

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About the Author: kari

I attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, where I majored in Norwegian and History. During college, I spent almost a year living in Oslo, Norway, where I attended the University of Oslo and completed an internship at the United States Embassy. I have worked for Concordia Language Villages as a pre-K Norwegian teacher and have taught an adult Norwegian language class. Right now, I keep up by writing this Norwegian blog for Transparent Language. Please read and share your thoughts! I will be continuing this blog from my future residence in the Norwegian arctic!


  1. Lydia:

    Kari, there’s actually a Texas bunad, for just such times!

  2. Kari:

    That’s pretty cool that there is a Texas bunad. What does it look like?

  3. Kari:

    Ted-I would suggest looking online in geneological databases. I would start by just searching for names and places. And dig around for a family tree! Ask your parents, grandparents, anyone in the family that might be able to locate one.

  4. Kari:


    Here are a couple movies that I love:

    Kitchen Stories
    Cool & Crazy

    I’ll keep thinking of more Norwegian movies that I enjoy…

  5. Anna: