Thursday, April 30, 2009

Norwegian Weddings

Here we are at the end of April, about to enter what has traditionally been the prime season for weddings in America. I was reminded of this fact when I received an e-mail this morning from a couple of members in California who are renewing their vows this coming weekend. Normally this isn't something I'd blog about, but the fact that they are doing it at this year's Norway Day, a huge event in San Francisco, makes it newsworthy. Well, that and the fact that the doting couple in question are Carl and Mary Beth Ingvoldstad!

If anyone is interested in attending the info I have says the renewal will be at 11 AM on Sunday, May 3rd on the main stage of Norway Day. Appropriate dress will be Bunads and there will be a kransekake tasting afterward. If you go, please send them a hearty congratulations from Sons of Norway!

For those of you who are unfamiliar with a traditional Norwegian wedding, here's some interesting factoids:
  • The couple normally wear Bunads that represent the regions they are from.
  • The bride often wears a bridal crown that is decorated with small metal bangles that make a somewhat metallic musical sound as the bride moves.
  • This sound is supposed to ward off evil spirits who might do harm to the bride.
  • Historically the invitation was something done in person by a an individual designated the bedamann ("bidding man").
  • At the end of the ceremony the couple will exchange wedding bands and then kiss. The circular wedding bands are symbolic of endless love and the kiss represents the couple exchanging their souls.
  • After the ceremony there is a reception, but unlike modern receptions the celebration of old would last as much as a week!
  • Finally, at the couples new home, two small fir trees are planted on either side of the couples door as a symbol of the children to come.
If you are considering a Norwegian wedding for yourself, check out Viking magazine for retailers with all the traditional items you need. Also, check out the June 2001 issue of Viking, which was a wedding issue. Also, you can check out this website with a step-by-step guide to planning a wonderful, traditional Norwegian wedding.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson

Today marks the 99th anniversary of Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson's death. A Norwegian writer and the 1903 Nobel Prize in Literature laureate, Bjørnson is considered as one of "The Great Four" Norwegian writers; the others being Henrik Ibsen, Jonas Lie, and Alexander Kielland. He was also the author of the lyrics to Norway's National Anthem.

But even more important is the fact that "Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson" was the name first selected for Sons of Norway. However it was soon rejected on the realistic grounds that the American people would find it quite impossible to pronounce. "Sønner av Norge" was the name settled upon and the formal inception with the 18 founders was completed on 16 January 1895. Raise your hand if you knew that already.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Karsk Part To: Norwegian Moonshine

As you may remember I posted about a concoction, named Karsk, which was moonshine and coffee. At the end of the post I asked if anyone had a story or information about Karsk or Norwegian moonshine. Well, in true-form Sons of Norway cultural guru Colin Thomsen came through with the info! Check it out below:

In Norway the sale of alcohol is tightly regulated compared to the US. On-sale drinks are taxed heavily – it’s not unusual to pay $10 US for a beer in a bar in Oslo – and everything stronger than 4.75% alcohol has to be purchased off-sale from state-run monopoly stores.

Norway’s alcohol policies have roots reaching deep into history. From as far back as the 1750s the Norwegian state or church has instituted various bans, controls and monopolies on the sale and distribution of beer, wine and spirits. Given the long tradition of governmental control, it’s no wonder that home-brewing and moonshine remain quietly popular in Norway today.

Current Norwegian laws allow private individuals to brew beer and make wine for their own personal use, but specifically outlaw the unlicensed distillation of “hjemmebrent”, ie, moonshine. Hjemmebrent is made from a mixture of fermented water, sugar and yeast that is gently heated to a temperature below the boiling point of water. Since alcohol evaporates at a lower temperature than water, the alcohol vapor is captured and allowed to condense in a separate pot. The resulting liquid is almost pure alcohol. Like all moonshine, hjemmebrent can be very dangerous to make – and drink – as even minor impurities can become poisonous after the distillation process. Nonetheless, hjemmebrent is a common feature of parties, holidays and get-togethers, and information for making the stuff is easy to find on the Internet.

Here are a few moonshining words in Norwegian:

brennevin – Brandy, or any hard liquor. Literally, “burned wine” referring to the distillation process. Related to the English word “brandy.”
gjæring – Fermentation
hjemmebrent – Moonshine, literally, “home-burned”
sats – Mash, the fermented mixture of water, yeast from which moonshine is distilled

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Today in History: Thor Heyerdahl

Today is a sad day that marks the 7th anniversary of the passing of Thor Heyerdahl, Norwegian adventurer and ethnographer. Heyerdahl was most famous for his 1947 Kon-Tiki expedition that took him from across the Pacific Ocean to prove that it was possible for Pre-Columbian South Americans to have traveled to, and settled, Polynesia (it should be noted that Hyerdahl's thesis was recently given added support from chickens). A true adventurer; he once commented, "Borders? I have never seen one. But I have heard they exist in the minds of some people."

Besides the Kon-Tiki expedition, Heyerdahl was also the driving force behind the Fatu Hiva and Rapa Nui (Easter Island) expeditions as well as the construction of the Ra, Ra II a Tigris reed-boats. All of which were done to prove the possibility of pan-oceanic migration and cross-cultural exchange in the Pre-Columbian world.

In the end, after all his expeditions and adventures, Thor Heyerdahl passed away quietly from a brain tumor at the age of 87. His impact on Norway and the entire world was such that the Norwegian government granted Heyerdahl the honor of a state funeral at the Oslo Cathedral.

Friday, April 17, 2009

NFCA Mid Year Day 2

Today is gonna be a full day for sure. There are six different break-out sessions on a variety of topics, including reaching key influencers, social media and intellectual property. All of which sound very cool and I'm looking forward to it.

Make sure to follow along throughout the day via our Twitter feed! I'll post there throughout the day and try to squeeze in a recap later tonight.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

NFCA Meeting: Opening Ceremonies/Image Mapping

I'm home now from the first day of the NFCA Mid-Year meeting and I'm bushed. Today's meetings included opening remarks from representatives of Sons of Norway, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans and Catholic Aid Association as well as the election of new officers and an Identity Mapping session, followed by a lively reception for the attendees.

During the election portion of today's meeting the NFCA Fraternal Section elected a new slate of officers. I'm pleased to announce that Sons of Norway Fraternal Director Eivind Heiberg has been elected to the office of president of the NFCA Fraternal Section. Everyone in attendance was very excited with the results, so big congratulations to Eivind!

After the elections, there was an interesting presentation on the idea that in order to communicate effectively with individuals or groups you need to have an understanding of their respective personalities. As part of this discussion Thrivent Financial for Lutherans hosted an Identity Mapping session for the attendees.

This part of the evening was especially interesting to me because Image Mapping has the potential to be applied within a small group setting to facillitate more effective and fruitful communication. If you don't already see where I'm going with this, something like Image Mapping could be useful to a lodge in helping its board members communicate with one-another more effectively and improve performance and productivity, which is the foundation of a strong lodge and a strong future.

Just to give an example of this and how it works, tonight I learned that I was a Logical-Relationship-Action-Organized-Extrovert. What that means is that I am most comfortable in a work environment which is unstructured and creative while believing that there is a right answer to every question and that information is the key to that answer. It also means that I sometimes appear to be difficult to approach becuase I do not show emotions. People I work with, who know this information, are able to communicate more effectively with me. The reverse also applies when I know about their personality and communication style, too. Pretty helpful, don't you think? Imagine if a lodge board of directors were equipped with the same information about each other. Personally I think there'd be no limit to what they could accomplish.

If any officers are interested in learning more about it, don't hesitate to contact me and I can pass on some more information.

Ok, more to come tomorrow. Don't forget to check out our Twitter feed to get all the updates throughout the day!

Coming to you live from the NFCA Mid Year Meeting

This week is the National Fraternal Congress of America (NFCA)'s annual Fraternal and Communications mid-year meeting. I'm really looking forward to it because this year there is an emphasis on new media and social media. Some of the topics being discussed will include Is the Press Release Dead? and Questions About the Changing Media Landscape. I'm looking forward to hearing what the folks from Risdall McKinney Public Relations have to say about getting the story out in a changing media landscape. In addition, there will be panel discussions on everything from best communications practices to "keeping fraternals relevant."

These are all issues that fraternal organizations, like Sons of Norway, wrestle with on a daily basis. These things are also important for our lodges to know about because I believe the changing communications landscape is going to have a direct affect on how we recruit and retain members in the future.

That being so, I want to invite everyone to join me at this year's meeting. In a virtual sense, that is. Beginning later this afternoon I am going to use the Sons of Norway blog and Twitter accounts to share information and insights obtained from the experts. I encourage you to follow along because there will likely be some very useful information that can assist in your lodge's recruitment efforts.

To follow along you can check here for information. I'll be posting entries at least once a day from the event. Also, I encourage you to follow Sons of Norway on Twitter. I'll be posting a number of items there over the next three days. We also use the Twitter account to announce new blog posts as well as share interesting information. You can follow us one of two ways-either by setting up your own Twitter account, which is free and super-easy, or you can look on the right-hand side of the blog, just under the Sons of Norway logo, for our Twitter updates.

Alright, I'm off for now. Make sure to keep checking back between now and Saturday night for useful information about social media, lodge promotion, fraternal relevance and maybe even some recruiting tips as well!

Sons of Norway Goes Tweet Tweet Tweet...

Did you know that you can now follow Sons of Norway on Twitter? That's right, you sure can! It's not just for the Barack Obama, Ashton Kutcher or Thrivents of the world (we've got more subscribers than Thrivent, by the way). It's a great tool for keeping in touch with others and for sharing information. You can even do searches to see what people are saying about Sons of Norway.

I encourage you to check it out and subscribe to the Sons of Norway tweets. It's super easy and will help you stay informed about what's going on within the organization. In the future, we'll be using it to broadcast live info from events as well as give our members some insight into what it's like here at the HQ. In fact, later this afternoon there will be an announcement here about the twitter account. Make sure to check back and see what's happening--it'll be new, exciting and definitely worth your time!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Karsk: Have you ever tried it?

I love the web because there are always new and interesting things to learn about. Today was a great example of that. While surfing around the web and looking for something to write about, I found a wikipedia entry on something called Karsk. Apparently Karsk is a Norwegian word for coffee with liquor added to it. Well, actually, according to some enthusiasts, its coffee with "moonshine" in it.

I'm honestly not sure what's more intriguing to me--the fact that Norwegians have moonshine, the fact that they apparently mix said moonshine into their coffee or the fact that there are so-called "enthusiasts" who drink said moonshine/coffee mixture.

I spoke with the Fraternal Director who is from Norway and he told me that it is very common, especially in rural communities and northern Norway.

Am I the only person who didn't know about this already?

As you may have figured out already, I'm very intrigued by Norwegian cultural oddities (as evidenced by the strange Norwegian food posts of past). That being the case, I would love to hear from anyone who has tried Karsk. Do you have a story about it? How about a recipe? Do you know the difference between U.S. made moonshine and its Norwegian cousin? If so, leave a comment below because I want to hear all about it!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Sons of Norway Summer Camps

Spring is here! The snow is (mostly) gone up here in Minneapolis and thoughts are beginning to turn towards making summer plans. For hundreds, maybe even thousands, of our members that means registering for one of a dozen different language and heritage summer camps that are sponsored by different Sons of Norway districts.

The camps are awesome. Each one is held in a beautiful location in the U.S., Canada or Norway and the scenery always adds to the campers' experience. Also, while each camp is a little different in ages of campers and size they all offer a strong emphasis on Norwegian Heritage and Culture. To learn more about them, visit the Sons of Norway website, or read more about them in Viking magazine.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Norwegian Music on the Internet

Recently I was reading an article about Norwegian songstress Kristin Asbjørnsen when I noticed that she has a channel dedicated to her and other Norwegian musicians. I've been listening to it all morning and am really getting into it. I've been listening to Dadafon, Helene Bøksle and even Silje Nergaard's cover of Dream a Little Dream.

For those who haven't used it yet, is something of an online radio station in that it streams music to the listener, but it's more than a radio station because you can get fairly specific with the type of music you'd like the site to play for you. I highly reccomend it, especially if you are looking for a resource for Norwegian music.

Speaking of which, I also found out about (which translates to "listen"), a Norwegian website with links to a whole bunch of Norwegian terrestrial radio stations that also stream online. There's everything from NRK P1-P3 to Sami Radio to NRK Super, a station with programming for children.

And if that's not enough for your musical tastes, don't forget about the blog post we ran a few months back about Norwegian Musicians on Myspace.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Norwegian Author Wins Prestigious Nordic Literary Prize

It was announced today that Norwegian writer Per Petterson has won the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize for his 2008 novel Jeg forbanner tidens elv. Petterson beat out 11 other authors from Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, the Faroe Islands and Greenland in the most prestigious literary competition in the Nordic region.

Petterson exploded onto the international literary scene in 2007 when his novel Out Stealing Horses was released in English. The book won a number of prizes in Europe and America and was named one of the top 10 books of the year by the New York Times.

Jeg forbanner tidens elv (“I Curse the River of Time”) won’t be available in English until 2010, but was praised by the Nordic Council for its “poetic and quiet language” that “brings across just how difficult it is to say to each other those things we feel are the most important." You can read a summary of the novel and find a sample translation of a chapter here.

Jeg forbanner tidens elv has already won the 2008 Brage prize, a Norwegian award. In an interview in the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet published shortly after winning the Brage prize in December, Petterson described winning as “a very nice confirmation for me, because I hadn’t read any of the reviews” of the book. Petterson added that being nominated for the Nordic Council prize made him “stressed out. I thought, ‘oh no, now the reporters will be starting up again.’”

Petterson appeared bemused at a press conference today, not least because the Council had accidentally called the wrong Per Petterson before getting a hold of the author. According to Dagbladet, author and jury member Trude Marstein thought she had the right number when she called up a completely different Per Petterson and informed him he had just won the literary prize. When the man on the other end of the line replied, Marstein thought she didn’t recognize his voice. “Uff, I’m glad that at least he wasn’t an author,” said Marstein.

The Nordic Council prize brings Petterson not only greater renown, but also a monetary award of 350 000 Danish kroner – more than US $60,000. Later in the same press conference, Petterson described the prize as a great honor. “Everyone who has anything to do with literature knows that this is the absolute biggest thing.” Still, the he remains ambivalent. “I’ve been the goose laying the golden eggs for a few years now, but at some point it’s all going to end” he said.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Telenor Launches New Recycling Program

I just read today that Telenor, the Norwegian mobile phone giant, has launched a new mobile recycling program. It basically goes like this--for every phone you recycle through this program Telenor will give you 50 free SMSes and give the Red Cross funding to plant 25 trees in Asia.

I think this program sounds very cool on a number of levels and has good potential for success. Seriously, think about the fact that in this one program Telenor is offering a good-will incentive to its current customers, using philanthropy to make itself more attractive to potential customers and acting as an environmentally conscious global citizen. In corporate terms, it's got the potential to be a PR grand slam!

I think it would be very cool if Sprint or Verizon were to come up with a similar plan for U.S. customers. Well, if the Telenor program proves to be successful, I wouldn't be surprised if these American counterparts were soon to follow. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.