National Nordic Museum celebrates Julefest

Kyle Morrison, Staff Reporter

A little girl in a traditional nordic outfit
Aly Cotte
A young girl shows off her Nordic heritage at Julefest.

As Christmas comes around, many different cultures will begin revisiting the Christmas traditions which make the holiday meaningful to them. Of the many cultures that value christmas, the Nordic culture has many traditions that make Christmas very special for them.

Jule Fest is held every year at the National Nordic Museum in Ballard. This festival serves as a chance for the museum to get people from all around Seattle into the doors and allow them to truly experience the richness of Nordic culture.

“It brings out so many people to the museum that wouldn’t normally be here, Julefest staff member Wendy Forselius said. “I love the food, I love wearing costumes and playing music and dancing. I love being here.”

Forselius was excited about the opportunity to dance in traditional Nordic folk dances which are featured at the museum every year. Dances from Norway, Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Sweden (the five Norwegian countries) are all featured. Dancers dress up in traditional attire from their specific country and dance to traditional Nordic music.

For those attending JuleFest, culture, food and music all bring them to Ballard. “I came here because of my heritage and thought it was cool,” Jack Swanson said. “There’s a lot of stuff here that pertains to my culture.”

One of the many highlights of Jule Fest is the food. Julefest makes traditional Nordic fare throughout the day and, for many in the area, it is their only chance they get to eat these dishes without making them at home.

The highlight of the menu is Ableskiver which, according to Noel Povelson is “The viking version of a pancake”

More precisely it is a Norwegian pastry ball, cooked like a pancake and served with jelly and sugar. The line for this dish spread about a quarter way through the building, and many coming to Jule fest were just there to eat the delicacy.

The making of Ableskiver also has incredible cultural significance in many Nordic cultures. Most of the women cooking the Ableskiver on Saturday learned how to make the dish from their mothers, and even use the same pans that their mothers used when they were first being taught to cook.

Jolie Bergman, one of the cooks on Saturday explained this cultural phenomenon. “I’ve been making [Ableskiver] for about 25 years,” Bergman said. “My [mother] taught me and I’ve been making them here since I was 15, all cast iron pots have been passed down for generations.”

When attendees finished their food, many proceeded to walk around the museum and marvel at the incredible exhibits throughout the building.

The top floor features a long walkway that documents the entire history of Nordic culture. From the Vikings to World War II, this exhibit shows the story of the Nordic people.

Across the hall and in a different room, there is an entire exhibit documenting the immigration of Nordic people to America. The Museum wants the public to know that over 10 million Americans to some degree descend from a Nordic ethnicity, and that the Nordic culture has played a key role in America’s history.

A woman cooking
Aly Cotte
Julefest workers preparing aebleskiver, a traditional Danish snack.

As far as the rest of the Christmas festival, many Christmas shops were open all across the building. From Norwegian wines, to exotic jerkys, to trickets galore, there were many ways for attendees to show their Christmas spirit with a Nordic twist.

Overall the museum hopes that having christmas festivals and other activities at the museum will get more foot traffic in the building.

Rosemary Jones, the head of marketing at the museum expressed her belief in the museum. “I think the neat thing about the museum is it celebrates Nordic culture social justice, and the American immigrant experience,” Jones said. “For fun we really celebrate Christmas.”

For many Nordic individuals in the Pacific Northwest, Jule Fest served as an opportunity to experience the history of their culture, while celebrating in the christmas spirit. But even people just looking for a good time thought the Nordic museum was worthwhile.

As Jim Skrindle put it, “Good food, good beer, good music and it’s something to do in Ballard on a Saturday.’