Constitution Day celebrates Norwegian culture

May 18 gathering to feature cod toss, specialty baked goods, Scandinavian parade

By: Chris Jackett | Farmington Press | Published May 13, 2013

 Musicians from the Scandinavian-American Spelmanslag entertain the crowd during last year’s Norwegian Constitution Day celebration at the Swedish Club in Farmington Hills. This year’s event will take place May 18.

Musicians from the Scandinavian-American Spelmanslag entertain the crowd during last year’s Norwegian Constitution Day celebration at the Swedish Club in Farmington Hills. This year’s event will take place May 18.

Photo by Bob Giles

Advertisement

FARMINGTON HILLS — With the 199th anniversary of Norway’s constitution taking place May 17, local residents will celebrate their heritage Saturday with Norwegian Constitution Day festivities.

The Nordkap Lodge, a branch of the Sons of Norway, will host the gathering 11 a.m.-3 p.m. May 18 at the Swedish Club, 22398 Ruth St., celebrating the signing of the constitution in 1814 that established Norway as an independent sovereign state.

“In Norway, May 17 is the time of year when we say either, ‘Spring is here,’ or, ‘Winter is still around,’ or, ‘This feels like summer,’ or all of the above,” said Geir Gronstad, Nordkap Lodge president, via email. “Traditionally, it is the first day you eat ice cream — outdoors, regardless of temperature. In other words, same as in Michigan.”

Norwegian Constitution Day offers the general public a look at Norwegian culture in a fun atmosphere.

Things kick off with an 11:30 a.m. parade led by Scandinavian folk musicians, which begins at the Swedish Club’s Memorial Tree, honoring the victims of a 2011 massacre in Norway.

“It is the parade itself — or more specifically, the children’s parade — that most Norwegians associate with May 17,” Gronstad said via email. “Each school usually (has) a marching band that will lead the parade, and by having the Scandinavian-American Spelmanslag lead our parade, we keep the tradition alive.”

Norway’s honorary consul to Michigan, Huntington Woods resident Dennis Flessland, will also address the crowd, which totaled more than 100 people last year.

The day will then progress into face-painting, balloon animals, special games for children and the ever-popular cod toss.

“We used to have frozen fillet from cod,” said Louise Giles, Nordkap Lodge vice president. “As it defrosts, it gets a little messy. Now, we use frozen fish heads. They’re a little chunkier. Cod is a staple in the Norwegian diets, back to the Vikings. I think we kind of gave it an American twist with the tossing bit.”

Giles said the cod is donated by Superior Fish Co. in Royal Oak.

“I believe the appeal is that this is an event that children love and parents hate — but we do have hand sanitizers available,” Gronstad said via email.

A variety of traditional Norwegian products and foods will also be available for both consumption and purchase, including cheese, herring, soups, lefse (potato flatbread), Norwegian candy and chocolate bars, and more.

“Also, our dessert table is fabulous,” Gronstad said via email. “The centerpiece is the kransekake, but we will have Norwegian-style (heart-shaped) waffles, riskrem (rice cream) and other delicacies provided by members and guests.”

Patrons are also encouraged to dress in bunad attire.

“The bunad is the traditional folk dress for Norwegians,” Giles said. “It’s sort of a style that developed from folk dress.”

To battle the issue of declining memberships that many heritage clubs are facing, Gronstad said Nordkap Lodge is working to make the group more appealing to younger generations.

“Recently, we are shifting some of the events to a younger crowd and providing more relevant and contemporary activities during the day while maintaining — yet updating — the standard events,” Gronstad said via email. “Starting last year, we also will have a map where you can indicate your connection to Norway. Some of our members and guests learned they had something in common — as they realized their ancestors came from the same place.

“You do not have to be a member to attend, but you can become a member if you want. We have monthly events for young people of all ages, including the mid-summer celebration, St. Hans Day (on) June 23; Founder’s Day parade in Farmington (in July); and Youth Day in September. Finally, we will make fun of the Swedes.”

For more information, call (248) 224-3369.

Advertisement