Sunday, May 30, 2010

Visiting Norway

We were fortunate to time our visit in Norway during one of their major holidays, Syttende Mai. This translates into the "17th of May", which is their National Day, when they celebrate their independence from Sweden in 1905. It is a day that all Norwegians come out into the streets dressed in their traditional clothes, a bunad, indicative of the area that they were born and grew up, or that they live in now. It is a day of parades and celebration. It was a good day for taking pictures of the colorful culture of Norway. The main event of the day is a parade of the children. All the local schools are represented, each grade getting their turn. It reflects the pride this nation has in its future generation. The children march, some play in bands, some toot their enthusiasm through noise maker horns. Everyone has fun! After the parade people just stroll around the village. No stores are open, other than the ice cream stands. Some vendors sell savory sausages. After some walking around most find their way to restaurants, which are open. Everyone is out showing off their festive clothes. Enjoy some of the snapshots I took of the villagers of Lillehammer, Norway. For a closer view just click on the picture. For an even closer view click again using the little magnifying glass which will come up with the first click. The traditional clothes above are of the Sami, an ethnic group of Norwegians that live in the very far North of the country. Historically they have been reindeer herders. Below is another example of the outfit in the Folk Museum. I thought the purple bunad above to be the most beautiful one I saw the entire day. Even the sage fathers of the village enjoy ice cream on a special day! I'll finish up this entry by including our host families. Above is Lene and her two children. Henrik wore his bunad for the wedding, but not for National Day. Lars and Marie enjoyed the day with their two children. The children enjoyed the ice cream. Asbjorn and Rigmore accompany Rich and his mother. We moved through the village, Asbjorn visiting with many people he knows. We ended up across town at a restaurant where we had lunch and local beer. It was a very enjoyable day!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Wedding in Norway

On May 10th at the County Courthouse in Caledonia, MN, the county seat of Houston County, I married Richard Carl Hanson in a civil ceremony. We wanted to officially marry in Norway, but the paperwork limitations were practically insurmountable, so we married locally. With proof in hand we left the following day to Norway, where the priest indicated he would bless the marriage that had already occurred. I assembled my bouquet from blooming spring flowers acquired and sometimes pilfered from the area. Aren't they pretty! Afterwards we had a nice dinner in La Crosse. My best girlfriend Patti was my witness. Rich's friend from childhood, Ron "Spiney", served as his witness. The only other people in attendance were Rich's parents, and his brother Brian. This was a ceremony of necessity. The true wedding was scheduled for the following weekend, May 15. I will include here highlights of the wedding. We have digital pictures from many sources, but await the best pictures to be sent to us. The patriarch of the family in Norway, Asbjorn, is the grandson to the brother of Richard's Great Great Grandfather on his mother's side. Got that? Asbjorn is married to Rigmor, and they have two children, Lene and Lars. Lene and her companion Tore have two children, Henrik and Kristine, who participated in our wedding. Lars and his companion, Marie, were our witnesses, and were Best Man and Matron of Honor. Henrik started the wedding procession. He was a little nervous about being first, but did a wonderful job. Kristine was a very pretty flower maiden in her smart looking bunad. Let me take a moment here to explain what a 'bunad' is. In Norway, the people are very proud of their heritage, and on special occasions and National Day they wear the traditional costume called a bunad. It varies from region to region in the country, and an experienced observer can tell you where a person comes from based upon the design of the bunad. Most young people get their first bunad as soon as they are old enough and responsible enough to not destroy it. Case in point, one of the two children of Lars and Marie, did not wear a bunad to the wedding, which is just as well as he was found out back later in the day in the mud. Many children are handed down a bunad worn by their relatives when they were young. Kristine has her grandmother's bunad. At the age of confirmation they usually receive an adult bunad, which is designed to expand a bit as they get older. At this time they often also receive some of the silver additions to the outfit. Some women have extensive and beautiful silver adornments gifted to them from older relatives. The overall effect is stunning! It can take from a year to three or more years to craft certain bunads, as they are made by skilled craftsmen and women, particular to the region you live in. During our visit we were fortunate enough to catch National Day, where everyone comes out in their bunads. I will post pictures very soon of the colorful display. Lars was witness and Best Man to Richard. Rich and I ordered our bunads over the Internet, and got the best thing we could get, not having a year or more to custom order. I think Rich looks quite handsome in his green accented bunad. He almost looks like a ship captain, which is appropriate for this sea-faring nation. As always, he has a hat to go with his outfit, as he is never found without a hat, however he was not allowed to wear it in the church. Marie was my witness and Matron of Honor. As I review our pictures, I notice that she is not in any of the group pictures. She was taking care of her two active sons, which keeps her busy. Here she displays the traditional bunad of Rondastakken The priest of the Lillehammer church blessed our union, as recognized by the civil authority in Minnesota. In Norway the wedding party is seated. When an actual marriage is performed, the couple sits on one side, then moves to the other after marriage. However, being already married we did not do this Musical Chairs. Afterwards (and before) we posed for pictures. We did have the Unity Candle, which left the Norwegians scratching their heads, having never seen it before. The happy couple! We were assured by our hosts that our choice of bunad was still appropriate for the region we found ourselves in (Lillehammer). Finding bunads in the US is not easy! It is also not cheap! I spent more on the bunad than I did for my first white wedding dress. I have a silver brooch at my throat from my new Mother-in-Law, Pat. Kristine was such a delightful and beautiful breathe of spring in our wedding. Such a pretty young lady! Rich and Lars, Henrik and Kristine. Now just add me in! I was so distracted I did not notice that we didn't get Marie in any of the pictures as we took most of them prior to the ceremony, and she came just as we began. The wedding party and Cletus, Rich's father. Unfortunately Pat took very ill on the day of the wedding and could not attend. Fortunately we video filmed the event so she was able to see it. The entire family! Here you can see a splendid display of the Gudbrandsdalen festbunad, specific to the Lillhammer valley. Click the picture to see a closeup. The flashy silver is spectacular! To my right is Lene, on the far right is Elena, Lene's step-daughter. To my left is Rigmor, and Kristine. Both older women also wear a symbolistic key, which means they are the keepers of the key to the pantry/kitchen/storehouse, a symbol of the woman of the house. I've told Rich I want one of these keys . . . and the house to go with it! We married at the Lillehammer Lutheran Church, which is the Church of Norway. It's a complex history! Norway celebrates many religious holidays (we know as we were there for 2 of them) when everything is closed down, stores and all, but yet no ones goes to church. It rained every day up to our wedding, to include the day of our wedding, but cleared up for the rest of our visit. The ladies joked that there is a Norwegian tradition that if it rains on some aspect of the bride, they don't remember which aspect, it is good luck, so encouraged me to walk in the rain to cover my bases. We returned to Asbjorn and Rigmor's home. Norwegian law strictly dictates when the flag may be flown. Always it is raised for National Day and special holidays like the King's birthday. A family may also fly the flag when they are celebrating a special day of their own. This day the flag was being flown for Rich and Myself . . . for our wedding. You can see the misty hill in the distance. We were caught slipping upstairs . . . . but not for what some would think. Rich's mom was unable to come to the wedding, so we went to visit her as soon as we arrived. Rigmor had set a beautiful table! My bouquet decorated the table. It was filled with fragrant roses, peonies and daisies. I was able to dry it and get it back home. Champagne flowed freely, and I had too much of it. We were then served a traditional Norwegian feast. It began with Rommegrot, a sour cream porridge or pudding, which is absolutely heavenly! I must learn how to make it. The meal continued with regional cheeses, flatbread and shavings from a special guest of honor, Spekeskinke, a three-year aged pork leg. Really! It's companion was hanging in the wardrobe where we kept our bunads. For our wedding cakes, Lene had made a Kransekake, an Almond Tower Cake, as well as a Marzipan Wedding Cake. The meal ended with strong coffee, Aquavit and Cognac. It was a fabulous celebration among these warm and welcoming people of Norway!
I'll return soon and finish blogging about the rest of our journey. I have a LOT of pictures to work through!
Greetings from Norway!!
I'm posting the first pictures of what will be a very extensive blog entry, once I get home and have access to all the data files and videos of our trip here.
Tomorrow is our last full day in this picturesque country. We have enjoyed the warm hospitality of Rich's relatives. I have tried to capture just some of its beauty, unsuccessfully. Hopefully once I have access to everyone's data files, I'll be able to share just a small window of this wonderful adventure we have shared here.
Above is one of the fjords of Norway, Lustlafjord . . . a unique landscape primarily found here, where vast and deep arms of the ocean carve ancient paths into the land. I think this is one of the best pictures I took . . . capturing the deep blue of the water, reflecting the sky, the lush green of the spring growth, and the snowy mountains that were melting all around us, cascading multiple waterfalls. Click on the picture for a closer view.
Below are the peaks of the backbone of this country, Skagastølsnebbet, the highest mountains in Norway. One of the multiple streams flows away as the spring melt progresses.
It is a magnificent country . . . and I feel wonderfully blessed to share the adventure, to be invited to come here, and to begin a new life with Rich here witnessed by his family and distant relations from the country of his family's origin.
I'll give a full posting as soon as I am able!