Friday, December 19, 2008

December Stories and Songs, Part 19

I grew up in a northern New England family of primarily Scotch-Irish and English ancestry, and our Christmas customs reflected this, as well as the prevailing American Christmas of the 1950s. Thirty-six years ago, married six months, I celebrated my first Christmas incorporating Danish customs, and the following year I was living in Minnesota, where I began to steep myself in all sorts of Scandinavian-ness. (No lutefisk, though). It was culture shock of the pleasantest kind.
So, today here's one of my favorite Scandinavian Christmas tales, and what someone once called "the world's best cat story" -- The Cat on the Dovrefjell, a Norwegian folktale collected by Peder Asbjornsen and Jorgen Moe. When SonShineIn was small, we had a paperback book of troll stories in which the name Halvor, the farmer in the original tale, was replaced by SonShineIn's real name, a slightly less unusual Danish name. He was always tickled to hear his name in the story, called out by trolls.
More recently, Tomie DePaola has illustrated the story, and so have some others. But you can also read the original version here.
For a Norwegian story, a Norwegian Christmas song -- perhaps THE Norwegian Christmas song. It will bring tears and smiles of recognition if sung at any nursing home in the Upper Midwest. Of course I refer to I Am So Glad Each Christmas Eve (Jeg Er Saa Glad Hver Julekveld). I've linked to the Cyberhymnal for those of you who don't have a Lutheran hymnal handy. My favorite version is by Mike and Else Sevig, a Minnesota couple who do wonderful harmonies with it. You can buy their album, A Norwegian Christmas, from Ingebretsen's, just down Lake Street from Onkel Hankie Pants' old home. Going to Ingebretsen's at Christmastime is an experience in itself.

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