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More to celebrating Syttende Mai than lefse and lutefisk

Scandinavian dinners top the list of events celebrating Norway's Constitution Day.

Norway's flag
The Norwegian flag was designed in 1821, using red, white and blue from countries the designer thought best symbolized liberty, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands.
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FARGO — Tuesday is Syttende Mai, Norway’s Constitution Day , a national holiday in the old country.

We tend to think of Norwegians as a stoic lot, so “celebrating” may not be the first word that comes to mind when considering the day, but here are some ways to mark the day.

Most cultures have specific dishes for holidays. Believe it or not, Norwegians tend to celebrate Syttende Mai with eating hot dogs and ice cream. If that sounds like the makings of a child’s birthday party, consider that in Norway the big events of the day are children’s parades.

In Fargo, celebrations are taking on a different flavor.

Homemade Norwegian Potato Flatbread (Lefse) with Butter and Suga
Homemade Norwegian Potato Flatbread (Lefse) with Butter and Sugar on a rustic wooden board on cloth, low angle view. Close-up.
Liudmyla - stock.adobe.com

North Dakota State University celebrates with its 45th annual Scandinavian buffet . From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. NDSU catering will be serving up Scandinavian dishes like lutefisk, torsk with butter, lemon and parsley, Swedish meatballs, buttered potatoes, mashed rutabaga, flatbread, lefse with butter, sugar and cinnamon and sweets like kransekake, pepper cookies, Danish butter cookies, Swedish princess cupcakes and rice pudding. Tickets are $17 per person and $4 for kids ages 4 to 10. For more information go to ndsu.edu/dining/scandi or call (701) 231-8011.

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If you can’t make it to NDSU for lunch, consider heading over to the Sons of Norway a little later in the afternoon. A more expansive Syttende Mai celebration starts at 3 p.m. for those of age in the Troll Lounge with flights of aquavit and pickled herring platters. From 5 to 6:30 p.m. a torsk and meatball dinner will be served for $20.

After dinner, a special program and music will be featured from 6:30 to 7:30, followed by a dance with Julie Lee while a bluegrass jam unrolls in the Troll Lounge starting at 6:30.

Rollo the Viking
"Rollo the Viking" near the Sons of Norway
Forum file photo

If you’re near the Sons of Norway, take a stroll about a block north and admire the striking statue of Viking chieftain known as Granger Hrolf, or Rollo to the French. In 911 he set out to raid northern France, but ended up signing a treaty with the French King, pledging loyalty and converting to Christianity in exchange for land that he called Normandy.

The original bronze sculpture was placed in Normandy in 1865. Identical bronze sculptures were created in 1911, with one going to Norway and another coming to Fargo, first set next to the Great Northern railroad depot on Broadway and moved to its current home in 1990.

Another Norwegian figure memorialized in statue has a more direct link to Syttende Mai.

Henrik Wergeland statue
Statue of the poet Henrik Wergeland in Island Park.
Forum file photo

Poet, playwright and polemicist Henrik Wergeland , sometimes referred to as “the Abraham Lincoln of Norway,” pushed to establish a Norwegian culture and was a force behind celebrating Syttende Mai in the early 1800s.

A statue of the writer, by Gustav Vigeland, was erected in Island Park on June 17,1908, 100 years after his birthday.

In Norway students would lay a wreath on his grave or at Wergeland statues on Syttende Mai to celebrate his involvement in the holiday and local Norwegians have done so as well. Members of the Jewish community have also placed wreaths at his statue in memory of his support of the Jewish people and pushing for them to be allowed into the country in 1851.

Related Topics: FARGOHISTORY
For 20 years John Lamb has covered art, entertainment and lifestyle stories in the area for The Forum.
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