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Celebrating the holidays, Danish style

December 3, 2012
By Jenny Kirk , Marshall Independent

TYLER - It didn't seem to matter where anyone lived or even if they have a Danish background, everyone appeared to be having a great time celebrating at the 2012 Old Fashioned Danish Christmas on Saturday in Tyler. Appreciation for Danish traditions also seemed to be a common theme throughout the festivities.

"It's become such a material world that we feel we really need to share traditions with our family," said Mavis Shriver, who traveled from Woodbury with her husband Ron and college-age granddaughters Karly Shriver and Kayla Shriver. "That's what they remember, especially when you do the fun things. Our granddaughters value that."

Karly Shriver said that she and her sister both work at Kohl's, but intentionally got this weekend off to attend the Christmas celebration.

Article Photos

Photo by Jenny Kirk

Sisters Karly, left, and Kayla Shriver took a moment to pose for a photograph in front of the enormous Christmas tree decorated in traditional Danish ways for the 2012 Old-Fashioned Danish Christmas festivities Saturday at the Danebod campus in Tyler.
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"It's become another tradition, like coming back to Tyler for Aebleskiver Days and the fair. Now we've been coming to this, too."

Mavis Shriver also commented that she truly appreciated how much effort organizers and volunteers put into the annual event.

"I love their willingness to put forth the effort to do the little things," she said. "The details are what make everything so special."

Early in the afternoon, people had the opportunity to browse the Julebutikker - Christmas shops - at the Danebod Folk School, observe a table setting with traditional Risengrod - rice pudding - and other Danish items at the Stone Hall Museum and even dance around the Christmas tree - a live, 15-foot tall version - in the Gym Hall.

"I heard that the tree was donated by the hospital because it got too big and was getting onto the sidewalk," Shriver said. "They always have a live tree here and this one is so full and beautiful. I've also heard that its taken 65 gallons of water so far."

Tyler resident Steph Ekema and her 10-year-old daughter Katie enjoyed shopping at the event and eventually purchased Nissemand cookies.

"I picked them out," Katie Ekema said.

Suzanne Jebe, who said she was from the Danish American Center in Minneapolis, returned to Tyler after attending the event three years ago.

"We've got six or eight of us here," she said. "We have a number of people in the organization that were originally from Tyler."

Jebe bought a number of Danish items, including paper cutout tree decorations. Jebe, who said she was half-Danish, also purchased a unique cap and scarf set for a wine bottle and a counted cross stitch light switch cover which displayed playful bear cubs. She also enjoyed conversations with people, including Tyler resident Elfriede Petersen, who has lived in Tyler most of her life.

"My mom's side is 100 percent Danish," Jebe said. "I also have a German grandfather. I'm going to try and make this an annual event. It's so much fun."

Jebe was one of many visitors to rent out a room above the Danebod Folk School. Andres Albertsen, who was ordained in the Church of Denmark, was also staying overnight on the Danebod campus. Albertsen returned to the area after being a guest speaker at a folk meeting this past summer in Tyler.

"I have Danish grandparents," Albertsen said. "Even though I grew up in Argentina, we have the same traditions."

While he's currently working on his Ph.D at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Albertsen took time to attend the Danish Christmas celebration. Immediately, he said, he felt at home.

"The communities here in the U.S. developed in their own ways, separated, of course, from the Danish communities in Argentina, but you can recognize the same traditions, the same foods, the same sense of humor of the people," he said. "Really, here in Tyler, and especially doing the folk meeting, I was feeling more at home than anywhere else I've ever been in the U.S."

A large number of people turned out for the dinner, which was served by Danebod youth. Afterward, visitors enjoyed the evening entertainment at the Danebod Lutheran Church.

"The best part is the food," Tyler resident Elsie Hagberg said as she waited patiently in line with Joyce Wyttenback and Byrl Koster. Hagberg has lived in Tyler for 34 years.

"I'm not Danish, but they have good food here," she said.

Darla Madsen, head of the food committee, and a number of other volunteers manned the kitchen in the basement of the Folk School as hundreds of customers made their way through the serving line.

"I order a lot of food," she said. "We shoot for 350 people. We've done it for the youth group for more than 10 years. We're kind of like a team."

Madsen said JoAnn Walters, who used to do all the cooking for the summer camps and at the Russell-Tyler-Ruthton Middle School, is in charge of the mashed potatoes and gravy.

As Madsen's husband Curt Madsen and son-in-law Cade Drake cut up medisterpolse - Danish bologna links - others tended to the other meats, frikkelder - meatball - and pork roast with apricots, prunes and onions.



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