Saturday, December 19, 2015

Holiday Traditions

Christmas means a lot of different things to different people. Some have to do with religion, but many don't. Different religions and cultures celebrate something or other this time of year. Some of that may depend on in which hemisphere you live. Christmas is more of a short sub-season to me during which many things are celebrated. The biggie for me is the return of the light. It doesn't mean I am a sun worshiper, I just like the lengthening daylight so I can see what the hell I am doing outside without needing outdoor lights on or a flashlight. It also is a major vitamin D source when it gets warm enough to expose any parts. Where am I going with this? Oh yeah, traditions.

So, when I was just a wee lad I vaguely remember some Santa Clause stuff and a few things that were relatively unique in our house. Being a fairly recent immigrant, my father had these little flags on a string. They were U.S. and Norwegian flags in about a five foot string. He would bake awesome Norwegian cookies that would test my self control to the limits. Until the year he died, 2006, he would always, without fail, send me at least a coffee can full of them. It was always one of the best gifts I would get and I always looked forward to it weeks in advance.

My cousins, Erik and Giske are on the left, my brother who appears to be filling his pants, and me on the right looking like I could flap my ears and fly. Note the part of an American flag at the top middle. Click to embiggen ( I got the term from Elephant's Child. I remembered!)

One of the best traditions we had was listening to Yogi Yorgesson's Christmas songs. Harry (Skarbo) Stewart was a Norwegian American who had developed a Swedish shtick and the character of Yogi Yorgesson. He sang memorable songs such as, "I Yust Go Nuts at Christmas" and "Yingle Bells". There were other great tunes on the album like "Who Hid the Halibut on the Poop Deck?"

Seriously! What are the holidays without music? Or what passes for music.


 One I hadn't heard until I moved out here to the Midwest was, " My Little Old Shack In Minneapolis, Minnesota" (sung to the tune of "My Little Grass Shack In Kealakekua, Hawaii,")

Now some people might think his Swedish accent is a bit over the top, but not by much. Modern Swedes don't sound like this, but in the old days when they learned English after they got here it was a different story. The Swedish chef on the Muppets has a strong Swedish twang. To me it is a friendly, matter-of-fact, genuine, and honest sound that is almost musical. Most accents from that part of the world have a sing-song quality to them that sounds so much nicer than my own monotone for example. Maybe it is my own upbringing with a father who never entirely lost his Norwegian accent that makes those sounds feel like a warm embrace to me. Funny and lovable all at once.


  1. I am pretty certain I borrowed/stole embiggen myself.
    Love the photo of you and your cousins. Complicated family history meant that I didn't realise I had cousins until I was in my fifties. They live in your hemisphere and I have never met them.
    My father was virtually without accent unless he was annoyed or upset. Then he was virtually unintelligible.
    I hope you have the recipe for those cookies. Not at all the same, but still...
    I am a light worshipper, but am looking forward to our summer solstice as a sign that the unrelenting heat will end. Eventually.

  2. I wish I had ears that could let me fly when I flapped them. Must be a nice achievement.

    What you really need to do is sing "My name is Yon Yonsson..."

  3. Elephant's Child, It's a meaningful term and I have to thank you for exposing me to it. Almost all of my cousins are now in Europe so there is an ocean between us. There are more I'd like to know better and I am lucky to have some seriously wonderful relatives.

    Bill the Butcher, Spam is everywhere. I have indeed achieved some nearly unbelievable feats and I do a handful of pretty good accents. They work especially well in jokes and funny stories many of which are nearly true.

  4. Tell me more about these Norwegian cookies. What went into them? What did they taste like? Yum.

  5. I know what the astronomers claim, but I don't believe the days really start getting longer until about the end of January. Meantime, I'm learning how to speak Norwegian (or is it Swedish?)

  6. I don't think I'll ever hear Jingle Bells the same way again! "...yingling all the way" - awesome :) Thanks for the great videos. And yes to Ahab's questions - what kind of cookies were they?

  7. Ahab, The usual butter, flour and sugar, but some have a touch of lemon or almonds or my favorite, cardamom. Hjortebakkels are like smaller richer donuts, sandkakker look like tarts, and krumkakker are like delicate rolled tubes of flaky delight.

    Tom Sightings, The lengthening daylight isn't really noticeable for a while, but just knowing the process is happening is sometimes enough. My Swedish chiropractor, who lives about a mile up the road, grew up near the Norwegian border. There is very little difference (other than some spelling and vowels) in the language in that area. There are many dialects, however, that can be difficult to understand. Like someone from Maine trying to talk to someone from Mississippi in this country.

  8. here's to longer days! and the cookies sound fabu!

  9. Ha ha Jono - these are a hoot and a half! "Funny and lovable all at once." You nailed it.
    Merry Christmas, my friend!

  10. I had not thought of Yogi Yorgesson in years. Used to listen to him on CJNB when I was a kid. Many thanks for the memories.

  11. That's a neat xmas photo of you and your kid relatives -- it seems like forever since I've seen a real tree with tinsel dripping off it! Do they even make tinsel anymore?

  12. Thanks for posting these delightful memories. My Danish grandma always made spritz cookies. I'll be making them next week.

    Listening to Yogi as I type. "My mouth tastes like a pickle."

  13. The Yogi Yorgesson records gave me a giggle - thanks for sharing! I haven't looked at my old 78s in years, but I'll have to shuffle through them and see if there are any gems like Yogi in there.

    I'm looking forward to the longer days, too, but in the mean time we're compensating for the darkness with lots of Christmas lights. We're not quite rivalling Chevy Chase yet, but we're getting close.

    Merry Christmas-cookies!

  14. My Norwegian grandmother also made cookies each year. I remember them, but have never really tried to make them. I do have her Krumkakke iron. I tried once and totally messed them up. My older relatives (there are fewer and fewer) still make them.

    Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Sunny sunlight to you and yours, Jono!

  15. anne marie in philly, Longer days and cookies will get me through every time.

    Dawn, There is definitely a niche market for your lyrics.

    Blog Fodder, Yogi, Harry Stewart, died back in 1956, but his music lives on. Glad you Canadians get a broader view of culture than we do in the States.

    Debra, I don't know if they still make it. If they do it is probably made by children in China out of something toxic and sold at Walmart.

    There are some great holiday traditions (cookies) out there. Yogi was hilarious.

    Diane, I can totally see you and yours having a National Lampoon type of Christmas.

    chlost, You really should fire up the old Krumkakke Iron and give it a go. It's only once a year.

  16. Wow, the phrase "Who Hid the Halibut on the Poop Deck?" is already hilarious as is, but it's magnified 100 times when sung in a Swedish accent and drawn out to "Poooooooop deck."

    I love wacky Christmas traditions. It makes the holiday all the more fun, rather than just opening presents in the morning and playing with your new stuff for a few hours until you get bored of it. Hope you have a killer Christmas!

  17. The acent sounds perfectly nårnal toooo meeee! God jul, Glædelig jul og Godt Nytt År to all of you!

  18. Who cares how dark it is as long as you have cookies and glögg!

  19. I have some Scottish ancestors and my dad makes Scottish shortbread every Christmas. It sounds a lot like your cookies, lots of butter, flour, sugar. No almonds, lemon, or cardamon though. Those additions sound delicious.

    Have a wonderful and safe holiday, Jono.

  20. ABFTS, There's a black and white TV performance by Yogi on YouTube of his tune "All Pooped Out" that I know you would like.

    Linda, They are the ultimate comfort food.

    JACKIESUE, My hearing is more directional than most folks.

    Onevikinggirl, God jul til deg og familien din!

    PP, By the time I come out of the food and drink fog it will be spring!

    Agi T, Does your dad make you eat haggis?

    Shoshanah, I have no doubt you hear similar music in your area.

  21. I am one of those strange people that don't mind the shorter days. I actually preferred the 24 hour darkness in arctic Alaska to the 24 hour daylight - my favorite times of year being Fall and Winter. '
    I envy you having a close family.
    the Ol'Buzzard

  22. Oh my goodness that version of Yingle Bells cracked me up. From now on whenever I sing it I will have to pronounce Jingle as Yingle. :D

  23. Hope you've had a very Merry Christmas!

  24. LL Cool Joe, Your a music guy. I knew you would appreciate it!.

    thethoughtsandlifeofme, I did! And you as well, my friend!