MIDSUMMER FEST

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The local Swedish American chapter in Bemidji does a great job with the Midsummer Fest. A maypole is set up down by the Lake Bemidji waterfront. Vacationers and local people stop to enjoy the celebration. Everyone is welcome to dance around the maypole. I’ve even done it myself and haven’t been too embarrassed, I might add.

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The start of summer holidays in Sweden

Swedes are fairly well attuned to the rhythms of nature. At Midsummer, many begin their five-week annual holidays and everyone is in a hurry to get things done during the relatively short summer season. Midsummer Eve is celebrated in the countryside − as always − and on the day before, everyone leaves town, everything closes and the city streets are suddenly spookily deserted.

The country’s main thoroughfares, on the other hand, are packed. Queues of cars stretch away into the distance, and at the end of the road, family and friends wait among silver birches in full, shimmering bloom.

Maypoles and dancing

Midsummer is an occasion of large gatherings − and to be honest, many Swedes take advantage of it to fulfil their social obligations so that they can enjoy the rest of their holiday in peace. In many cases, whole families gather to celebrate this traditional high-point of the summer.

Swedes like the world to be well-ordered, so Midsummer Eve is always a Friday between 19 and 25 June. People often begin the day by picking flowers and making wreaths to place on the maypole, which is a key component in the celebrations.

The maypole is raised in an open spot and traditional ring-dances ensue, to the delight of the children and some of the adults. Teenagers tend to stay out of it and wait for the evening’s more riotous entertainment.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed learning about the Swedes and why there’s maypole dancing.

Many thanks to the Swedish Midsummer site: https://sweden.se/collection/celebrating-the-swedish-way/article/midsummer/

Here is the link to my website: Barb’s Books  FaceBook Twitter Goodreads

 

 

Norway’s Independence Celebration Day! Syttende Mai–May 17!

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Today is the Norwegian National Day, better known as syttende Mai, marks the day Norway’s Constitution was signed in 1814, in effect declaring the country and independent kingdom.

After many historical twists and turns, Norwegians have emerged as arguably the Nordics’ best at throwing a nationwide party.

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For a long time, The Constitution Day was celebrated on the 4th of November

Just a month following 17th of May 1814, Norway was forced into a union with Sweden, which would last  for almost a century. This meant that some parts of the constitution had to be changed, including a clause that would hinder Norway’s exit from the union. The new national day became November 4th. Naturally, all of this made the business of celebrating Norwegian independence all the more complicated.

Not until early twentieth century, after parting ways with big brother Sweden in 1905, would Norway resume its celebrations on 17th of May.

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For the first decades, only boys were allowed to participate in the children’s parade

Perhaps not a “fun fact”, but notable nevertheless in the history of Nordic gender equality, is that when the first children’s parades were introduced in 1869 in Oslo as part of the national celebrations, only boys were included. Twenty years later, in 1889, girls were first allowed to participate in what is now one of the most iconic staples of 17. Mai.

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The first recorded 17. Mai celebrations were in… Denmark

The former interim king of Norway, Christian Fredrik, was sent into an internal exile to Denmark in 1815 to serve as a General Governor of Fyn. Danes were fond of what he had accomplished in Norway (he would indeed one day serve as the king of Denmark), which gave Christian Fredrik cause to arrange festivities for the 17. Mai in 1815. These were the first documented celebrations of the Norwegian Constitution Day.

Norway, which now was in a union with Sweden, would have muted celebrations for the first decades of the 19th century.

Contrary to popular belief, the song that Norwegians sing during the celebrations, “Ja, vi elsker”, is actually not the national song of Norway. It was first performed in 1864 to mark the 50-year celebrations of 17. Mai.

The Norwegian culture was on display across the Twin Cities on May 20, as churches and communities celebrated Syttende Mai, Norway’s Constitution Day. (“Syttende Mai” translated means May 17 in Norwegian.) In Minnesota, the holiday is often commemorated on the Sunday closest to that date. Each year, one of the biggest celebrations takes place at Mindekirken, the Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church in Minneapolis.

Every May 17th Norwegians worldwide celebrate Norway’s independence with a day similar to our 4th of July – only theirs is called Syttende Mai (the 17th of May).  George “Ole” Olson stopped by the studio to talk about this special Norwegian holiday.  Ole gave us a history lesson on the complicated relationship between Norway and Sweden and told us about the events related to the day.

The Sons of of Norway Bemidji Lodge 500 will host this year’s Syttende Mai event tomorrow, May 17th at the Norwegian Village within the Concordia Language Villages north of Bemidji.  Everyone is welcome to attend the event, enjoy the parade, eat Norwegian food and enjoy music by Eric Bergeson.  That event starts at 5pm with a social hour that will be followed by the parade, banquet and entertainment.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed the history surrounding the Norwegians since there’s plenty in the state of Minnesota, including myself. You betcha!

Here is a link to where you can find me. Barb’s Books FaceBook Twitter Goodreads

 

OLD FRIENDS AND RENEWAL!

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I started thinking about grade school friends and what has happened to them when my husband and I watched old slides.  My grade school class picture popped on as well as confirmation and the last high school reunion that I attended.

 

My fate was sealed when I realized just how much these people meant to me as a child and do as an adult.  It’s soon fifty years since my graduation and I still think of a few classmates and correspond occasionally with girlfriends whom I used to ‘run around’ with.

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I find it interesting and maybe that’s why I write novels. My imagination started going and wasn’t long before I had a work in progress. It’s taken awhile, but now it’s ready. My next novel!

This is me in high school.      Here I am with my English pen pal in England.

BROKEN CIRCLE is about the renewal of four childhood friendships. It’s written from the viewpoint of four sixtyish year old women. Together they seek acceptance, love, hope, and happiness as they look ahead to the next excerpt in their lives. While doing so, they realize that a friend who had been abducted during their senior year of high school, was never found. Together they are able to bring a closure to the family as well as themselves, allowing them to start afresh in their relationships.

BROKEN CIRCLE is now published!

You can learn about my books on my website and sign up for a newsletter. Barb’s Books Goodreads Twitter Face Book

 

PRESIDENTIAL HANDSHAKES ON NEW YEAR’S DAY

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President Andrew Johnson in the East Room 1866

For more than a century, New Year’s Day was marked by a large reception held at the White House. Foreign ambassadors and members of the US government were invited, but attendance wasn’t restricted to a guest list. Astoundingly, anyone could wait on line, enter the White House, and shake the hand of the president.

The tradition of the New Year’s reception, or levee, as it was often called, began with George Washington, before the White House was built. The first occupant of the White House, John Adams, took up residence in the unfinished mansion in November 1800, and hosted its first New Year’s reception on January 1, 1801.

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George Washington

A history of the White House published a century ago noted that John and Abigail Adams hosted a “very formal affair”:

The President and his wife did the honors alone that New Year’s Day, and it does not seem to have occurred to them to call on the Cabinet families to assist them. The President’s wife sat in state in her brocades and velvets, while the President stood beside her in knee-breeches, gaily colored waistcoat, high stock collar, and his powdered hair tied in a neat queue. After each guest had paid his respects to them, he passed on and was served with refreshments by a waiter.

Thomas Jefferson Sets the Tone

John Adams would only spend one New Year’s Day in the White House, as Thomas Jefferson was inaugurated in March 1801. Jefferson continued the tradition of the New Year’s Day levee, though his personal style was hardly formal.

It was Jefferson who began the tradition of shaking hands with each and every visitor. He would stand in the oval reception room at the center of the White House (known today as the Blue Room). The line of visitors would pass by, and Jefferson would take delight in exchanging friendly greetings.

It was customary for foreign diplomats to attend the New Year’s reception in distinctive dress. In Jefferson’s day it was noted that the French ambassador was “decked in gold lace,” while an ambassador from North Africa wore silk slippers, a turban, and a scarlet jacket “embroidered with precious stones.” Native Americans would also attend, and it was written that they sported feathers in their hair and wore blankets and deerskin moccasins.

The White House Burns But Tradition Endures

Following the burning of the White House by British troops in 1814, the New Year’s Day levees were held in the rented houses used by presidents James Madison and James Monroe.

The White House receptions resumed on January 1, 1818, hosted by Monroe in the rebuilt mansion. At that time it was decided to hold an earlier reception for the foreign diplomats and government officials, so they wouldn’t be subjected to the crush of people in the public reception.

Customarily, anyone waiting on line outside would be admitted. After greeting the president in the Blue Room, the crowd would be directed into the enormous East Room. A temporary wooden bridge would be positioned in one of the large front windows of the East Room, and the guests would exit through the window onto the White House lawn.

Shaking Hands and Making History

A marathon of handshaking became a footnote to a momentous event on January 1, 1863. President Abraham Lincoln intended to sign the Emancipation Proclamation on that day, but first he had to shake thousands of hands.

When he finally sat down in his upstairs study to sign the historic document, he told Secretary of State William Seward that his right hand was swollen.

Lincoln suspected this particular signature might be examined closely in years to come, and he didn’t want it to appear weak. He was later quoted as saying, “The signature looks a little tremulous, as my hand was tired, but my resolution was firm.”

The following year, the New York Timesprinted the following dispatch, dated January 2, 1864, from the Associated Press:

Years ago had any colored man presented himself at the White House, at the President’s levee, seeking an introduction to the Chief Magistrate of the nation, he would, in all probability, have been roughly handled for his impudence. Yesterday four colored men, of genteel exterior and with the manners of gentlemen, joined in the throng that crowded the Executive mansion, and were presented to the President of the United States.

Lincoln’s final New Year’s Day reception was described in the New York Timesof January 4, 1865:

The gala event of our New Year’s celebration was the annual reception of Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln. The White House was thrown open at 12 o’clock, and the Cabinet Ministers, the Diplomatic Corps, the Judges of the Supreme Court and the Court of Claims, and the army and navy officers, paid, in the order of precedence, the compliments of the season to the President and his wife.

At 1 o’clock the citizens at large were presented. The Marine Band during the hours of reception discoursed excellent music, and the whole affair passed off with brilliancy, no less than five thousand people having gained admittance to the reception.

The President was in the best of spirits, and received the greetings of his friends in the most genial manner.

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President and First Lady Lincoln

The New Year’s Day receptions continued for decades after Lincoln’s time. In the years before White House Christmas trees became the focus of holiday entertaining, the visit to the president’s house on the first day of the year was the beginning of the social season in Washington.

 

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President and Mrs. Coolidge 1927. Military and Naval Aides assisting.

 

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T. Roosevelt
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Line of well wishers for the handshake

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to the White House Historical Society for the information and photos.

To learn more about me, here are a few links.  Barb’s Books  Goodreads Twitter

Twas the Night Before Christmas

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Clement C Moore is generally considered the author of the beloved poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas”. He was born July 15, 1779 in Queens, New York, and he lived until July 10, 1863. He was a professor at Columbia University.

From 1840 to 1850, he was a board member of the New York Institution for the Blind. He published a collection of poems(1844). On November 29, 1899, his body was reinterred Trinity Church Cemetery in New York.

The poem, “arguably the best-known verses ever written by an American”,was first published in the Troy, New York, Sentinelon December 23, 1823, and was reprinted frequently thereafter with no name attached. Moore later acknowledged authorship and the poem was included in an 1844 anthology of his works at the insistence of his children, for whom he wrote it.

A Visit from St. Nicholasis largely responsible for the conception of Santa Claus and the eight reindeer, including their names and Santa’s physical description and costume.

Since 1911 the Church of the Intercession in Manhattan has held a service that includes the reading of the poem followed by a procession to the tomb of Clement Clarke Moore at Trinity Cemetery the Sunday before Christmas.

My husband read this every Christmas Eve to our boys, and they’ve read it to our grandchildren. This has to be my favorite Yuletide poem. What’s yours? I bet the First Families read this to their children, also.

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I love this poem, and hope that you do too.

Many thanks to: http://www.nightbeforechristmas.biz/gallery.htm

You can read more about me at: Barb’s Books Goodreads Twitter

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

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I have always wanted to see the Macy’s Parade from Central Avenue instead I have to tune into the television. Watching the “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade” is an annual tradition. While most American’s tune in on television, millions even flock to the streets in New York City each year to see the giant floats in person.

The parade started years ago and has been a staple of the Thanksgiving holiday ever since. It was in 1924 that the parade, originally called the “Macy’s Christmas Parade” and started by company employees, first kicked off.

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Rather than using giant floats, live animals from Central Park Zoo were marched through New York City’s streets, a Macy’s history timeline recounts. By 1927, Macy’s was already using floats.

The event became so popular that the company decided to make it an annual tradition. But when war struck in 1942, the parade was put on a hiatus until 1944 due to a national helium shortage. The balloons were donated to the U.S. government at the time to offer up scrap rubber.

When WWII ended, though, the tradition simply grew in popularity, with Macy’s claiming that up to 3.5 million people now arrive in person to see the floats each year, with an additional 50 million watching on their television screens.

 

Relax, and enjoy your family and the parade!

To read about the books I write, here’s the link to my website: Barb’s Books

Fall Train Travel

Have you ever rode a long journey on a train? It’s a blast.

My love for the train goes way back to my grandpa who had been an engineer for the Milwaukee Road and drove the Hiawatha from Minneapolis to Chicago and points beyond. My dad loved the train. He brought me twice to Chicago over the Thanksgiving long weekend when I was fifteen and sixteen years old.

Minneapolis Milwaukee Depot

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Looking out across the plains and watching the world go by will always be in my memory. I remember riding in the dome car and eating in the dining car as well as having a soda in the lounge.  Both trips, we spent two nights in Chicago. Dad knew his way around Chicago. We traveled all over the city via the L-train. It was so much fun to be alone with my dad.

 

The old depot in Duluth, MN, also has train rides. One year for our anniversary, we rode the pizza train! It brought us to and from Two Harbors, traveling along the coast of Lake Superior. It came so close to the water, that I swear I saw fish swim.

When my husband and I went to Norway and Sweden, we took the train to northern Norway, transferred to a ferry and then enjoyed the fjords. The trip was marvelous.

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Currently, my husband and I are planning a train trip across the Canadian Rockies in 2018 onboard a train. I’m excited.

My historical mystery is set on a Zephyr train during the fall of 1943.  A body is found in the Chicago rail yard. Come and ride along with the passengers and enjoy the dining car and lounge while my two characters, Brita and Ron, search for the killer.  It is titled, BODY ON THE TRACKS.

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