Our Swedish Heritage in focus

27 01 2022

Swedish American Historical Society of Wisconsin, Inc. (SAHSWI) is a non-profit volunteer organization focusing on the history of Swedish immigration to Wisconsin and the heritage of cultural Swedish traditions and everyday life, and the impact people of Swedish descent have made.

ZOOM meeting Thursday, February 10, 7 PM

Please join the ZOOM meeting where society board and committee members will present the organization programs, projects and activities.

Please press the following link not more than 10 minutes before the meeting start.

SAHSWI Zoom Feb 10

After a long period of “social distancing” and restrictions to social gatherings SAHSWI is preparing to return to normal, where members and all people interested in Swedish heritage as adopted in Wisconsin ….

  • meet and fika, that is, meet over a cup of coffee and treats,
  • celebrate together Midsommar and Santa Lucia Day,
  • explore and honor Swedish American history in Wisconsin,
  • research member Swedish ancestry,
  • collect and preserve historical books and documents,
  • and anything else related to Swedish heritage in Wisconsin.

Join our ZOOM presentation, then if you are not a member, consider joining SAHSWI.

Saint Knut’s Day and SAHSWI update

13 01 2022

Happy St. Knut’s Day! Today January 13th marks the end of the Christmas season in Sweden, today is the day the Christmas tree should be “plundered” and thrown out, it is the 20th day after Christmas. Saint Knut’s Day, or the Feast of Saint Knut, is a traditional festival celebrated in Sweden and Finland on January 13. Christmas trees are taken down on “tjugondag Knut”, and the candies and cookies that decorated the tree are eaten. The feast held during this event is called a Knut’s party. It’s the party to Dance Out Christmas.

See the source image
Knut’s dance or “Dancing out Christmas”, by Swedish artist Hugo Hamilton (1802–1871)

Maybe this year there are not many St. Knut’s Day dance parties due to the continuous pandemic outbreaks. Once again, the hopes of an end to the Corona Virus pandemic were crushed. Another variant, record infection cases, with a glimmer of hope, it is not as severe as the other strands.

SAHSWI update

Considering the rapid surge of Covid 19 infections mostly of the Omicron variant the SAHSWI board has decided to postpone the January meeting at Martin Luther church until it can safely be conducted. The current belief or hope is that the Omicron will run its course by the end of February, so the Fika meeting scheduled at Martin Luther on March 12, is still on. The programming will be adjusted and the topic for the meeting will be announced at a later date. In addition, on Thursday February 10 at 7 PM the plan is to have a ZOOM meeting for members and others interested to present information about SAHSWI, upcoming plans, and the new meeting place Martin Luther church. 

Hopefully the remaining 2022 general meeting schedule can be maintained as follows:

  • March 12, 1:30 p.m. – Meeting, program and fika at Martin Luther Lutheran Church
  • May 14, 1:30 p.m. – Meeting, program and fika at Martin Luther Lutheran Church
  • June 26, 1 p.m. – Midsommar Celebration, Heidelberg Park, Glendale
  • October 1,– Scandinavian Festival, Ronald Reagan School, New Berlin
  • October 22, 1:30 p.m. – Annual Meeting, program and fika at Martin Luther Lutheran Church
  • December 11, 5 p.m.– Lucia Whitnall Park Lutheran Church

In addition, there will be committee and project meetings

Do you have any ideas of topics to be addressed by SAHSWI, do you know of a story, or any special tradition related to our Swedish heritage? Please don’t hesitate to bring it up. Respond to this blog or send an e-mail to swedishamericanhistoricalwisc@gmail.com

Santa Lucia Day celebration

21 12 2021

What a beautiful day it was. We all came together to celebrate Saint Lucia, the Sicilian maiden who gave her life for her faith and became a saint. Saint Lucia was helping the Christians hiding in the catacombs during the terror under the Roman empire. In order to bring with her as many supplies as possible, she needed to have both hands free. She solved this problem by attaching candles to a wreath on her head.

Saint Lucia came to Sweden in the late 1700’s to bring light and feed the poor in the cold winter darkness of December 13. In 1929 the first Lucia celebration was held in Stockholm, Sweden, and has since developed to be one of the most important traditions there.

The 2021 Lucia celebration at the Whitnall Park Lutheran Church in Hales Corners Wisconsin was attended by over 150 people.

The celebration began with children and the young adults from the area performing the Lucia program in the church sanctuary under the direction of Sonia Hummel.

As the saint Lucia did in the 4th century the SAHSWI Lucia Grace Katsekes was wearing a wreath with live candles while the procession was singing the beautiful Lucia song and Swedish carols and reading poetry, a poem for each candle in the Lucia crown.

The story of Lucia was told by member, and Linde Lodge President Liza Ekstrand. She introduced Lucia and each reader of the candle poems;

The Lucia procession include Lucia and her Attendants (Tärnor), the Star Boys (Stjärngossar), the Gingerbread men (Pepparkaksgubbar) and the little Santas (Tomtar)

Following the Lucia program, a Swedish Christmas Smorgasbord (Julbord) was served including food and pastries all donated by SAHSWI members and people attending the celebration. The children now changed into Swedish traditional costumes and performed folkdances around the Christmas Tree (Julgran). Soon they were joined by others.

As the dance around the Julgran continued, all of a sudden Jultomten (Santa) appeared to the great joy of the children. He handed out candy canes and little jingle bells adding to the festive atmosphere.

Another Lucia day in Wisconsin was coming to an end. How rewarding it was to see the children’s smiles. After two years of “social distancing” everybody could come together and celebrate the old fashioned way. A sigh of relief from the organizers, after a few weeks of preparation, it all turned out to be a great Lucia Day here in Wisconsin.


  • to Sonia Hummel, the participants in the Lucia program and everyone helping out
  • to everyone helping to organize, providing the printed program and song sheets, get all the supplies, setting up and serving the food, and later cleaning up, doing the dishes, etc.
  • to everyone bringing and donating the food
  • to Santa for coming and bringing more joy to the children
  • to everyone that attended the 2021 SAHSWI Lucia Day Celebration

For many Swedes the Lucia Day marks the beginning of the Christmas season. From all of us at the Swedish American Historical Society of Wisconsin we wish you

Illustration “Gnomes” Swedish Christmas by Lars Carlsson

Santa Lucia Day reminder

10 12 2021

Santa Lucia Day, one of the most popular traditions in Sweden is celebrated on December 13 every year. In homes, schools, hospitals, train stations, etc., in many establishments the Lucia will come with her attendants to greet the people singing the beautiful Lucia song and Swedish Christmas carols.

In the Milwaukee area the Lucia Day is celebrated on Sunday December 12 at Whitnall Park Lutheran Church, 5847 Lilac Ln, Hales Corners, starting at 5 PM.

This event sponsored by the Swedish American Historical Society of Wisconsin is open to the public and features children and young adults from the area performing a Lucia program in the Sanctuary, directed by Sonia Hummel.

After the program Swedish food and pastries will be served while the children will perform traditional Swedish Christmas song and dance. Everyone will be invited to join the dance around the Christmas tree. Santa Claus (Jultomten) has also announced his arrival.

Concerning the prevention of spreading the Covid infections it was announced earlier to refer to CDC and Milwaukee Health department guidelines, and that face masks are strongly encouraged and will be available at the entrance. In addition, the Whitnall Park Lutheran Church requires that anyone not vaccinated must wear a face mask in their facilities (except when eating or drinking).

CDC Guidelines for prevention of Covid

Milwaukee Health Department

Come Celebrate Santa Lucia Day

29 11 2021

The popular Swedish tradition of Santa Lucia will be celebrated at

Whitnall Park Lutheran Church, 5847 Lilac Ln, Hales Corners, December 12, 2021 starting at 5 PM.

The program is conducted by SAHSWI member Sonia Hummel and will feature Lucia with her attendants in a procession singing the Lucia song and popular Swedish Christmas carols.

In this Swedish tradition, Lucia brings light and music to the darkest days of winter. Crowned with candles and dressed in white, she is accompanied by her procession of attendants (tärnor) each carrying a candle, starboys (stjärngossar), gingerbread boys and girls (pepparkaksgubbar) and elves (tomtenissar).

A traditional Swedish Smorgåsbord will be served and everyone can join in dancing around the Christmas tree. Santa will arrive handing out treats for the children.

The event is open to the public.

Please refer to CDC and Milwaukee Health department guidelines concerning prevention of Covid infections. Face masks are strongly encouraged and will be available at the entrance.

CDC Guidelines for prevention of Covid

Milwaukee Health Department

2019 Lucia

2021 SAHSWI Annual Meeting

25 10 2021

The annual meeting 2021 was held via ZOOM (due to the surge of Covid 19 Delta variant) on Thursday October 21 at 7 PM. First an introduction video was played and then past year activities and annual committee reports were reviewed.

The annual meeting elected two directors to serve on the board, Karin Konrad elected for a second 3 year term and Janet Taylor for her first 3-year term. They are congratulated and we thank them for their support.

The photo video included pictures from the past year programs and historical projects. Background music features the adopted signature song for the society “Hälsa Dom Där Hemma” (Greet those back home) popular Swedish immigrant song during the early 20th century. This version is sung by Ann Charlotte Harvey, live recording from the Snoose Boulevard Festival (1973), introduced by Carol Gustafson and Mary Stetson at the March fika Zoom meeting.

A review of the annual reports followed

In addition to the ZOOM meetings and Midsommar celebration the Society activities included 2 projects; the first a reboot of Swedish Genealogy, which summarized material from the Swedish Genealogy Research Group work from the past with a listing of websites now available to support research of Swedish ancestry.

The second project is a historical project to honor the first Swedish Settlement in Wisconsin started by Gustaf Unonius in 1841 and the Scandinavian Parish that evolved with an official State of Wisconsin Historical Marker. These projects are reviewed in the following presentation.

As the last item on the agenda a discussion whether the planned Lucia celebration for December 12 to be held at Whitnall Park Lutheran church can still safely happen. A decision was made to keep it in the plans, however, with a reassessment by the board by November 13.

I like to thank all Members that have participated in our program for the past year, our Zoom meeting Presenters and Entertainers, all Volunteers at the Midsommar celebration, our Swedish Genealogy Research Group members, our Historical Project Team members, and finally I like to thank our Board Members and Committee Chairs for their dedicated support of our historical society.

Jan Ehrengren, President, Swedish American Historical Society of Wisconsin, Inc.

2021 SAHSWI General Annual Meeting

19 10 2021

Please join our annual meeting. 
The meeting will be conducted using ZOOM

Date and time: Thursday, October 21, 7 PM (approximate duration 1.5 hrs)

Meeting has ended. Report will be posted shortly.

New Upsala Historical Marker is moved

23 08 2021

18th of June 1948 the Swedish Pioneer Centennial Commission celebrated the Wisconsin state centennial mark by commemorate New Upsala, the first Swedish settlement in Wisconsin, and its founder Gustaf Unonius with an historical marker. The marker located on the property at Pine Lake, Wisconsin, that Gustaf Unonius had claimed when he arrived with wife and friends in 1841. Over the 73 years since the unveiling event the marker has been hidden due to vegetation growth, so most people have been unaware of it.

A newspaper article from June 1948 describes the unveiling event

As a part of the project to further honor Unonius, New Upsala settlement, and the Scandinavian Parish at Pine Lake with an official State Historical marker it was decided together with Chenequa Village to move the marker from the original location just west of highway 83 across the road to the Chenequa Village property. This will preserve access to the marker, so interested people can visit the site and view the marker in recognition of the first Swedish colony in Wisconsin and the early history of Chenequa.

Early Sunday morning, August 22nd, the move was realized. Dan Schlise, owner and President of Garden Gate Nursery and Landscaping in Hartland moved the 2000 lbs boulder to its new location, which previously had been prepared by Chenequa Village Forestry Department.

The Swedish American Historical Society of Wisconsin, (sahswi.org) appreciate all the help in order realize the move, John Yewer, once long time resident of Chenequa, for planning, preparation and coordination; Dan Schlise, Garden Gate, for the careful and safe move of the marker; Dan Neumer, Chenequa Police Chief, for organizing the support from Chenequa Village; and Cody Lincoln, Chenequa Forestry Department for preparing the new site and clean-up of the old site.

Swedish Genealogy

18 07 2021

The immigration of Swedes to Wisconsin started in 1840’s, and the 1850 census reported 88 Wisconsin residents born in Sweden. During the 1850’s the number increased to 673. The first big wave came in the late 1860’s, and the second in the 1880’s. In 2011 there were 149,377 residents claiming Swedish heritage.

Finding one’s Swedish roots can be an interesting as well as a challenging task. SAHSWI’s Swedish Genealogy Research Group (SGRG) has been collaborating and supporting this effort for many years. The good news is that the resources for doing genealogical research today has been greatly improved as records have been digitized and made available in databases on-line.

A new main page for Swedish Genealogy is being added to our website to include suggestions from our SGRG leader Marge Jothen and Bev Wenzel to assist beginning Swedish researchers. In addition, a packet of more intensive information is being compiled with suggestions from John Engel, Eva and Roger Wall and other member researchers and will include language notes and typing of Swedish vowels, Swedish websites, occupational titles, patronymics and many other topics. This packet will be shared with members of SAHSWI and SGRG. Please consider joining SAHSWI by completing the membership application in the “About Us” heading (membership). Be sure to indicate your interest in Swedish Genealogy Research Group and Bev Wenzel will include you in all future SGRG mailings, packet material being compiled and continuing activities.

To go to the Swedish Genealogy page press the link below.

Swedish Genealogy | Swedish American Historical Society of Wisconsin (sahswi.org)

2021 Scandinavian Midsommar celebration

13 07 2021

held on on Sunday, June 27, 2021 in Heidelberg Park, Glendale, WI

After over a year of isolation due to the Covid-19 virus about 130 people were able to join in the traditional Scandinavian Midsommar Celebration.

The celebration began with decorating and then a formal procession led by Goda Vänner violinists Mary Stetson and Carol Gustafson. The pole was raised and the dancing could begin. Pictures provided by SAHSWI member Bob Stetson.

Participants enjoyed making and wearing the flower crowns.

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Everybody joining in a dance around the Midsommar Pole….

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…and then an afternoon of games and entertainment by Goda Vänner and Lykkeringen Dancers

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Goda Vänner, Mary Stetson and Carol Gustafson

Norwegian Lykkeringen Dancers