Santa Lucia celebration 2022

16 11 2022

December 4, 2022 starting at 4 PM

Come celebrate the popular Swedish Santa Lucia Day at Whitnall Park Lutheran Church, 5847 Lilac Lane (105th and Forest Home Avenue) Hales Corners, WI.

Welcome the Christmas season with a celebration of light in the darkness of winter. Hear the story and beautiful music of this popular Swedish tradition. Lucia, crowned with candles and dressed in white will lead her procession of attendants (tärnor) each carrying a candle,  starboys (stjärngossar), gingerbread boys (pepparkaksgubbar) and elves (tomtenissar).

Join the traditional dancing around the Christmas tree. Visit with Santa. Enjoy coffee and treats served on a Swedish Julbord. (Smorgasbord)

The event is open to the public and at no charge.  Donation of food items are appreciated.   

Santa Lucia Day is a traditional and one of the most popular celebrations in Sweden. It is celebrated everywhere, in homes, at schools, hotels, restaurants, train stations, offices and other workplaces, and churches.

Lucia was a 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.

Tales of her courage were carried to the Northern Scandinavian countries by missionaries in the mid 1700’s. Current way of celebration began in Sweden early 1900’s and has grown more and more popular since. Early, in the darkness of the morning, on the 13th of December, Lucia appears dressed in a white gown with flowing red ribbon around her waist and a crown of candles on her head. She is accompanied by her attendants and star boys. They go from house to house in the darkness of the morning singing, offering hot coffee, cookies and special Lucia bread made with saffron.


Berggren Tiles presented by John Elliott

29 10 2022

At the SAHSWI Fika meeting on October 21, 2022 John Elliott, SAHSWI Vice President discussed Berggren tiles, which are decorated in Swedish folk tradition style known as “Dalmålningar”. The Berggren tiles were made by Berggren Trayner company which was founded by Arthur and Audrey Berggren 1948. The company created silk screened ceramic and enamelware decals in Swedish style – decorative cookware, cutting boards, porcelain, china and ceramic tiles.

These products became very popular during the 1960’s and is an example of influence of Swedish design in America.

Floral Kurbits.

The folk painting from Dalarna, in the center of Sweden, is one of the most charming trademarks of Sweden. The floral kurbits and painted wall scenes have become known as the “Signature of Sweden. The kurbits is an invented, fantastical symbol of vegetal fertility based on a gourd or pumpkin of biblical legend, and was used for ornamentation in Swedish folk art and on painted furniture and domestic objects.

John analyzed why these products became so popular. The third generations Swedish Americans were in their prime age in the 60’s. Grandpa and/or grandma immigrated from Sweden in the early 1900’s, mom and dad married early 1930’s and had a child 9 months later. In the early 1950’s the third generation got married, got a house in the suburbs, monthly payments $59 a month, had typically three children and a dog named Lassie. Times were good, they shopped at the new malls at Field’s or Carson’s. There they found the Berggren tiles and other products.

John showed his collection of Berggren tiles. Many of the tiles includes popular Swedish phrases, like “Tala är Silver men Tiga är Guld” (Talk is Silver but Silence is Gold), “Hem, Kära Hem” (Home, Sweet Home), “Glad såsom fågeln i morgonstund” (Happy as the bird in the morning) and many more.

When he remodeled his kitchen, he added a display of Berggren tiles above the kitchen sink.

Berggren products fell out of favor in the 1980’s as society moved to more contemporary designs. Berggren sold his business to Bergquist Imports (Minnesota) in 1986, who purchased the licensing, designs and the ceramics recipe. Bergquist retired and sold out in 2021, however, the business still is operating as a wholesale company. Bergquist giftshop

The vintage original Berggren tiles are still being sold at reasonable prices…this is an ebay screenshot

The whole presentation by John Elliott is available as a pdf here.

Berggren Tiles by John Elliott

2022 Annual General meeting

25 10 2022

2022 SAHSWI Annual General meeting was held on October 22, 2022, at Martin Luther Lutheran Church, Milwaukee. The past year activities were reviewed, and annual reports from officers and committees presented. The presentation and all reports are available on the website. As shown in the presentation and reports, it was a good year for SAHSWI with the return to face-to-face meetings and celebrations, which all had good participation. It should be noted that membership increased, the new Fika meeting location at Martin Luther Lutheran Church turned out great, and the re-start of the Swedish Genealogy Research Group (SGRG) meetings was accomplished.

2022 Annual General Meeting presentation and annual reports.

Election was held for open positions on the Board of Directos. Martha Bergland, John Elliott, and Jan Ehrengren were elected to serve a 3-year term on the Board of Directors starting January 1, 2023. In addition, Irene Roberts was elected to serve a 2-year term as a replacement for Barbara Froemming, who sadly passed away in May of 2022. Irene is serving as the Treasurer of SAHSWI.

“I like to thank everyone that has made this past year a successful year for the organization. Our members and other meeting participants, all volunteers at our meetings and celebration events, our Board and Committee members, our Historical Project Team members, all successfully overcoming any challenges presented. We can now look forward to a new year of exploring and celebrating our Swedish heritage and advancing our Swedish American agenda in Wisconsin.” Jan Ehrengren, President SAHSWI

The Program presented at the meeting by John Elliott, SAHSWI Vice President, discussing “Swedish themed products marketed during the 1960’s including Berggren tileswill be the topic for a separate post. 

Annual meeting and Berggren tiles

20 09 2022

Next Fika Meeting: Saturday, October 22, 2022, starting at 1:30 PM at Martin Luther Church, 9235 West Bluemound Road, Milwaukee located just east of Milwaukee Zoo.

SAHSWI will hold its Annual General Meeting including Annual Reports and election of Board Directors. After the business meeting John Elliott, SAHSWI Vice President will present and discuss Swedish themed products marketed during the 1960’s including Berggren tiles decorated in Swedish folk tradition style known as ‘Dalmalningar’. John will bring examples to show, and anyone owning any Bergren tiles or other items are encouraged to bring to the meeting for show and tell. After the program attendants are invited to join the traditional Fika with coffee and treats. The meeting is open to the public.

The road to good friends is short & The Good Luck Tree

Berggren Trayner was founded by Arthur and Audrey Berggren in 1948. The company moved to 624 E. Park Avenue in Libertyville in 1953.The company created silk screen ceramic and enamelware decals in Swedish style – decorative cookware, cutting boards, porcelain, china, and ceramic tiles. Their wares were distributed at department stores like Carson Pirie Scott and Marshall Field. In 1986, Bergquist Imports, Inc. bought Berggren Trayner and moved to Cloquet, Minnesota in 1987. Bergquist Imports still sells items under the Berggren Trayner brand name. (Reference)

Exploring our Swedish Food Heritage

6 09 2022

Friendly reminder of the next SAHSWI meeting:

Saturday, September 10, starting at 1:30 PM at Martin Luther Church, 9235 West Bluemound Road, Milwaukee located just east of Milwaukee Zoo.

Society members will share stories and samples of their favorite Swedish food. Shortly after the meeting the recipes will be available at the society website, along with recipes by late Barbara Froemming from her collection of “Swedish Jul Favorites” released in 2007.

For more about the meeting goto

Remembering Barbara and Exploring our Swedish Food Heritage

14 08 2022

On May 12, 2022, Barbara Froemming, SAHSWI Treasurer and Past President, passed away peacefully. Barbara was the longest serving President for the Society, serving for 12 years. The society was established in 1975 as a part of planning for the Bicentennial celebrations to recognize the Swedish Americans and their descendant’s impact to the state of Wisconsin. Barbara is one descendent that is recognized for her leadership and dedication to the Swedish-Americans in Wisconsin. Her Grandmother and Grandfather on her mother’s side both came from Småland, Sweden, but from different cities, her grandmother came from Jönköping, her grandfather from Kalmar. Barbara was also officially recognized with an award of merit from the Swedish Council of America on Nov 4, 2016, for her outstanding contributions and many years of dedicated service to the Swedish American Community.

Barbara was a steadfast leader, well organized, ensuring Bylaws were followed, managed state and IRS filings and was the initiator and creator of many interesting programs for the Society meetings. One of her favorite topics was Swedish food and it was unfortunate that a meeting she planned to be held in March of 2020 titled “Exploring our Swedish Food Heritage” had to be cancelled due to the Covid 19 pandemic. To honor Barbara this meeting is now scheduled to be held on September 10, 2022.

Next meeting – Exploring our Swedish Food Heritage

September 10, 2022, 1:30 PM at Martin Luther Lutheran Church9235 West Bluemound RoadMilwaukee located just east of Milwaukee Zoo. Members of the Society will present their favorite Swedish dish, including samples for attendees to taste. The meeting is open to the public.

SAHSWI is not the same without Barbara, she is dearly missed, not only because of her leadership, but for the delightful, generous person she was, and for the delicious open face sandwiches she made for board and Fika meetings.

2022 Scandinavian Midsommar celebration

11 07 2022

This unique and popular Scandinavian tradition was celebrated at Heidelberg Park, Glendale, WI, Sunday June 26. Close to a hundred people attended the event decorating the Maypole (Majstången), making flower crowns, raising the maypole and singing and dancing around it. There were sack raises, Kubb playing, tug-of-war, face painting and entertainment by the magnificent violinst duo Goda Vänner. New additions this year were the History table where you could learn about Swedish settlers in Wisconsin and the Sale table offering Swedish items for sale donated by SAHSWI members.

The party started by making flower crowns and decorating the Maypole
Then procession and raising the Midsommar Pole (Maypole)
The dancing could begin accompanied by violin music
Swedish donated gift items to be sold
Swedish immigration history discussed by historian and author Martha Bergland
Children enjoying the games and the rewards

We like to thank so many for keeping the Midsommar celebration a fun filled event recognizing our ancestors coming from Scandinavia. We thank Janet and Karin for the overall planning and brining the flowers and organizing the Swedish items sale, John for adding signage and arranging the Kubb games, Liza and Brent for leading the maypole assembly and decorations, Chris for bringing and setting up the sound system, Bev and Tracy for welcoming all the guests, Sonia for emceeing the song and dance and arranging the kids games, Danielle for leading the face painting and childrens activities, Bob for taking beautiful pictures, Camden the youngest helping from set-up to take-down, Martha and her husband Jim for engaging people in the history of the Swedish immigration to Wisconsin, Mary and Carol for entertaining us with traditional Scandinavian violin music, George who developed the Midsommer pole skeleton, Joann for inviting all our members through her newsletter and mailings and everyone not mentioned that helped, but most of all we like to thank everybody that came so that we could celebrate together Midsommar, one outcome of the Scandinavian immigration to Wisconsin.

2022 Midsommar celebrations

14 06 2022

Come celebrate Scandinavian Midsommar at Heidelberg Park, Glendale, WI, Sunday June 26 from 1 PM to 4 PM. All are welcome to this event to celebrate the longest day of the year, one of the most popular of Scandinavian holidays.

Help decorate the Majstång (Midsommar pole), make a traditional flower crown, learn about Swedish settlers in Wisconsin at the History Table, shop for Swedish items donated by SAHSWI members, enjoy lunch with some Swedish specialties while enjoying performances by the violinists Goda Vänner and the folk-dance group Lykkeringen Dancers. There are activities for children, face painting, the ancient Kubb game, sack raises, tug-a-war. Come enjoy it all, it is free, and open to the public. Food is available for purchase.

A little bit of history

Celebrating Midsommar, one of the most popular holidays in Sweden is a very ancient practice, dating back to pre-Christian times. It has its roots in Pagan rituals to welcome summer and season of fertility. In Sweden, midsommar festivals have been around for at least 500 years. Even in agrarian times, people in Sweden welcomed summertime by decorating their houses and farm tools with foliage and raising tall May Poles to dance around. It was the time to put the cows out to pasture and begin milking.


New Upsala and the Scandinavian Parish

25 05 2022

Descendents of the Swedish pioneers George Bergwall and Bengt Peterson, arriving to New Upsala at Pine Lake in 1842, attended the Fika meeting at St. Anskar’s Episcopal Church in Hartland on Saturday May 14. At the meeting the story of the founder Gustaf Unonius, the first Swedish settlement in Wisconsin, and the Scandinavian Parish was presented by the team working on a project to honor these events with an official Wisconsin Historical Marker to be located St. Anskar’s church. SAHSWI member Cletus Hasslinger discussed his family history, Bergwall’s and Peterson’s immigration, their leadership at the colony and their life in Sweden before coming to America. These unique stories will be published later on the website in conjunction with the project.

Left: Descendants of George Bergwall and Bengt Peterson Right: George Bergwall

SAHSWI and project team member Tracy Redman talked about her time growing up in the Hartland area and her interest in the Historical plaque of Gustaf Unonius and New Upsala unveiled in 1948 as the state celebrated its centennial. When she became familiar with SAHSWI, she suggested that the organization should initiate this project. Board member and author Martha Bergland discussed the friendship between Gustaf Unonius and Thure Kumlien (The birdman of Koshkonong, book written by Martha), which started when they both attended (old) Upsala university in Sweden, before they immigrated to Wisconsin.

Meg Haag, project team and St. Anskar’s church member talked about how the Scandinavian Parish was split between the Episcopal and Lutheran churches and how the Scandinavian church and cemetery evolved into Holy Innocents and later became a part of St. Anskar’s. On Memorial Day at 10 AM St. Anskar’s is having a short service at the Holy Innocents Cemetery. (On highway C (Lakeland Drive), 3 miles north of C intersection with Highway 16) A walk through the cemetery, looking at the new and old gravestones, Fr Thomas walks with anyone who wishes to have a particular grave blessed. There are 2 bronze plaques placed there “In memory of the pioneer settlers at rest here in the Scandinavian Cemetery”. All are welcome to this service.

“We honor your courage and thank you for our heritage”

After the presentations at the May 14 meeting attendants enjoyed the customary Fika organized by Board member Janet Taylor. St. Anskar’s Junior Warden Sarah Hintz thanked all the guests and offered a tour of the church. From Swedish American Historical Society of Wisconsin, and the project team we thank St. Anskar’s for having us, and we thank all attendees for coming, and all volunteers for helping.

Please find below a link to a summary presentation of the story of Gustaf Unonius, New Upsala and the Scandinavian Parish.

Gustaf Unonius, New Upsala and the Scandinavian Parish

26 04 2022

The first Swedish colony in Wisconsin, the second in the United States was established at the east shore of Pine Lake in Chenequa, Wisconsin. The young founder Gustaf Unonius came here in 1841 together with his wife and a few friends claimed land and built a log cabin. Many more Swedes followed and the New Upsala settlement was formed. As the settlement grew with more immigration from Scandinavia, the Scandinavian Parish at Pine Lake was founded. Partly based on letters from Unonius and other pioneer settlers and the Unonius memoirs published in 1862 waves of immigration from Scandinavia followed especially in the 1860’s and 1880’s. In 1864 the Pine Lake Scandinavian Church became known as the Holy Innocents Church, which a hundred plus years later merged with Grace Episcopal Church and together they built a new church which eventually was named St. Anskar’s Episcopal Church.

1841 Pine Lake from Gustaf Unonius memoirs

Fika meeting, May 14 at 1:30 PM at St. Anskar’s Episcopal Church in Hartland.

This fascinating pioneer and church history has been the research topic of a SAHSWI Historical Project team that was initiated to recognize it with an official Wisconsin State Historical marker. The team will present the project and the story at the “fika” meeting. After the presentation participants will enjoy fika, coffee or tea with treats. The meeting is open to the public.

St Anskar’s Episcopal Church is located at N48W31340 Hill Rd, St Hwy 83 in Hartland.

Exit from Hwy 16 to State Road 83 North, follow 83 for 1/4 mile, enter driveway on the right from 83