Recent Programs

Saturday February 8, 2020 Christina Nilsson World Famous Swedish Opera Singer.

A Rags to Riches Story – Christina Nilsson

The life of Christina Nilsson, the famous Swedish opera singer, was told by SAHSWI member Carol Gustafson, her great, great niece. The meeting was held at Redemption Lutheran Church in Wauwatosa.

Christina was born August 20, 1843 in Sjöabol/Snugge outside Växjö and died November 20, 1921.  Christina sang at the opening night of the New York Met in 1883.  She was very popular in the USA, Russia, the UK and France.

Carol talked about her visit to Christina’s homestead, now a museum in Sweden as well as her visit to the mansion Villa Vik and mausoleum in Växjö. It’s a fascinating story of a poor girl from southern Sweden who became a world renown opera singer.

After the presentation Carol and Mary Stetson, artistic name “Goda Vänner”, performed 2 songs written by Christina Nilsson. They also sang and invited to the audience to join in singing Christina’s signature Swedish Folk song: “Fjorton ar tror jag visst att jag var” translated “I think surely I was fourteen years old”. She also shared a link to the song performed by Mia Marianne and Per Filip.

More information about this exclusive story will follow.

Sunday December 8, 2019 Santa Lucia Celebrated

The traditional Swedish Santa Lucia was celebrated on December 8 at the Whitnall Park Lutheran Church in Hales Corners. Swedish American Historical Society of Wisconsin have hosted this festivity for decades and the 2019 version was again an inspiring performance by the children and young men and women singing the Lucia song and Swedish Christmas carols. The program was conducted by member Sonia Hummel. Close to 200 people attended the celebration.
The celebration started with the Lucia procession led by the 2019 SAHSWI Lucia Hannah Cutler and followed by Attendants (Tarnor), Star Boys (Stjarngossar), Gingerbreadmen (Pepparkaksgubbar), and Little Santas (Tomtenissar).

2019 Lucia

The Christmas carols were introduced by Liza Ekstrand. Readings both in Swedish and in English for each Christmas candle in the Lucia crown were included in the program. The English version and reader is shown below.

  1. When the first Christmas candle is burning, we know Christmas is close by. Read by Josie German
  2. When the second Christmas candle is burning, we hear a promise of old that a savior is coming. George Katsekas.
  3. When the 3rd candle is lit we hear the bells of heaven wishing all peace and goodwill. Gianna Inga.
  4. As the 4th candle is lit, we see a beautiful star with promise to all of life eternal. Kirsten Cutler.
  5. At last the little Christmas elf with Christmas tree and lights, are wishing all a joyful and blessed Christmas. Grace Katsekas

After the program a smorgasbord (Julbord) of Swedish Christmas food and sweets shared by attendees were served while the cast of the program performed Swedish Christmas and Folk dances. Then everyone was invited to join in dancing around the Christmas tree. At the end of the day Santa Claus made a surprise visit.


Saturday October 12, 2019 The History of Dala Horses.

Program. Treasured in many Swedish homes, the Dala Horse has become a symbol of the Swedish province of Dalarna and of all Sweden. SAHSWI board member John Elliott presented the history of this colorful wooden horse and showed his collection of Dala Horses he acquired through the years. Some attendants also brought their own to show. John Elliott is second generation Swedish, previously worked in Stockholm Sweden and has developed a close bond to Sweden and its culture. John has many relatives in Sweden and commented “Doing Swedish history research is a nice outlet from my corporate Engineering IT job”.

A summary of Johns presentation “The history of the Dala Horse”

In addition to presentation John also shared the following video showing in more detail how the Dala horses are made.


Saturday October 5, 2019 10 am – 6 pm. Scandinavian Festival.

The 29th annual indoor Scandinavian Festival was held at Ronald Reagan Elementary School, 4225 South Calhoun Rd, New Berlin, WI. The program is published in the Scandinavian Festival website.

Swedish American Historical Society of Wisconsin participated with a booth where visitors could learn about historical projects and programs, the first Swedish settlers, or buy typical Swedish items donated to the organization.

Swedish American Historical Society booth at he 2019 Scandinavian festival

The festival is a joint event with organizations relating to the Nordic countries, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Island, and Sweden forming the Nordic Council. About 750 people attended the event, including vendors and hosting organizations personnel, and 515 visitors.


Sunday June 23, 2019. Midsommar celebration.

The Wisconsin 2019 Midsommar celebration was held Sunday, June 23, at the Heidelberg Park at Bavarian Bierhaus in Glendale. The celebration was attended by about 125 people of all ages.

Based on Swedish traditions the attendants first decorated the Midsommar Pole with flowers and greenery, then carried the pole in a procession and raising it. The dancing followed with traditional dances around the pole like “små grodorna” (the little frogs), “vi äro musikanter” (we are all musicians) and other popular song and dances. Norwegian Lykkeringen Folk Dancers performed folk dances from Norway.

Photographer Bob Stetson captured the event in pictures.

Decorating
Procession
Raising the Midsommar Pole
Swedish traditional dances around the Midsommar pole
Lykkeringen Folk Dancers

Part of the tradition is also making and wearing a “Blomsterkrans” flower crown, playing games such as Kubb, Sack raises, and face painting for the children. The food menu consisted of Swedish meatballs and Strawberry cake. A brief downpour did not discourage participants in this traditional major Swedish celebration of solar solstice, the longest day of the year.

Flower Crowns and Face Painting
The Kubb game area presented an opportunity to play the Viking game
The Swedish meatball dish

Saturday May 11, 2019. Anders Berglund, Immigrant from Sweden, settler in Bishop Hill

In the 5/11/2019 program of the Swedish American Historical Society Member and Author Martha Bergland presented the story of her ancestor Anders Berglund who arrived at Bishop Hill in 1847 to join the Swedish colony.  This is a fascinating story of a young man in Sweden brought up under difficult circumstances and hardship leaving his home country to seek a better and more meaningful life in the USA. At age 63 Anders wrote a letter describing his life in Sweden and the reasons for his immigration to the USA. Below are sections of Anders’s letter with Martha’s comments:

(Martha) Anders Berglund wrote about leaving home as a boy to go to work.

In my early years, small for my age and with a weak body, I had to leave my dear childhood home and my beloved mother and go out into the world to get food and clothing to support myself.

Martha) Like most Swedish children of the lower classes in the first half of the 19th century, Anders left his home around the age of twelve to be a servant. Under contract from September to September, they would live with another slightly better off farm family, perhaps relatives, like Anders who lived and worked for uncles. Boys were hired for a year at a time to care for cows and sheep and oxen and to work in the fields. They often slept in barns and sheds. Girls worked in the house taking care of young children, the garden, chickens, fowl, milking cows, making cheese, weaving, and cleaning. Near larger towns or manufacturing areas, the children may have worked in grain mills or saw mills.


With poor upbringing I only had my mother’s … simple advice and … no more education than the ability to read a book. I was strongly frugal with what I had, and was eager to work and faithful in my service to my uncles on my mother’s side, who gladly employed me and cared for me in a physical sense. But about my soul and my needs for my spiritual life, they seemed to have no understanding. On that subject they left me alone in darkness and ignorance and I had to work it out all by myself the best I could.

Anders and Britta Berglund

History of Bishop Hill. Erik Jansson, leader of the Janssonist religious sect in Sweden left Sweden in 1846 guiding his dedicated followers to America where he established the Swedish Colony of Bishop Hill in Illinois.  For several decades, letters home to Sweden extolling the fertile agricultural land in the Midwest stimulated migration for more than 1000 of his followers.  Bishop Hill Colony population increased and flourished as it grew, but the colorful and dramatic history of the colony ended in 1861. With the site presently preserved as Bishop Hill Historic District, the story of the colony of Bishop Hill is an intriguing history of a group of Swedish American immigrants to the Midwest.

Video below is produced at the Moraine Valley Community College Library by Troy Swanson.

Bishop Hill history




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