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Solstice 2023

Tonight we celebrate the winter solstice. This was a big holiday for our Viking ancestors, and we enjoy celebrating Yule each year in memory of them.

We like to mark the occasion in a way we hope they would have approved.

This year, we began a week ago when we attended a museum program about the customs followed during the historic solstice. Attendees sat in a room configured to resemble a Viking longhouse. Seated in a circle in this darkened room, we each held a candle. The northern lights were projected onto the ceiling. We all munched on Norwegian pastries as we listened to the speaker.

For our dinner menu tonight, we will serve Nordic food. This includes cod chowder and a cake fashioned to look like a Yule log. We will enjoy mead, or honey wine.

Burning a Viking-style Yule log presents a bit of a challenge as we do not have a wood burning fireplace. In lieu of this, depending on the days’ weather, I either turn on the gas fireplace or play a DVD of a huge burning log to set the mood while we eat. Later in the evening, we will sit outside beside the fire pit.

Here in Colorado, the weather today seems more autumn-like than wintery. We do not have the cold and dark weather that our Norwegian family experiences on the solstice. Still, we can see how little daylight we have on this shortest day of the year.

We will have our solstice meal this evening knowing that the days will now begin to get longer once again. Skål!

On Vacation

For the first time in a very long time, I did no genealogy this week.

We went to the mountains to hike and to visit the hot springs, but we did not do research. We did not visit sites associated with our families.

Instead, we relaxed in beautiful southern Wyoming!

Volunteer!

Genealogy societies operate thanks to the efforts of countless volunteers.

At this time of year, nominating committees convene to recruit people to fill vacant positions for the coming year. All are finding it increasingly difficult to find anyone willing to step into these jobs.

Among the local clubs I belong to, each one faces this problem:

  1. Colorado Genealogical Society. At a recent meeting, the chairman of their Nominating Committee gave an impassioned plea for volunteers. He told of three societies in Colorado that considered dissolving last year for lack of help. The club seeks a Vice President/Program Chairman and members for the 100th anniversary committee.
  2. Colorado Chapter of the Palatines to America. This German research group needs a President. Without a volunteer, it may fold.
  3. W.I.S.E. The group specializing in British Isles research (Wales, Ireland, Scotland, and England) threatened to close down until someone stepped forward into the Vice President role. Someone just came forward to allow the society to continue for the next term.

All these groups offer so much support to Colorado genealogists. Serving on the Boards offers the opportunity to do something meaningful for the genealogy community and to make new friends. Service keeps the clubs going for the benefit of everyone interested in family history.

Volunteer today!

Yule 2023

As the winter solstice approaches on December 21, my husband/tech advisor and I are getting ready. We like to observe it every year.

We share Scandinavian heritage, and we enjoy imagining the old days when our ancestors must have celebrated the holiday in a big way. The pagans called it Yule. It was the go-to festival for the Vikings and the Germanic tribes.

They marked this shortest day of the year with animal sacrifices, toasts to the gods, Yule log fires, and lots of feasting. They decorated with evergreen wreaths, mistletoe, and holly.

At our house we recreate the holiday, but we tone it down a bit.

Our meal will be a delicious cod and bacon stew (a nod to my cod-fishing ancestors) washed down with mead. We will display a Yule log to bring good luck and keep away evil spirits. We may wear our Norwegian sweaters.

When the evening ends and we have had our fill, we can look forward to the return of the sun and the lengthening of days.

 

 

 

Support for Wreaths Across America

This year my husband/tech advisor and I donated to Wreaths Across America, an organization that conducts Christmas wreath-laying ceremonies to honor veterans at more than 3400 locations across the United States, at sea, and abroad. Through my DAR chapter, we sponsored several wreaths for the graves of our American heroes at Fort Logan National Cemetery in Colorado.

Several of my family members are buried there:

  1. Robert (1916-1976) and Alta (1921-2015) Kaessinger. He served in the US Navy as a Chief Boatswain’s Mate in World War II and Korea.
  2. Robert Lloyd Reed (1924-1986). Staff Sergeant Reed served in the Air Force during World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.
  3. William Richard Thomas (1927-1988). Staff Sergeant Thomas served in the Army in Vietnam.

Wreaths Across America will be at Fort Logan at 10:00 a.m. on December 17 to remember the fallen. Volunteers will lay the wreaths and say the name of each veteran aloud.

Time to Catch Up

An idiom is a phrase or expression that has a non-literal meaning. Some, like “to catch up” can have more than one meaning.

This week I have found myself catching up in various ways:

  1. Of friends or relatives, to update one another on life events. We just returned from a 2-day trip to Wyoming to visit with relatives. There, over lunch, we were able to catch up with one another’s news. We looked in on my 91-year-old mother-in-law and heard accounts of recent travels made by siblings. We exchanged health information.
  2. To make an effort to become current with something after having fallen behind. Back at home now, I need to catch up on all the chores that languished while I was away. After unpacking, I must tend to neglected e-mail and household tasks.
  3. To be involved in something. Once I have completed the other catching up activities, I can once again be caught up in my favorite work—genealogy.

All this catching up is tiring, and I will be happy once I am again caught up with everything. It’s good to be home.

 

2022 Arrives

Another year has arrived. What will it bring?

I look forward to another year of rewarding research, involvement in lineage societies, and the upcoming Palatines to America conference in Denver.

What is on your genealogy agenda?

Happy New Year!

Julfest Time

At this time of year, Norwegians enjoy a Julfest to celebrate the solstice and the festival of Christmas.

Some parts of the U. S. hold large events with Nordic Markets and bonfires. They serve traditional Norwegian treats such as lefse, pickled herring, pea soup, and cookies, lots and lots of cookies.

Our local Sons of Norway lodge held a Julfest this month. We focused on the cookies for our party. Everyone brought some to exchange.

A few people brought more modern recipes, but several of the traditional cookies appeared as well:

  1. Krumkake—a waffle cookie made on a two-sided iron griddle,
  2. Sandbakkelse—sand tarts made in tins of different shapes
  3. Pepperkakker—spiced cookies
  4. Spritz cookies—a simple cookie dough pressed through a decorative disk
  5. Fattigmann—dough twisted into a fancy shape and deep fried
  6. Serinakaker—Norwegian butter cookies
  7. Rosettes—deep fried lacy treats made with a special rosette iron

After the Julfest, my husband/tech advisor and I took home a heaping plate of all sorts of cookies. We have been enjoying them all week.

 

Veteran’s Day Ahead

This week we honor all the veterans of our armed forces. Coming from a family where many members have served, I like to take note of the day.

It will be a special one for me this time. In August, my application to become a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) was approved. I was eligible by virtue of descent from a veteran of the Revolutionary War.

My ancestor was Gershom Hall (1760-1844), a Patriot from Massachusetts. He enlisted at Barnstable County on 1 Sep 1780. He then served as a Private under Captain Nathaniel Freeman in Lt. Col. Enoch Hallett’s regiment where he served 2 mos., 4 days, including 4 days (75 miles) travel home. The unit was stationed in Rhode Island to reinforce the Continental Army. Gershom Hall was discharged 31 Oct 1780.

As we honor him and others on Veteran’s Day this week, we have an additional reason to remember our former servicemen. In Colorado we will commemorate the centennial of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The DAR chapter in Aurora, CO will host a Veteran’s Day event at the Colorado Freedom Memorial. The ceremony will include the welcome of honored guests, a history of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a wreath laying, and the National Salute.

Join us at 10:30.

 

 

Re-living My Childhood

Last week my husband/tech advisor and I took a vacation to the Black Hills of South Dakota. We stayed in a cabin in Custer State Park. I had not been to that region in a couple of decades.

The area just north of there used to be familiar territory for me because my grandparents lived in Rapid City. My parents were married there, and I was baptized there. My family spent a week or two there most summers.

We would take in all the local sites during those visits—Mt. Rushmore, Storybook Island, Reptile Gardens, Dinosaur Park, Canyon Lake, and Keystone. I took my first and only helicopter ride when I was a young teenager.

On this trip we stayed in the Custer area, not Rapid City. We drove all around the park and saw bison, wild turkeys and donkeys, deer, vultures, and a coyote. One day we hiked around Sylvan Lake. Another day we looked at the stockade on French Creek near where gold was discovered in 1874.

Visiting the Black Hills again brought back many good memories of childhood vacations. My family is all gone from that area now, so I do not get there often. I am glad I had the chance to visit that beautiful area again this year.