Julebord celebrates Norwegian heritage in Everett

EVERETT — About 100 people walked to the center of a wooden dance floor to join hands and form three concentric circles around a Christmas tree.

Some were dressed in traditional Scandinavian costume, called bunad.

The circles moved in opposite directions, and as the participants slowly spun around the brightly decorated tree, they sang traditional Christmas songs, some in Norwegian.

“They’re singing about how happy they are about Christmas,” said Mai-Britt Hardy, 24, of Everett, who is fluent in the Nordic language.

The tradition, called the dance around the Christmas tree, was celebrated at the Sons of Norway Normanna Hall in Everett on Sunday, one part of an annual Norwegian Yule celebration called Julebord, meaning Christmas dinner.

Downstairs, the three-course meal began with enough salads, cheeses and breads to fill a long table. Diners could sample a main course that included meatballs, fish cakes and a pork roast. And among the homemade desserts was a multi-layered almond tower cake decorated with Norwegian and U.S. flags.

Even as they joyfully celebrated the Julebord tradition, some wondered how long it might continue.

Barb Brevik, of Snohomish, said that attendance at the annual event dipped to 81 last year. It took some prodding from her, asking members if this should be the last year for Julebord, to bounce this year’s attendance back up to about 200 people.

“Fraternal organizations aren’t all that big in today’s world,” she said. “The other challenge is how to attract younger members and offer them something they’re looking for. The Scandinavian food and tradition isn’t a real draw any more.”

The lodge owns property on Lake Riley near Arlington, with fishing, cabins and opportunities for camping and picnics. “That’s quite a draw for younger members,” Brevik said. “But they don’t show up at the lodge hall very often in Everett.”

Leona Olson, 87, of Shoreline, said the Julebord celebration brings people together and “it’s just an enjoyable time.”

Lodge members share Brevik’s concern over how to attract younger members, she said. Olson has been a member of the organization since 1972. “Our average age is very high,” she said. “Without the young people being involved, who will carry out these traditions?”

Maybe some 20- and 30-somethings will come to share Hardy’s enthusiasm for Nordic culture, celebrations and traditions.

Hardy said she keeps in touch with family members living in Norway. “I get to maintain that heritage, which is awesome,” she said.

Hardy said she’s been in Norway for Julebord festivities, with restaurants filled with celebrants. “It’s fun to participate here,” she said.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; salyer@heraldnet.com.

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