Scandinavians end holidays with a merry 'Tjugondag Knut' in Fairfield
Imagine it's that festive holiday time of year. You invite a few friends over to share the seasonal cheer, you sing carols and dance around the Christmas tree ... then strip it bare and toss it out the back door.
If you're Scandinavian, this scenario is called Tjugondag Knut, or St. Knut's Day, falling on the twentieth day after Christmas. Celebrated for centuries, it is the traditional end of the holiday season for the Scandinavian peoples. In Fairfield, the festival was observed Saturday evening at the Scandinavian Club on South Pine Creek Road.
Wearing bright red sweaters or jackets and gray or black dress pants, a choir of two dozen singers began the celebration with Christmas carols and other traditional songs. Pianist Dorothy Civitelli accompanied the group -- members from the Scandinavian Club, Northern Lights Singers, North Star Singers and Apollo Singing Society -- while Cameron Phillips led the performance overall. Tunes like "Let It Snow" and "Deck the Halls" were crowd favorites.
As the singers concluded, chairs were pushed to the side and a small Christmas tree placed in the center of the room. Wivan Sundman scooped up an accordion, invited attendees to form a circle around the tree and led them in traditional dances. Then Sundman asked young members and the "young at heart" to grab treats from the tree before it was gathered up and carried outside to be discarded.
A smorgasbord feast, featuring Swedish open-faced sandwiches and traditional baked goods, rounded out the celebration. Ornate candleholders, an important element in Scandinavian life, dotted the table.
"Swedes in America want to maintain their heritage, so we sing the songs and reenact traditions like this," said Linda Gustavson, president of the Northern Lights Singers. "This is our 49th celebration of this event, and a nice way to end the Christmas season, while subtly welcoming the new year."
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Eric Sundman has embraced the mission of preserving this traditional end to the holiday season. "I've been coming to the club since I was born, so 43 years," he said.
"My mom has been organizing this since 1966 when it was held at Bridgeport Machines auditorium," he recalled. "It has been non-stop ever since, keeping the celebration alive. It's important to me to have my son Max continue on with all the Swedish traditions. Christmas is not complete until we celebrate this."