Ingrid – December 11, 2017
This past Saturday, I had the unique pleasure of attending Lillejuleaften (“Little Christmas Eve” in Danish), the last of the four events honoring The Danish Home’s 125th anniversary this year. I went with my roommate, Lindsay, and her Farfar (grandfather), who enjoyed the evening celebrating the “Spirit of Future” immensely—probably even more than the Tivoli Gardens event we attended in June.
Held at the warm, “hygge-rich” Hyatt Lodge at McDonald’s campus in Oak Brook, the event featured many of the things that Farfar and other Danish Home residents remember fondly about their childhoods in Denmark.
Farfar particularly enjoyed the St. Lucia’s procession through the ballroom, featuring children dressed in white and a girl portraying St. Lucia with a luminous wreath of candles on her head. “When I was a boy, I used to sing and walk in a St. Lucia’s procession every year on December 13th,” he remarked, his blue eyes twinkling. The program from the evening told the legend of St. Lucia, which the great-great granddaughter of Anna Mikkelsen, Ella, wrote about on The Hope Chest last week. Like my great-great-great-grandmother Olivia Rose, Anna was also one of The Danish Home founders.
Before the procession was a Christmas church service in The Lodge’s Prairie Foyer, beautifully decorated with Christmas trees featuring ornaments and garlands from the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland. Peter Orum, a generous sponsor of The Danish Home, read the scripture in Danish. Linz and I had no idea what he was saying, but Farfar nodded knowingly. We sang familiar Christmas carols, which is always a treat for me. I can’t get through “Silent Night” without tearing up a little.
After everyone sang the Danish and American national anthems (I could only manage the latter!), the Consul General of the Danish Consulate General of Chicago, Jakob Andersen, spoke about The Danish Home and its influence over the generations. He finished with a personal message to The Danish Home from Queen Margrethe of Denmark herself!
The dinner feast included roasted pork, roast duck, Danish sausage, and the ever-popular Danish specialty, frickadeller, along with yummy side dishes, rice pudding and desserts. This was the first time I had Danish meatballs and, I have to admit, they were very tasty—I went back for more! Farfar leaned over and whispered to me: “What kind of Danish girl has never had frickadeller?” When we learned that The Danish Home’s chef, Roger Sukhu, spent 12 hours in the Hyatt kitchen making food for nearly 300 guests, everyone applauded, and some even gave him a standing ovation.
A video presentation intertwined with The Danish Home’s version of “The Night Before Christmas” recognized The Danish Home’s anniversary events of the past year as well as the recipients of this year’s Essence Award, Paul and the late Shar Roge, who have served The Danish Home in so many ways throughout the years. Proud members of the Roge family were there to accept the award.
After dinner, Sandi Haynes and The Blue Rocket Band set the tempo for singing and dancing around the Christmas tree. Linz and I brought Farfar in his wheelchair closer to the action. “I used to cut a pretty good rug!” he joked. “Cut a rug?” I asked. “That means to dance well, Miss Journalism Major,” Lindsay kidded me.
We all got a kick out of the several adorable children who were at the event, skipping around merrily in their best holiday garb. The little ones at our table certainly enjoyed the “The Colors of The Danish Home” coloring book at each place setting, designed especially to tell the story of The Danish Home.
When St. Nick arrived later in the evening, he called each of the excited children by name to come get the gifts he brought them (courtesy of their parents). I’m sure they all went home happy! I know Farfar, Lindsay and I did.