As any parent will tell you, sibling rivalry is just a part of life. I was reminded of this recently when I visited Mormor one Sunday afternoon at The Danish Home of Chicago. I always love hearing her talk about her childhood growing up in Denmark with her brothers. As the only girl she says there wasn’t much sibling rivalry with her, but between them there was enough to go around! As she describes those cherished memories in detail it takes me back to a time I was not yet here for and a place I hardly know, yet just thinking of Mormor as a girl makes me smile (and her as well!).
Now that I have grown so close to my distant cousin Annelise I find myself even more intrigued with the stories Mormor tells since many of them include her cousin Catrine, Annelise’s Grandmother ,who was like a sister to Mormor. She and tante (aunt) Catrine spent so much of their youth together, and reading the letters they kept after Mormor moved to the US is a testament to their strong bond. Although I have few memories of tante Catrine’s only US visit when I was very young, Annelise and I love to talk about what their lives must have been like when they were girls. Of course, they had their disagreements and spats, but more than seventy-five years later they are still as close as can be despite the distance!
When I consider their relationship, I cannot help but liken it to that of the Scandinavian region where Mormor and Catrine (and by association, I) are from. Although these three ‘siblings’ – Denmark, Norway and Sweden – have a much lengthier and more historically challenging past (I call it baggage), these days it’s more like a amiable sibling rivalry.
Like any familial relationship Denmark, Sweden and Norway harbor certain attitudes and feelings about one another. Sweden is considered the ‘older brother’, whereas he’s perhaps a bit annoyed by his more carefree siblings Norway and Denmark, who are off enjoying the outdoors (“friluftsliv”) and relaxing somewhere cozy (“hygge”).
Of course these are just generalities. Sweden is much more than a bunch of tech-savvy geniuses who gave us IKEA, H&M, Swedish Chef, ABBA, and those amazingly delectable Swedish meatballs. Likewise, we cannot disregard the impact that LEGO, Danish design and Noma have had on the world, and who has won more gold medals than 100 countries have total medals in the Winter Olympics? Little brother Norway.
So, all joking aside, it’s safe to say that Scandinavia has seriously impacted the world in many ways, and they are more than just tall, blond Vikings (although, seriously, how bad is that, really?). Like all of us, Scandinavian countries all have their thoughts and feelings about each other, but in the end, they are one big, happy (Nordic) family.
Get out the barrel, Fastelavn is this Sunday!