November 17, 2013

 

birthdaypartyWell the third Wednesday of the month has arrived, and that can only mean one thing around here, The Danish Home of Chicago Birthday Celebration!

While visiting my Mormor often over the years, she has told me all about the fun she has each month at the birthday parties. Friends and family mingle while traditional Danish fare is nibbled. There is entertainment: usually jokes and always music. It is a true celebration in every sense of the word, and seems to be such a fun event for everyone to look forward to!

Similar to American tradition, Scandinavian birthdays involve fun, food, friends and family – all the ingredients of a wonderful time. After all, Scandinavian or not, birthday celebrations are definitely a universal convention!

However, I had no clue that this particular celebration at The Danish Home has taken place faithfully each month since 1910! What a wonderful way to commemorate birthdays in such a communal and jovial way. I thought this was so significant because it exemplifies the Danish culture wholeheartedly: friendly and gracious.

Learning about this wonderful tradition got me thinking about The Founding Women and what their celebrations were like 120 years ago when The Society of The Danish Old People’s Home (as it was known back then) was just being forged. Being of similar heritage, this group of women would have had their own Scandinavian customs, but also they also began to create new ones here in their new home.

I can almost picture it: Emma decorating her house and hanging the Danish flag (a Danish birthday tradition), and then reading stories to the little ones (perhaps Hans Christian Andersen!). Meanwhile in the kitchen, Mrs. Anna Mikkelsen was working hard preparing traditional Frikadeller, Rosinboller and Jordbærlagkage (strawberry layer cake). Mrs. Margrethe Olsen caught everyone up on the latest neighborhood news (including garnering more support for The Society!). Young Miss Mary played the piano while the younger guests sang traditional Danish songs passed down (and some American ones too!), and Mr. Thorsen was a party to a heated discussion on politics in the parlor with the other gentlemen guests.

It is so interesting to look back at these old photos and letters and piece together what a celebration would have looked like in the 1890’s. I am so thankful to have stumbled upon this chest, and I am excited to see what else I find. I’ve learned that our traditions bridge our past with our future, and The Danish Home’s birthday tradition is no different! To everyone with a November birthday:

Tillykke med fødselsdagen! (Happy Birthday!)

Farvel until next time!