ASI kicks off holiday season with Lutfisk Dinner on Saturday

Tomtes (traditional Swedish Christmas elves) will be around every corner at ASI
Tomtes (traditional Swedish Christmas elves) will be around every corner at ASI

After a year-long hiatus, the American Swedish Institute's annual Lutfisk Dinner will make its triumphant return on Saturday, November 17, kicking off an impressive slate of holiday activities.

See also: Fika blends tradition with finesse (review) Fika: The tour (slideshow)

ASI, a Scandinavian arts and cultural organization, has a long tradition of hosting traditional Swedish events in November and December. But last year, construction of its new building (the Nelson Cultural Center) forced it to skip many of its regular activities.

"We're hoping a trip to our castle and new addition will be right up there on the calendar for families with other Minnesota holiday traditions like A Christmas Carol, Holidazzle, and the Macy's display," says CEO Bruce Karstadt.

The lutfisk festivities will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and feature Swedish meatballs, riced potatoes, creamed kale, and a variety of European breads. But ASI will have much more on display than just cod 'n' condiments.

The Turnblad Mansion will be dressed in its holiday best, with rooms beautifully adorned in customary Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian, and of course, Swedish décor, including Christmas trees and elaborate table settings. The ornate scenes will remain in place through January 13, so the non-fish faithful are free to stop by at another time if they prefer.

Through the end of the year, ASI will also honor the Swedish candy tradition lördagsgodis (which refers to the practice of children eating candy on Saturdays), by offering 18 varieties of traditional bulk candies, like salty licorice, sour strawberry ribbons, and Dumle soft toffees in the Museum Shop. A host of quintessential Scandinavian eats will also be available, from pepparkakor (ginger cookies) and glögg mix (for mulled wine) to lingonberry preserves.

At the American Swedish Institute's new café, Fika, chef Michael Fitzgerald will offer risgrynsgröt (rice pudding), Lucia saffron buns (in honor of St. Lucia Day on December 13), and a collection of Scandinavian pastries.

On December 1 and 2, ASI will set up outdoor booths for its grand Christmas Market. One of the largest events of the season, local artists will sell handcrafted wares, music and dance groups will perform, and families will be invited to check out the fiskdamm (fishing pond), or head indoors for story time and slöjd (craft projects).

And on December 16 and 23, ASI will bring back Julbord--a Swedish smörgåsbord of holiday goodies--courtesy of Fika. "In the '50s through '70s, this julbord was prepared almost exclusively by Swedish-born and Swedish-American women," Karstadt says. "They were all members of ASI, and all volunteers, who loved to share their culinary skills and wanted to preserve the holiday cooking traditions of Sweden."

Polka Mints and other confections are available at ASI's Museum Shop
Polka Mints and other confections are available at ASI's Museum Shop

A colossal spread, this year's julbord will boast classic Scandinavian fare ranging from dill havarti and herring to smoked salmon and potato sausages. Lesser-known finds like jellied veal and Scandinavian pea salad will sit alongside rutabaga and carrot casseroles galore. And assorted cakes and tortes will put a sweet exclamation point on the feast.

"Gathering people around food is one of the most important means of building community that we have available to us," Karstadt says. "And Scandinavian holiday customs are some of the coziest and most delicious in the world."

For more details on the American Swedish Institute's holiday events, visit ASI's website.

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American Swedish Institute

2600 Park Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55407


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