Nordic sisters

More than 170 delegates of the Daughters of Norway convened at Trinity Lutheran Church Thursday through today. The ladies are in town for the Grand Lodge Daughters of Norway Biannual Convention that is held every two years, gathering together the women of the 21 lodges of the pacific region of Nevada, California, Oregon, Montana and Washington states. The last convention was in Portland, Ore., with the one before that in Reno, Nev. “Nordic Sails to Whidbey Shores” was this year’s theme as South Whidbey’s own Ester Moe Lodge played host to the event.

The annual conventions are the social event of the year for a group of women who strive to keep the culture of their grandmothers, great-grandmothers and beyond alive.

“These women want to keep in touch with their cultural roots — eat the foods, sing songs, learn crafts,” said member Jean Clark Kaldahl. “They want to know the little things their grandmother or great-grandmother knew.”

The Ester Moe lodge, established in 1997, is one of the newer lodges in the women’s organization that dates back to 1908 and names its lodges after notable Nordic women like Thea Foss, Ester Moe, Sonjia Hennie and Prillar Guri.

Thursday the public was invited to join the celebration at a cultural fair that kicked off the convention and two days of classes and meetings. The Trinity Lutheran multipurpose room was festooned with the flags and national colors of all the Scandinavian countries (Daughters of Norway welcomes women descendants, relatives and spouses of people born in Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland). The air was filled the wafting menu of the Norsk Kaffee that served up Danish pastries, coffee, waffles, soup, salad, marzipan cake and open-faced sandwiches.

Down the hall, Skandia dancing was practiced, as was the Norwegian national anthem, Sumi weaving and rosemaling — the style of painting that centuries ago Norwegians traveled house to house doing to earn their lodging. There were even classes in how to make the famous open-faced sandwiches.

“This is all about preserving our heritage,” said Ester Moe member Linda Spencer who was born in Oslo, Norway, and now lives in Clinton.

In the rosemaling class, Thelma Dangel of Aase lodge in Lafayette, Calif., created a masterpiece next to her granddaughter Cari Dangel.

“There are a lot of people who have come to the U.S. and given up their culture in the process,” Cari Dangel said. “We’re here to tap into who we are and ensure ours lives on.”

A couple of conventions back, Jean Clark Kaldahl found family when on a bus trip she and another women began talking about where they were from — both had links to Springgrove, Minn.

“She was my second cousin and now I look forward to seeing her every time,” she said.

The Nordic exhibit featured heirloom items belonging to Ester Moe lodge members. Included is a dress created by Spencer’s aunt from World War II era blackout curtains.

Kay Larson from the Nordic Heritage museum in Ballard demonstrated the art of handweaving.

Thursday evening the ladies held a reception at the Useless Bay Country Club where the Young Skandia Dansers performed. Friday the ladies wore the traditional Norwegian dress, something called bunad, to a slough of meetings. Since there are 19 different counties in Norway, they all differ based on the person’s geographic background.

Today they will wear all white to honor the sisters who have passed before them. This evening they will have a closing reception where the Shifty Sailors and Pickeled Herring Band will perform.

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