Festival – Thousand Oaks, California


Scandinavian Festival – Thousand Oaks, CA

On April 19-20, Cal Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, CA hosted a Scandinavian Festival, put on by the Scandinavian American Cultural and Historical Foundation.

On the first day, they erected a Maypole and danced around it, singing traditional songs. Some other events included productions of The Three Billy Goats Gruff, soccer clinics, Krubb (an ancient Viking game), regular folk music and dance performances, and a variety of folk arts and crafts. The arts and crafts offered were paper cutting in the style of famed Danish fairytale author Hans Christian Andersen (Denmark), friendship bracelets (Finland),  paper volcanoes (Iceland), card wool (Norway), and Dala horse puppets (Sweden).

The first thing I noticed was how everyone was dressed. The women all wore traditional Scandinavian clothing—long dresses with embroidered aprons—and had their hair braided and encircled with rings of flowers. The men wore short trousers and billowing tops with vests and stockings. Everyone was in character. In the Viking area, an authentic-looking Vikinc camp was set up with tents and beds made with fur. Animal skins hung everywhere and rough-looking tables displayed heavy tools, chain mail or other hand-made wares like furniture and jewelry.

One of the vendor’s tents was filled with dolls that looked a lot like my idea of Santa Clause. When I asked the vendor what they were, she said they were indeed Norwegian and Danish Santas, called “Nisse.” Nextdoor to her was an impressive display of clogs, mostly hand-painted.

Down in the food court, I got a “Norsk plate” which consisted of Sweedish meatballs, Lefse (Norwegian flatbread), potato balls, and boiled red cabbage. For dessert, I tried some delicious Aebleskivers, which are like hollowed out pancake balls with strawberry glaze and powdered sugar.

Overall, I really enjoyed the festival. I had no idea what to expect because I know nothing of Scandinavian culture. I was especially shocked at the sheer size of the festival. There were hundreds of people in costume, many of them actually Scandinavian. Massive amounts of hand-made Scandinavian goods were being sold. I never realized how much of a presence Scandinavians have in America.

The festival did a good job in exposing me to Scandinavian culture. A lot of the items, costumes, food, and music were familiar to me, but I had never known what culture they originated from. It looked like everyone was having a good time celebrating their heritage and reviving their ancient customs.