LARSON: Norwegians celebrate in the true Viking spirit

Susan Larson

Susan Larson

I was impressed when I learned that my sister-in-law, Laura, was part of the Strawberry Queen Court when she was in high school. She is certainly pretty enough, but truth be told, I figured it was just some small town thing in Wisconsin. Little did I know that the Strawberry Festival is one of the oldest traditions in Norwegian history. Erik Kind filled me in when I attended the Strawberry Festival at Washington Farms in Loganville last weekend.

Kind, who's proud of his Norwegian ancestry, studied as a foreign exchange student in Norway and then went back there to live for three years. When he moved to Lilburn a few years back, he sort of missed being among his own kind (which, by the way, is not exactly a pun because Kind is pronounced with a short "i".) So in 2008 he founded the Sons of Norway Vennekretsen Lodge to help other Norwegians get in touch with their heritage and with each other.

When I went to this historic Strawberry Festival, I invited my friend Sue Martinson, who is half Finnish and half Norwegian, to come along. I figured she could tell me what was authentic and what wasn't. Of course, as much as I love Sue's company, I found I really didn't need her expertise. There were plenty of Norwegian immigrants there who testified that everything was real.

Kind welcomed me to the festivities with the only Norwegian word I know -- skoll -- and a jigger of Linje Aquavit. This liquor is packed in cherry casks in the bottom of a freighter and shipped from Norway to Australia and back before it is sold. Something about passing across the equator twice enhances the aging process. And who would know more about the effect of travel on one's spirits than those of Viking descent? We then feasted on other Nordic delicacies like brown cheese, kavier and faare poelse and topped it all off with heart-shaped waffles spiced with cardamom and buried in fresh strawberries and cream.

After the feast, everyone sang folk songs in Norwegian. When the time came for the Norwegian national anthem, Kind asked me to hold the flag while they sang. Sue told me this is a huge honor, which made me feel almost as special as Laura.

Yes, I know this is all in past tense and you might feel like you really missed out on something -- which you did. But do not despair. Another big event, Norwegian National Day, is coming up next weekend at St. Luke Lutheran Church in Atlanta. There will be a children's parade, displays of Norwegian crafts and culture and a smorgasbord of Norwegian delicacies, which I'm sure will include strawberries. Now you do need to travel across two county lines to get there, but hey, crossing geographic lines to get into the spirit of things is just part of the Viking experience.

Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident and wife of a Norwegian. E-mail her at susanlarson4@yahoo.com