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Swedish traditions are kept alive with music and food at Chellberg Farm

When Swedish immigrants like the Chellberg family arrived in Northwest Indiana in the mid-to-late 1800s, they brought many special Christmas traditions with them.

On Saturday, Chellberg Farm was filled with people of all ages, touring homes and learning about Swedish traditions, sayings, music and food.

Each year in December, Indiana Dunes National Park celebrates the “Holiday Traditions at Chellberg Farm” program sponsored by the Friends of the Indiana Dunes.

“The Vikings brought the story of St. Lucia back to the Scandinavian countries,” volunteer Cathy Williams said. “He was a martyr who distributed all his food to the poor.”

“St. 13 December in Sweden. “The St. Lucia celebration is considered the beginning of the Christmas holiday season,” Williams said, adding that all meals are prepared on Chellberg Farm’s wood stove.

Williams and her friend Kathy Wilder were in the kitchen preparing more than 20 traditional Scandinavian holiday treats, including Pepparkakor (gingerbread), Potatis Korv (potato sausage), Raggmunk (potato pancake) and the popular Lesskatter (Lucia bun).

Sweet yeast-leavened saffron buns, Swedish St. It forms the basis of St. Lucia Day celebrations. Scones are usually baked in an inverted S shape.

Dave Rudy, a retired park ranger, was in the master bedroom during the tour and told visitors about historical events.

Valparaiso resident Annalia Gorgei, 6, paints candy canes during a traditional holiday celebration at the historic Chellberg House in Indiana Dunes National Park on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023.  (Kyle Telechan for Post-Tribune)

“The floors, even the door handles and hinges, are original from the late 1800s,” Rudy said, pointing to the chamber pot next to the bed because the house doesn’t have a bathroom. “This is a step back in time.”

Chellberg Farmhouse was owned by a Swedish immigrant family who lived and worked on the farm for three generations. Anders and Johanns Chellberg and their young son Charles arrived from Sweden in 1863 and bought 40 acres of land in 1869, adding another 40 acres in 1874.

Charles’ son, Carol, continued to farm the land until 1972, at which time he sold the property to the National Park Service. In the 1980s, the farmhouse was restored to its early 20th-century appearance for the dining room, which was replaced by the Chellbergs in the 1920s. The kitchen remains the busiest room, and weekend volunteers prepare meals on the wood stove, just as Ms. Chellberg did years ago. park website.

Volunteer Dave Rudy gives guests a tour of a bedroom in the historic Chellberg farmhouse during a traditional holiday celebration at Indiana Dunes National Park on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023.  (Kyle Telechan for Post-Tribune)

Katrina Gorgei of Valparaiso was at Chellberg Ranch with her four children. “We came last year and loved it so much, we will continue to make it a tradition.”

“I like my kids to experience other cultures, especially the old days,” Gorgei said. “They love listening to music and last year we even got to do a little dancing.”

Music at the farmhouse was provided by Chesterton’s Lingonberry Jams, part of Save the Dunes and the National Park Service’s house band, on autoharp, accordion and guitar. They play for monthly programs and special events and perform French, Scandinavian and Finnish repertoire.

“Here in the Chesterton and Porter area, a lot of people with roots in the community are of Swedish descent,” said Lingonberry Jams accordionist Jim Nelson. “Music is part of their legacy.”

Jim Nelson, a member of the Swedish and Scandinavian country and dance music group Lingonberry Jam, sings traditional holiday music during a holiday celebration at the historic Chellberg House in Indiana Dunes National Park on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023.  Post-Tribune)

Visitors may have noticed a small bowl of rice pudding on the porch as they exited the farmhouse.

“According to Swedish tradition, a bowl of this pudding is left out for the dwarves (tomte) on Christmas Eve,” Wilder said.

Swedes believe that tomte protects family and livestock and helps the overall well-being of the land.

Chellberg Farm is located off Mineral Springs Road in Porter. It is open to the public for festivals, events and ranger-guided tours. You can learn more about their programming by calling (219) 395-1882 or visiting nps.gov.

Deena Lawley-Dixon is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.

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