Christmas in Alaska’s Little Norway

I think Petersburg (aka “Little Norway”), known to be more Norwegian than Norway, is just about the perfect place to spend Christmas.  This community really knows how to do it right, from the high school and middle school holiday band concerts, to the dance recital (with 130 children ranging in age from 4 to 17), to the Community Concert, to Julebukking – it’s a festive and happy time.

The Community Concert is a lovely event, where anyone can volunteer to perform something holiday-ish.  The number of talented people around town is impressive enough, but then consider the generosity of those people willing to share their talents with the rest of us.  Jim volunteered to sing with the Oxford Carolers group, so he’s been busy with rehearsals all month, and they sang well at the Concert as well as a few other venues around town.20151221 2212 community concert oxford carolers 1 rJulebukking is probably the most fun part of the holidays, where local businesses and organizations revive their own version of the old Norwegian tradition and host open houses with generous spreads of food.  It started last Saturday with a couple of places, then picked up the pace with six or more businesses hosting each day on Wednesday and Thursday.  It’s a great way to visit with friends and to make new ones while standing around enjoying the treats.20151223 2228 julebukking airport rThe airport even gets into the act, with a nice table full of smoked fish, meats and cheeses, and cookies as well as discount coupons from Alaska Airlines.  In the old days, the passengers on the planes would come inside to enjoy some Julebukking, but with stricter security the gate staff just brings some plates of treats out to the pilots and crew.  Our radio station (KFSK – Fish Head Radio) had baked potatoes, a fabulous cranberry tart, and cookies decorated by children.  Each business puts its own spin on the festivities, but I would say that the Rexall Drug Store’s pastrami sandwiches (well worth waiting in a long line for) and the spread at the hardware store are the best.20151224 2234 julebukking hardware store rThe highlight is the hardware store’s “Moose Milk” – a delicious concoction that is as much fun to watch them make as it is to drink.  Start with a 5 gallon paint bucket and a smiling man pouring White Christmas liqueur into it.20151224 2235 julebukking moose milk process rAdd 6 half-gallons of vanilla ice cream, softened…20151224 2236 julebukking moose milk ice cream rPut the top on the bucket tightly, and stick it into the paint shaker for a little while….20151224 2239 julebukking paint shaker r…and voila – you have Moose Milk!20151224 2238 julebukking moose milk rNorwegian sweaters are often the garment of choice for Julebukking, though some people celebrate the holidays with their own distinctive style.  I don’t know if these two guys are related, but they sure looked great!20151224 2241 julebukking suit 1 r20151223 2231 julebukking suit 2 rIf you want to know more about Julebukking, you might find the description on Wikipedia informative, and it even mentions Petersburg as one of the places that celebrates the tradition.

After trying not to stuff our faces TOO much for days on end, we got into the proper Christmas spirit with a walk up to the Lutheran Church for the 10pm service on Christmas Eve.  The moon was full, the skies were clear and full of stars, and the big dipper and Polaris were easy to see – a reminder of Alaska’s state flag.  The temperature was in the low 20s, but the warmth of the congregation more than made up for it.  There’s enough snow remaining on the ground to count as a “white Christmas”, though we’re likely to get some fresh snow later on tonight and into tomorrow.

This morning we woke up to a pretty day, and as the sun crested the mountains to the east, it cast a golden glow on the crest of Petersburg and Bearclaw Mountains.  We leave you with the view from the back of the boat shortly after sunrise at 8:30 this Christmas morning.  May all your days be Merry and Bright!20151225 2247 petersburg christmas morning r

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