We all have our Christmas and holiday traditions, many passed down from generations. Northern Michigan (Upper Peninsula too) became home to many Scandinavian immigrants in the later 1800s and early 1900s and their influences still are felt today.
My mother’s parents were of Swedish descent so we spent Christmas Eve with them. I looked forward to everything my grandmother r prepared but the Lutfisk.
There is no middle ground with Lutfisk (Lutefisk in Norway); you either love it or you hate it. Now, Lutfisk is not a type of fish, but rather, a process of preparing cod, ling, pollock or haddock using a lye and water solution over a period of several days. Treated for preservation purposes, Lutfisk emits challenging odors for most, but it is tradition, or is it?
My Grandmother served it every Christmas Eve, but actually only about two percent of Scandinavian households serve it then (most serve a rib roast). The tradition seems to be something of a North American thing (particularly Midwestern), versus one celebrated back in Scandinavia.
I am not sure that anyone in my family really liked it; we tolerated it and my grandfather paired his with a Manhattan (for which I was too young). My grandmother prepared Lutfisk each Christmas Eve as a symbol -- a reminder of the tough times -- the challenges and sacrifices of our ancestors that led to a better life for us.
I have adopted some of my family Christmas traditions, only serving Lutfish once years ago, and incorporated them with my wife’s Polish traditions. For me, passing down the Polish, Irish, Czech and Swedish heritage to my kids is important..
This year I am excited that the Manistee County Historical Museum located in downtown Manistee is featuring “A Scandinavian Christmas.” According to assistant director Tom Gerhardt there will be several period rooms including a kitchen with cookbooks. To learn more visit their website: manisteemuseum.org.
I am also looking forward to taking my family to Punzel Scandinavian near Buckley (5 miles north) on 633 Road. Judy Hauser opened her unique operation 29 years ago. While she doesn’t serve food this time of year, the Punzel’s Cottage is open Monday - Saturday from 1 - 4 pm where you may purchase Scandinavian Handicrafts from Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. You don’t have to be of Scandinavian descent to enjoy what Judy has created; for directions or more info go to punzelscandinavian.com. Have a Happy Saint Lucia Day on December 13 and God Jul! or Glaedelig Jul! (Merry Christmas). --Rick Coates