The Juletrefest celebration includes a time of gathering around the Christmas tree for holiday songs. PHOTO COURTESY OF GIANTS OF THE EARTH HERITAGE CENTER
The Juletrefest celebration includes a time of gathering around the Christmas tree for holiday songs. PHOTO COURTESY OF GIANTS OF THE EARTH HERITAGE CENTER

Juletrefest is a traditional Norwegian celebration that most often takes place in late December. It is a time for families and friends to come together, sing Christmas carols and enjoy a special visit from the Julenisse (similar to Santa). The Giants of the Earth Heritage Center are hosting their very own Juletrefest complete with a visit from a treat-bearing Julenisse.

People of all ages are invited to attend the Juletrefest celebration on Saturday, December 14th from 1-4 p.m. This year Norwegian foreign exchange student, Frida Bryn, will be a part of Juletrefest and will share how she has experienced this celebration in her home country.

The afternoon will begin with a time of making traditional Norwegian crafts that will be used to not only decorate the Christmas tree at the Heritage Center, but also to decorate the trees in the homes of the participants. After the ornament making, participants can enjoy some traditional Norwegian food such as rommegrot, sweet soup, and even heart-shaped waffles.

In Norway, communities would gather around a large centrally-located tree in their village or at a school for Juletrefest. As part of the celebration, they would hold hands in circles around the tree and sing Christmas carols. Participants of the local Juletrefest will also get to partake in this special festivity.

As the afternoon winds down, there will be a special visit from the Julenisse who will be bringing special holiday treats to share. Sometime during the afternoon there may even be a surprise visit from some noisy, costumed Julebukkers. Not sure what a Julebukker is? Attend Juletrefest and you're sure to find out!

There is no fee to attend Juletrefest. They just ask attendees to consider giving a free-will donation. Juletrefest will be held at the Giants of the Earth Heritage Center on Main Street in Spring Grove.

Gift shop

At the Heritage Center there is also a gift shop with many unique items perfect for gift-giving. They now have Solmate socks for children and adults in fun and unusual color combinations. Plus Norwegian calendars that feature Norwegian scenery and rosemaling.

They also have select pieces of collector's porcelain - Copenhagen porcelain and Porsgrunn Porcelain from Norway. These unique pieces are Christmas-themed as well as other designs; unique items that are not easily found. The gift shop and Heritage Center is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

To see photos of more of the items and to stay up-to-date on what is happening at Giants of the Earth Heritage Center, visit and like their Facebook page.

Holiday traditions celebrated through photography

"Photos and what we take pictures of is one way that we pass down family stories and our culture," remarked Bill Fried, acting director of Giants of the Earth Heritage Center.

The Giants of the Earth Heritage Center is hosting a celebration of family traditions through photography. They are asking community members to bring in favorite photos that capture traditions their families have had throughout the holidays. Maybe each year the family gathers for a photo by a favorite tree, or holding Christmas stockings, or toasting each other - whatever family traditions are celebrated during the holiday season.

"Looking at other's photos may spark a memory in us of a tradition that we used to do and from that memory come family stories and a way of sharing our heritage with each other," added Fried. "Or the photos may inspire people to start their own similar tradition. Sharing stories about traditions - big or small - are great ways to share our history with each other, often finding a common bond."

The photos and memories can be fun-loving, cherished memories and do not have to be completely serious. People are also encouraged to write up a short description of the photo if they'd like to explain what makes the photo special to them. The photos will be scanned and the original returned to the owner. They can be modern photos or old heritage ones. The photos can be brought into the Heritage Center any time now through Juletrefest.