Coming together with tradition

TYLER – It’s pretty hard to put a damper on the Christmas spirit in Tyler. Outside the weather was bitingly cold, but as some of the crowds inside the Danebod Folk School and surrounding buildings showed, it wasn’t about to stop visitors and locals alike from celebrating the holidays the traditional Danish way.

“We’re really Danish. We dance around the Christmas tree at home, too,” said Amanda Buhl. Buhl and members of her family had gathered back in Tyler during the weekend to attend the Old-Fashioned Danish Christmas held every year at Danebod.

The annual Danish Christmas event spotlights traditional holiday decorations, foods and activities, and a concert of Christmas music helped round out the event. The big highlight of the traditional celebrations for many visitors came at the end of the evening. The Danish tradition of joining hands and dancing around the Christmas tree drew people into the Danebod gym hall, where a giant tree decorated in red and white towered over the room.

Organizers and volunteers at this year’s event said the number of visitors Saturday was likely a little smaller than usual because of the weather. But the atmosphere was still festive and crowded at events like the traditional Danish holiday supper and at Danebod’s Stone Hall building, where coffee and desserts were being served throughout the afternoon.

“It’s been wonderful,” said Jeannie Nielsen, one of the organizers in charge of the hall. “We thought maybe people would stay home because it was so cold.”

“It’s been real steady all day long,” Nielsen said. It looked like the hall was going to have just about enough treats for everyone who wanted some. Toward the end of the afternoon, Nielsen said, “We have one coffee cake left, and we started with 10.”

The real sign that things were going well, volunteer Barb Kuhn said, was that people were lingering to talk over their coffee. A mix of visitors and people with local ties were busy chatting in the hall, which also serves as a museum of Danebod Lutheran Church and the folk school.

“This is our first time here,” said Brenda Bengtson, as she sat and sampled treats like aebleskiver and rosettes with Wayne and Dorine Brock.

“Everything was very good,” Dorine Brock said. She had even bought a Danish coffee cake to take home. The homemade coffee cakes are a popular item at the event’s vendor booths.

“They take a lot of pride in their food,” Bengtson said of the event organizers.

More evidence of that could be seen in the basement hall of the folk school, where Danebod youth group members were serving up an entire spread of traditional Danish Christmas dishes. The menu included items like rye bread, red cabbage and Danish-style meatballs, sausages and pork roast.

“Everything is pork,” joked Buhl.

Besides plenty of good food and traditional celebrations, visitors at the Danish Christmas event said they also liked to get back together with friends and family from the Tyler area. Although she lives in Okoboji now, former Tyler resident Pat McGill said she makes the trip back every year for the Christmas event.

“After living and teaching here for 30 years, it’s fun to come back and see people,” McGill said.

“It’s pretty special. It brings in a lot of people,” Buhl said of the event.