Well, there is no school in Fargo today. Actually, it’s not so much a holiday, as it is that long before the pandemic, the school board had set the school day schedule which always includes snow days – usually two or three when the blizzards hit, and the buses can’t run. In the schedule, then, the school system plans for those days, and if they don’t happen in a particular year, a day or two is “given back” and everyone gets a holiday. Of course, they usually schedule it for May, when there is at least a smaller chance of snow.
With the pandemic, however, and everything turned upside down, there were as many days that were at-home, distance learning because of the virus as there were actual days in school. With this new way of doing education, it really didn’t matter what the weather was any particular day. If it blizzarded, they just held school on line. With these two models of school colliding this year, that meant everyone was guaranteed to get the snow days back, which meant holidays from school. There is some talk about possibly never having snow days again, if they build in the system of quickly switching to on-line. Now, if any of you have grown up in a region of the country that gets significant snow or ice, you know what a delicious experience it is as a child to wake up, and hear it announced that there is no school for your town due to the snow. Even better, if they make the decision before you go to bed, so you can leisurely roll out when you are fully awake, even making yourself sleep in a half-hour or so. To have that go away forever would be like losing chalkboards and erasers, and the screeching sound of dragging your fingernails across the board. That doesn’t happen with whiteboards and markers. We will have to see if the demise of snow days really happens, once everyone is back in school directly next fall. Sometimes, like Ferris Buehler, you just need a day off.
So, today the schools are dark, the buses are parked, and traffic between 7am and 8:30 is wonderfully light. However, this day off from school could be attributed to a celebration far grander and more significant than payback for no snow. It is of course, the 17th of May! It is a day of great and marvelous importance, like Cinco de Mayo, or St. Patrick’s Day, or the 4th of July – or January 14, which of course everyone should recall is my birthday – a growing national holiday, catching on across the country…
May 17th is Syttende Mai! It’s pronounced SIT-en-da-my, and since 1814 it has been known in Norway as “National Day,” or “Constitution Day” – or simply, Syttende Mai. It all started back during the Napoleonic Wars of the early 19th century, when Norway was connected with Denmark (same king), and Denmark got a huge whooping from the French and Swedish forces. In order to keep from being ceded to Sweden (you’d think they would get along, but not necessarily so), the kingdom of Norway announced that they were an independent kingdom, and so established their own national identity and rule. None of that Swedish stuff, thank you…
It was never a military focused day of celebration, unlike our 4th of July which was followed back in 1776 by continued war for independence. Syttende Mai was originally celebrated by students, with it eventually including children’s parades, which is a BIG DEAL in Norway. Oldest kids carry the banner for their school, followed by other waving the Norwegian flag, and then the school marching band plays, followed at last by every and any school age kid that wants to march in the parade. Parents and grandparents of course stand on the curb and smile and wave back and remember when they were the ones marching in the parade.
Over here in the new country, up here where it’s sometimes referred to as New Scandinavia, in towns like Ulen, and Hitterdahl and Oslo and Karlstad, it’s a little less, non-parading day. However, in the meeting halls of most every Sons of Norway lodge (yes, that’s who they are), there will be served today everyone’s favorite foods, like meatballs and potatoes, or rutabaga, and lefse, which is a marvelous kind of Norwegian tortilla, made from potatoes and cream, and then rolled out and cooked on your lefse grill, flipped over when it is just tan enough, and then you slather it with butter and sugar, and then roll it up and munch from one end to the other, experiencing a most delicious taste experience.
For the braver, or truer Norwegians, there is of course is served lutefisk. I could only surmise that the word in Norwegian means “stinky, horrible tasting, dried out and then soaked in lye and smothered with butter remnant of cod fish.” Being non-Norwegian, it really is ghastly, but it’s pulled out and prepared around Christmas time and then for today’s celebration. It’s always odd to see part of the meat counter designated for that gelatinous, horrible stuff, for folks to buy and take home and heat up and, in my case, quickly tossing into the outside trash can, so you wouldn’t have it stinking up your inside trash. For my taste, and that of most of the known world, I’d rather eat Torsk, which is often called the poor man’s lobster. It’s actually cod (again), but it’s not abused like lutefisk – instead, it’s poached, and then broiled and then slathered again with butter (not margarine, since that has too much water content). As bad tasting as lutefisk is, torsk is a delight, just like putting lingonberry preserves on your crepes. Wonderful.
So here, about 4000 miles away from their native land, the Norwegian descendants will probably not parade, or shoot off fireworks, or many even wear their traditional Norwegian getups. But what they will do, on this 107th anniversary of their nation – is eat. And take the day off, if they can.
I hope that whatever your nationality is, even as we call and claim the United States as our home and nation, you would intentionally discover, and appreciate your own heritage and history, and find a way to honor those who have gone before you, citizens and descendants of good and proud people. Just stay away from the lutefisk. I really mean it. That stuff gives me the creeps.
Word for the day: quatervois. Pronounced a number of ways, but most often as KET-air-vwa. Would you guess it might be French? The word is defined as quater, “four,” and vois “way.” A quatervois is kind of a four-way stop. It is really defined as a critical crossroads or turning point in life. When you reach that point, you can and must decide which direction you are going to go. That quatervois may end up making all the difference in your world and your future. I’m sure each of us can look back and recall a decision that was life-changing, even though we didn’t realize it at the time. We are invited always, of course, to be self-aware and to understand as much as possible when those moments come, even to say to ourselves, “This is my quatervois. How must I choose?”
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.