Happy Syttende Mai!
For those of you unfamiliar, Syttende Mai, the Seventeenth of May, is Norwegian Constitution Day. It’s the day in 1814 that the Constitution of Norway was signed at Eidsvoll, Norway. It’s (sort of) similar to the Fourth of July in the United States — without the fireworks. Flags are flown, there are parades and music. Norwegians dress in traditional costumes from that time.
It’s been called “the most Norwegian day of the year.” Why am I writing about Syttende Mai? Because the heroine in Proving Her Claim is of Norwegian descent. In fact, Anna Olson’s mother, Johanna, immigrated to America and settled in Wisconsin. Johanna supported Anna’s wanderlust and encouraged her daughter to travel to Dakota Territory.
As a young girl, Johanna traveled from Norway to America to make a new life for herself and her younger brother. So when Anna announced that she was considering leaving hearth and home for the frontier, Johanna Olson added to Anna’s savings with some butter money she’d been saving for a rainy day.
Johanna is one of those strong women that Proving Her Claim lifts up. There’s another strong, Norwegian woman in the story who also supports Anna’s dream.
In addition to being the county’s premier cheese maker, Aunt Christina was a strong, confident woman who had made their dairy farm prosper during the turbulent times during and after the war. She had given Anna the courage and encouragement needed to start life anew on the wild Dakota plains.
In fact, Christina created a sign for Anna’s new dairy using the Norwegian art of rosemaling. It’s a singularly beautiful Norwegian art form.
But that’s not the only reason I celebrate Syttende Mai. Grandparents on both sides of my family have ties to Norway, so I’ll commemorate the day with lefsa — but hold the lutefisk.