Before I get into today’s post, I want to say congratulations to Paula. I randomly drew her name to win my blogiversary giveaway. I think there may have been a couple of Paula’s that commented, but I have exchanged emails with the winning Paula so she knows who she is. Thank you all so much for all of your kind comments on my blogiversary!
Like many Americans whose families have been in the U.S. for a few generations, I suspect that my ancestry is pretty much a Heinz 57 sort of mix. However, both my sister and I identify the most with our Norwegian heritage. That’s probably because we were most involved with my mom’s side of the family growing up.
Don’t they look like a fun bunch? Well, OK, maybe not, but the younger generations of cousins on my mom’s side really are a fun bunch of people to hang out with.
The dude in the dark glasses at the back on the right in that photo is my great grandfather (he was blind, hence the dark glasses). He was a child when his family emigrated from Haltdalen, Norway. You can read more about that here. I believe the baby in his arms is my grandmother, Carrie.
Check out that gal on the far left. Is she scary looking or what? She’d be the perfect employee for the Haunted Mansion in Disney World. You can just tell it was nearly impossible for those kiddos in the front row to hold still for the photo. I’m pretty sure she’s reaching down to pinch the one closest to her who is so focused on the toy in his hands.
Back in 2016, my sister read about the Gingerbread Wonderland at the Norway House in Minneapolis and we decided to check it out. I wrote a blog post about it back then, and it’s still one of my most viewed blog posts this time of year.
The pepperkakebyen, or gingerbread village, is a Norwegian Christmas staple. The largest pepperkakebyen in the world is in Bergen, Norway. Wouldn’t it be fun to go see that one!
But Minneapolis is a lot closer than Bergen. Still, we hadn’t been back since 2016. Of course, the Gingerbread Wonderland didn’t take place during the Covid years, and then last year reservations were required and we weren’t able to get in when we wanted to. So this year we made sure to get our reservations early.
It was a bit of a shock to the system, but after flying home from Mexico on Saturday, we went to the Norway House on Sunday.
I turned out to be a great way to jolt myself back into the holiday spirit after a tropical vacay.
There are a wide range of baking skill levels on display in this pepperkakebyen with quite a few structures that were made by children, like Christmas Eve at the Cabin …
and the Better Batter Bakery.
As well as some much more professionally baked looking buildings, like the Arctic Cathedral …
and Nisse Stabbur …
A stabbur is a traditional Norwegian storage building. I saw some when I visited the open air museum in Oslo back in 2017 …
It was fun to see all of the different options for creating a gingerbread house roof, like this pink one …
Or the red hot pattern on the roof of this next one.
Or this house’s roof made of slivered almonds.
I also enjoyed seeing the variety of methods used for adding trees. There were flat cookie trees …
layered cookie trees …
and frosted cone trees …
but my favorites were the whimsical Sandbakkel trees next to the Nisse Stabbur.
It looks like they were created using peppermint sticks, peppermint candies and Sandbakkels, a traditional Norwegian Christmas cookie.
In the end, the gingerbread house that got my vote for best in show was The Little Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe by Annette Korolchuk.
I loved her unique concept and thought it was expertly executed. Isn’t it adorable? Maybe not quite as Christmas-y as some of the other gingerbread houses, but I loved it all the same.
We once again enjoyed our visit to the pepperkakebyen so much that we’ve decided to make it a new Christmas tradition.
If you’re local and looking for something fun to do during the holiday season, maybe you should consider a trip to the Gingerbread Wonderland. Although maybe don’t schedule it so that you finish up at the same time as the Vikings game (yep, that was a bit hairy, traffic wise).
How about the rest of you? Is there a pepperkakebyen in your neck of the woods? Or do you have any other Christmas traditions that speak to your ancestral heritage? If so, leave a comment and let me know!