This year, I vowed that Iâ€™d not be a cultural lame-o poophead, and experience the Nordic side of the season at the Pacific Lutheran Universityâ€™s Scandinavian Cultural Centerâ€™s Julefest because nothing says â€œholidaysâ€ quite like Glogg and lutefisk.
Upon arriving to the PLU campus, I discovered the sort of peaceful silence that generally doesnâ€™t bode well in my line of work. The sign on the door proclaimed â€œdue to the weather forecast, the Annual Nordic Christmas Fest has been cancelled.â€ Ironic as the Norwegians brought us Arctic exploration, cross-country skiing, and that nifty cozy sweater.
I did see a crowd of interesting looking people heading into the Lutheran Church, and nearly crashed their party thinking they were my missing Swedes and Norwegians, only to discover the Tacoma Astronomical Society, who didnâ€™t appear to want me hanging around them. Smart people, they are.
Feeling a bit like the family in "A Christmas Story," stymied in their pursuit of holiday happiness, I thought Iâ€™d take my cultural experience and expand it. I, like the protagonists in the aforementioned movie, went to a Chinese restaurant. The Tea Leaf is the setting of some warm memories involving my deceased uncle, so it was natural that Iâ€™d head in there. Waiting for my food, I called the Rialto Theatre to see if I could sneak in the nightâ€™s "The Christmas Revels" show. Score!
Hastily stuffing my to-go snow white chicken and hot and sour soup into my trunk, I high-tailed it to pick up my last-minute date, my co-Smartest Person in the Universe (we won Kingâ€™s Books spelling bee together months back) who also happened, conveniently, to be half-Norwegian. Score!
Together, we enjoyed a French-Canadian holiday moment. A Puget Sound Revels cast hit the stage, followed by a procession of singers from the sides of the Rialto. Soon, bodies filled the stage. Listening to the children singing â€œAngels We Have Heard on Highâ€ tears hopped into my eyes (when did I start crying at displays of kiddie talent?) and a sort of wonder struck me that talent of this magnitude existed in Tacoma.
The rest of the evening progressed quickly, with singing, dancing, and storytelling weaving a loose narrative about how the shortest day, and the consequent turning of the New Year, was celebrated in the town of Three Rivers, in 18th century Quebec.
There were happy points, like the lively polka number (with percussion tapped out by Ann Trail) and the childrenâ€™s songs. There were sad points, like the mournful moment when â€œles Voyageursâ€ left their families. There were the humorous points, like the guy who needed to â€œgo,â€ interrupting the flying canoe ride, and the story 'Ti â€"Jean and the Loup Garou.
All these points were held together in the ultimate, basic joy of the season, and the ultimate, basic wish for Peace on Earth. For me it was exactly the moment that I needed, the celebration of the moment of the earth that is, at once, the darkest and the most hopeful.
Probably the highest point of my evening was meeting the couple sitting behind us in Norwegian sweaters.
Who knew, I could have my Nordic moment enjoying French songs sung by a talented cast of local Revelers?
Next year: Glogg. Next year: more revelers. Next year: Peace. â€" Jessica Corey-Butler