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LUTHERANS AND SWEDES IN TEXAS
A great site for genealogy and history of Swedes in Texas
Narratives from the Georgetown's Yesteryears Book
A special thanks to The Georgetown Heritage Society and Martha Mitten Allen for letting the us post these wonderful first person stories.
View Foreword and Preface
Ruth S. Carlson: Christopher D. Caron, Interviewer
Every Christmas we have this early morning service called Jul Otta. That's something they always did in Sweden and that is Christmas to me. No matter how many I have here for breakfast, or dinner, I go to church Christmas morning. That's something I have always loved. I get my family up, and away we go. Now my children like to go.
We still have it at 5:30 on Christmas morning and it's beautiful. You come into church and the candles are all lit in the windows, and the Christmas tree is on and that's all the lights you had. The candle holders were made by our Reverend Carl W. Bergquist, who was our pastor for twenty-one years. He made those candle holders that hold three candles. They're made out of old apple boxes and painted white. So, we treasure those.
We have always kept the custom at St. John's. We are very thankful that the new people that move into St. John's and are not Swedish, they like our old custom. Our ministers always, although they're not Swedish, have enjoyed this service. It's just something that goes with the church. What a wonderful way to celebrate Christ's Birthday.
One of the traditions on Christmas morning had died out in recent years. After Jul Otta, [when we were children] they would always hand us a nice big red apple, which was the best apple you ever ate all year long. It was cold and crisp and I always ate mine on the way home. That was my breakfast on Christmas morning. One day when Reverend Bill Smith was at St. John's, I was saying something about our Jul otta service and how good the apple was, and he wanted to know what apple I was talking about, so I told him. So then, the next Christmas, Reverend Bill and his wife handed out apples to all of us, without letting any of us know that they were going to do it. We were surprised! Since then, the tradition of giving the red apple to everyone who comes to Jul Otta on Christmas morning has been carried out.
The julbock is a straw goat that is still placed under the Christmas trees of many Williamson County Swedes. Swedish legend states that the bringer of Christmas gifts arrives on the julbock.
Another Swedish tradition is honoring the legendary household gnome, Tomten, who was believed to live under a family’s farmhouse. According to tradition, Tomten watched out for dangers to the family and their animals. On Christmas Eve, many Swedish families still set out a bowl of rice porridge for the gnome so that he will stay for another year, protecting the family from harm.
Decorations on the Swedish tree are colorful and most are handmade using paper and straw. Notice the Swedish flags, fringed candy holders, and baskets that are all made of paper. Straw is tied with red string to make the angels, stars, goat, hearts, and birds that symbolize the spirit of the season and the Swedes’ love of nature. Candles light the tree.
Tree decorated by Jan Faubion
MUSEUM HOSTS TRADITIONAL SCANDINAVIAN ORNAMENT MAKING DEMONSTRATION
Georgetown, TX – On Friday, December 16th, the Williamson County Historical Museum hosted Jan Whiteley and Ruth Olson who demonstrated the process of making traditional, hand-made Scandinavian wheat straw ornaments. Whiteley and Olson are Williamson County natives of Swedish decent and members of Carlwiden Vasa, a Williamson County based Swedish cultural club. Museum visitors had the unique, hands-on opportunity to learn about Swedish culture while creating traditional straw Christmas ornaments of their own to keep, free of charge!