Category Archives: Weird Midwest

St. Lucia and the Festival of Lights

Munchen, Minnesota might not be a real city, but we’ve had a totally great and never, ever nerve-wracking time making it as realistic as possible. Like many places in the Upper Midwest, Munchen was settled by German and Scandinavian immigrants, who brought along their Old World holiday traditions. The Christmas season is a huge deal in Munchen. And while we can’t tell you yet what happens, rest assured, something really big happens at the St. Lucia Festival.

When is St. Lucia’s Day?

St. Lucia’s Day is celebrated in Sweden on December 13. Although she was an Italian saint (who got her eyes poked out by Roman soldiers, btw), the Scandinavians seem to love St. Lucia because she brings along the one thing they’re in short supply of during the winter: light. Which is why it’s often called the Festival of Lights.

How do you celebrate St. Lucia’s Day?

By dressing up little girls in white robes and putting flaming ivy crowns on their sweet little heads, of course. (Er, I will let this informative video speak for itself.)

[WARNING: the Sankta Lucia song is a powerful earworm.]

You also eat and drink. The traditional foods of St. Lucia’s Day include lussekatter, or saffron buns shaped like cats (with raisins for eyes!) and glögg (try this recipe for Lord Commander Mormont’s Spiced Wine from the Inn at the Crossroads, the official food blog of Game of Thrones).

Where can I celebrate St. Lucia’s Day in the United States?

Besides Munchen, there are a few places you can celebrate the Festival of Lights:

Located in the Chicago neighborhood of Andersonville, which has been a Swedish enclave since before the Great Fire of 1871, the Swedish American Museum hosts a St. Lucia’s Day procession every December 13.

For nearly 40 years, the Bemidji, MN chapter of the American Swedish Institute has held a St. Lucia’s Day festival that concludes with (what else) a smorgasbord.

And on the east coast, the Swedish Women’s Educational Association holds an annual Swedish Yuletide (sadly, the date has passed for this year).

Have you ever attended at St. Lucia’s Day procession? Or better yet, have you ever been in a St. Lucia’s Day procession? Let us know!

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Filed under Folklore, Holiday Traditions, Scandinavians, Weird Midwest

The World’s Largest Turkey

“Even serious art here tends to run toward the whimsical, and on the less serious side there is a frightening amount of large roadside sculpture in the state….” – Minnesota Curiosities

Frazee, Minnesota is home to Big Tom, the World’s Largest Turkey. The original Big Tom was built in 1985, fashioned out of fiberglass, styrofoam and cardboard over a metal frame. He stood 22 feet high and for 12 years delighted the sightseers of Frazee. As he was being cleaned in 1997, Big Tom caught on fire, the flames shooting up 30 feet in the air.

In this video, the two brothers responsible for setting Big Tom on fire demonstrate the true extent of Minnesota nice.

BONUS: in case you want to see another Midwestern roadside attraction going up in flames, here’s the great Touchdown Jesus fire of 2010:

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Filed under Minnesota, Weird Midwest