A Scandinavian celebration

Palmerston North Anne Odogwu6 April 2011 People of Scandinavian descent celebrated their forebears who settled in the Dannevirke and Norsewood areas in the 1870s in a festival held in the…

Palmerston North

Anne Odogwu
6 April 2011

People of Scandinavian descent celebrated their forebears who settled in the Dannevirke and Norsewood areas in the 1870s in a festival held in the two towns at the end of February.

Scandinavian festivals started in 1983 to commemorate the way our forebears lived when they arrived in New Zealand and the hardships they endured in clearing the land for farming including sometimes losing their possessions in the huge bushfires used to clear the bush.

It is important to remember these people who made such sacrifices in leaving their homelands forever and, in the case of my grandparents, losing their own Danish language in an effort to learn English. It shows that we Scandinavians have a similar culture to the tangata whenua as we seek to commemorate these people.

The first gatherings reflected areas of Scandinavian settlement taking place in Norsewood in 1983, followed by Mauriceville, New Plymouth, Dannevirke, Foxton, Auckland, Carterton, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch and Auckland.

This year the Scandinavian Festival was back in Norsewood and Dannevirke and a highlight was the launch of the booklet Whispering Roads: A Wellington to Napier Scandinavian trail prepared by Kay Flavell. The interactive booklet introduces the traveller to places along the route where some 5,000 Swedish, Danish and Norwegian immigrants arrived as part of a plan to combine immigration with the building of roads and rail. The Scandinavian settlers also established farms and the dairy industry. A CD is planned to supplement the booklet.

Festival visitors included a small Norwegian dancing group, The Hallingdale Valley Mountaineers, a 40-strong Danish dancing troupe and a group of Danish dancers from Auckland. The governor general, Sir Anand Satyanand, opened the festival and flags commemorated each of the Faeroe Islands, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland and New Zealand.
The next day in the Norsewood marketplace, the Swedes set up their maypole, distinctive in that it is covered in greenery and flowers with two large flower-bedecked rings.

Festival goers were entertained at a banquet on Saturday night in the Dannevirke Town Hall by the Rock On band from Norsewood. A thanksgiving service on Sunday morning featured a final benediction sung to the tune of ‘Eidelweiss’.

May the Lord, Mighty God
Bless and keep you forever
Grant you peace, perfect peace,
Courage in every endeavour,
Lift up your eyes and see His face,
And His grace forever
May the Lord, Mighty God,
Bless and keep you forever.

The keynote speaker, Roger Clausen, is a fifth-generation New Zealander whose forebears arrived in Wellington on a ship under a yellow flag because nine people had died of yellow fever on the trip. The ship was quarantined on Somes Island.

For more information go to www.scandinaviantrail.org.nz/index.html

See also Prayer for Scandinavian migrants