Sure. At holidays and celebrations, we've all participated in the traditional American toast. But according to the spirited new exhibition at Vesterheim Museum in Decorah, certain Norwegian drinking traditions might just be a whole lot more enthusiastic. Did you know Scandinavians have brewed beer for over 1,500 years? These people know what they're doing. Enter the word skål, (pronounced skoal) which has survived generations of Scandinavian assimilation in the states. The word accompanies a toast and drink among friends. Literally, skål means "bowl," and relates to an older custom of passing the traditional Norwegian ale bowl (That's right-- not a glass. Not a stein. A bowl), from person to person.
How to skål:
- Raise your glass.
- Look your companions in the eye.
- Say "skål" with gusto.
- Take a drink.
- Look your companions in the eye again.
- Set down your glass.
Intrigued? Check out the exhibition, running from August 12th through December 31st, which focuses on both beer and aquavit- the traditional flavored spirit of Scandinavia that means "the water of life."
For centuries, alcoholic beverages have played a role in spirited Scandinavian celebrations, inspiring amazing folk art and raising the ire of Temperance and religious leaders. Vesterheim invites you to raise your glass in a skål to these traditions by visiting this exciting exhibition.
Curated by the Museum of Danish America and presented by Aalborg and Linie Aquavits, the traveling exhibition shares the history and traditions of drinking culture in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, and identifies how those traditions carried into the U.S. with immigrants.
Drinking traditions offer one fascinating way for Scandinavian Americans to connect to their heritage. In pre-Christian times, the Norse god Odin was credited with teaching humans how to brew beer, and drinking beer was often involved in worship and as offering to the deities. Beer was part of battle victory celebrations and sometimes even drinking challenges. In the 1500s, distilled liquor became known through Scandinavia as a medical cure-all. Early distilling efforts often produced awful flavors, so herbs and other plants were used to improve the taste—creating what is now known as aquavit. But there's more to the story. Check out the great events and classes below and join in the fun at Vesterheim this fall through December.
- September 10: Join the party at an exhibition opening reception from 5:00-7:00 p.m. This event includes a free public aquavit tasting with Claus Toftkjær, from the Norwegian company Arcus, and gallery talks by Tova Brandt, curator at the Museum of Danish America, who created this special exhibition. You must be 21 to attend this event
- October 21: What is aquavit anyway? Find out, by joining Lexi, the gregarious and outspoken proprietor of the Old Ballard Liquor Co., for an afternoon of education and tastings as you explore the different styles and personalities of this spicy liquor.
Vesterheim’s presentation of this exhibition is sponsored by Dennis Johnson, The Edward Jones Investment Offices of Dick Cuvelier and Troy Whitehill, A&J Petersburg Agency, and Dennis Larson.