Friday, December 05, 2008


Today is Sinter Claas in the Nederlands. Brother Ole, a friend of mine for fourty years, is a monk in a Dutch Benedictine Monastery. The monks also celebrate today and become small gifts.
Brother Ole, who's great passions are books and icon painting, will hide the gifts sent him from Norway for Christmas Eve. He'll open them alone in his cell. He even has a small baby tree up there.
Hard to understand that some willingly gives so much of his life away.

I have become a mystery gift this week. A friend of mine had to empty a cabinet in her living room. She found this walnut tree box with my name in it. She could however not remember who had brought it there. So now I have this mystery gift placed in my kitchen window. For grace.

Jeg Er Saa glad was composed in 1859 by Peder Knudsen with lyrics by Marie Wexelsen. For me it is the pinnacle of Norwegian Christmas songs both because of it’s popularity and simplicity.

I remember very well as a young child in Seattle attending the Sons of Norway Sumnerslaget Christmas celebration. Hundreds of salty Norwegians would sing this song in chorus. What a beautiful sound that I quite took for granted.

Lyrics in English and Norwegian Posted Below

This song is performed well by choirs from both St. Olaf and Pacific Lutheran University. You will find CD’s easily online if interested.
Imagine my utter shock to see these lyrics posted on a website under the general classification of “Scandinavian”. You should know that although us Norwegians are quiet, boring and stale - we are fiercely proud of our heritage. Do not count the Vikings out as they may emerge again for global domination. Norskes do not consider “Swedish” and “Danish” as a complete trilogy of our heritage as many assume. We are our own people - thick headed, muleish and the bravest of the brave.

You should also know that although Ballard, WA (largely Norwegian population) is a suburb of Seattle, very few Norskes will admit this fact. Norskes refer to Seattle as a suburb of Ballard.

Jeg Er Sa Glad is usually written in 3/4 or 6/8 time, but has a gentle lilt that suggests 6/8. Think of falling snow, gently swishing your skis down the slope side to side - and you will have the correct feel for this traditional Norwegian Christmas song.

Jeg er så glad hver julekveld,
for da ble Jesus født,
da lyste stjernen som en sol,
og engler sang så søtt.

Det lille barn i Betlehem,
han var en konge stor
som kom fra himlens høye slott
ned til vår arme jord.

Nå bor han høyt i himmerik,
han er Guds egen Sønn,
men husker alltis på de små
og hører deres bønn.

Jeg er så glad hver julekveld,
da synger vi hans pris:
da åpner han for alle små
sitt søte paradis.

Da tenner moder alle lys,
så ingen krok er mørk;
hun sier stjernen lyste så
i hele verdens ørk.

Hun sier at den lyser enn
og slukkes aldri ut,
og hvis den skinner på min vei,
da kommer jeg til Gud.

Jeg holder av vår julekveld
og av den herre Krist
og at han elsker meg igjen,
det vet jeg ganske visst.


1. I am so glad each Christmas Eve,
The night of Jesus’ birth!
Then like the sun the Star shone forth,1
And angels sang on earth.

2. The little Child in Bethlehem,
He was a King indeed!
For He came down from heaven above
To help a world in need.

3. He dwells again in heaven’s realm,
The Son of God today;
And still He loves His little ones
And hears them when they pray.

4. I am so glad on Christmas Eve!
His praises then I sing;
He opens then for every child
The palace of the King.2

5. When mother trims the Christmas tree
Which fills the room with light,
She tells me of the wondrous Star
That made the dark world bright.

6. She says the Star is shining still,
And never will grow dim;
And if it shines upon my way,
It leads me up to Him.

7. And so I love each Christmas Eve
And I love Jesus, too;
And that He loves me every day
I know so well is true.

Words: “Jeg Er Saa Glad Hver Julekveld,” Marie Wexelsen, 1859; translated from Norwegian to English by Peter Andrew Sveeggen (1881-1959). Wexelsen (1832-1911) published three children’s books, among them Ketil, en Julegave for De Smaa (”Ketil, a Christmas Gift for Little Ones”), where this Christmas carol introduced a longer story. At that time she entitled it “The Child’s Christmas Carol.”

Music: “Jeg Er Saa glad” (”Christmas Eve”), Peder Knudsen (1819-1863), 1859

Posted by askland


Debbie Petras said...

Felisol- How happy I am to have found you! I remember singing that song in Norwegian but never knew what the words meant. My family was very active in Sons of Norway as I was growing up. My grandparents all came over from Norway and settled in Brooklyn, New York. My father's father started a Norwegian church. The all eventually moved out to Long Island, NY where I was born and raised.

My parents were fluent in the Norwegian language. Music was such a huge part of our home as my mom played the piano and both she and my dad sang. My brother, sister and I would gather around the piano and sing songs, many of which were Norwegian. When I heard the music and words to this song, I was able to sing along because I remembered. I haven't heard it in so many years.

Thank you for blessing me more than you can know. I'm going to send a link to your site to my dad who is living in Florida. He is going to be 80 in February and enjoys reading blogs but doesn't comment on them. But I know he will also smile when he listens to this song and reads many of your words.

Amrita said...

I have a great fasination for monks and moastaries. Its sucha peaceful life dedicated to the service of God and mankind.Those who are called for it are really blessed.

Glad you got your mystery walnit box.

It is most befiiting for the brave Vikings to protect and hold on to thier history and heritage.
My internet is very slow today I will listen to the song when it improves.

Felisol said...

Dear Debbie,
Am I glad that you are happy!
I set out this Advent blogging thinking that we know all the English Christmas Carols, but the dear Norwegians are hardly sung outside Norway's borders. Except for in the Son's of Norway and in Church of Norway Seamen's Churches all around the globe.
I thought it would be nice if anyone could find something new.

Never thought of the youn woman remembering her Childhood.
Oh, I had to read your post to my husband this morning. We both felt blssed.

I bet your Dad down in Florida easily sing along too.
Childhood memories sure are a blessing.
Send your Dad my best. Has he been back in the Old country?
The road back can seem awful long.
Thing changes here as well.
The climate in Florida must be far more attractive than darkness, rain and frost here North.

My daughter was in California this summer. She speaks highly of the Norwegian Seaman's Church in San Pedro, Calif. Even that is a long way from Florida.
They do serve waffles, meat cakes and lots of Carols this time of the year though.

I'd love to hear more about your Dad.
I know that the were lots and lots of Norwegians in Brooklyn in the 40ies and 50ies.
Now there's only one Norwegian store left there.

Dear Amrita,
I also like monks, even better than nuns..
I stayed one week with the Benedictines and met some of the purest and most interesting people ever.
They also song this wonderful Gregorian song five times a day in church, and even by the meals. I was fortunate enough to share meals with them.
Knowing that monks and nons aare praying around the clock for the rest of the world feels very comforting.
These days in particular.

Mmm. I was touched by the mystery box, but also sad that I have not thanked the person giving it.
Gifts and gits' regifts best preserve a friendship, my Mom says.

I think people from any country or cultural background should know and be reasonable proud of its heritage.
I am not proud of the many battle the vikings fought. They were also brave, clever boat builders, sailors and huntsmen, that's a good thing.
And they treasured their history by writing it down in this weird rune alphabet, I thing highly of that too.

I think India was a much higher civilization than Norway. People lived richer both in wealth and climate.
Then again some Indians wandered the known routes from India all the way to Scandinavia in the years of people wanderings.

The circle goes around.
Have a nice Second Sunday of Advent
from Felisol