Monday, December 03, 2007

Anna's Day

That's right - this Sunday (December 9th) is Anna's Day. Well, not our good friend, Anna Campbell, but every Anna. At least in Sweden... where it's a day for recognizing everyone named Anna. (Where's Mark Day, huh?! How did I get cheated?)

It's also the day that they begin preparing the lutefisk in order for it to be ready for consumption on Christmas Eve.

Maybe you've missed out on the joys of lutefisk. In case that's true, let me describe it to you: it's whitefish that's been soaked in cold water, then in cold water & lye, then back in cold water again. (This process takes a couple of weeks... it's not like you're going to run home & whip up some of this for dinner tonight.) The fish is then cooked - thank goodness. The lye breaks down the fish in such a way that it has a jelly-ish consistency... and if your brain and/or stomach can't handle that description, let me suggest you avoid eating poi if you ever get to go to Hawaii. It also (esp. if prepared from cod) has a VERY strong fish-y odor.

Anyway, lutefisk is a traditional winter dish in Scandinavian cultures - though we here in America actually consume more of the stuff than they do in Norway & Sweden. It's become a common humor reference - everyone from Jeffery Steingarten ("The Man Who Ate Everything") to the animated TV show King of the Hill (where Bobby develops a manic love for the dish) to the film Drop Dead Gorgeous. Of course, my favorite humorist of Scandinavian descent, Garrison Keillor, has written about it as well:
Every Advent we entered the purgatory of lutefisk, a repulsive gelatinous fishlike dish that tasted of soap and gave off an odor that would gag a goat. We did this in honor of Norwegian ancestors, much as if survivors of a famine might celebrate their deliverance by feasting on elm bark. I always felt the cold creeps as Advent approached, knowing that this dread delicacy would be put before me and I’d be told, "Just have a little." Eating a little was like vomiting a little, just as bad as a lot.
What a lovely Christmas tradition, eh?

Of course, this got me thinking. What Christmas traditions do we do that continue year after year despite the fact that nobody really sees any meaning in them? Are we wasting time & energy doing stuff "just because" when we could free up ourselves to enjoy our family and, more importantly, Jesus himself during the celebration of His birth?

And that leads to another question: what are the lutefisk things we do in church? What do we force people to "just have a little" of that has nothing to do with following Christ & His truth?

Something to think about while you're looking for a parking spot at the mall, I guess.

The source for most of the information in this article is the always interesting Wikipedia.


Mikko said...

Well, in Finland Mark's day (since it's related to Markus, Marko and other Finnish variations) would be April 25th. Feel free to celebrate!

Mark (aka pastor guy) said...

Yippee... a holiday of my very own.

Thanks, Mikko!

Jeffrey J Johnson said...

I have always loved lutefisk, since I was a child. My family is from Minnesota originally and we have had to do a lot just to get some during the holidays now that we are in Tennessee.