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  • Nov 12, 2012

Share the Tomte Love at the American Swedish Institute

Christmas holidays mean warm new traditions for the entire family.

MINNEAPOLIS — NOVEMBER 12, 2012 — The magic of the Twin Cities holiday season lives in beloved annual local traditions such as ‘A Christmas Carol,’ Holidazzle and the Macy’s display. This year, family holiday traditions can make room for a new celebration or two — by including a visit to the newly expanded American Swedish Institute (ASI).

ASI offers a wide assortment of holiday programs for the entire family, from crafts to museum exhibits to educational events, included in the museum’s general admission as well as special advance registration activities.

“Scandinavian holiday traditions are some of the coziest in the world,” says Bruce Karstadt, CEO, American Swedish Institute. “And we’re so glad to offer them as a new part of everyone’s holiday traditions, thanks to our bigger American Swedish Institute campus.”

The original American Swedish Institute castle — the Turnblad Mansion — will be decked out for the season from Sat., Nov. 3 through Sun., Jan. 13, 2013. The mansion’s rooms are each decorated to represent the holiday traditions of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden through beautifully ornamented trees, elaborate table settings and other touches.

One such decoration—and defining spirit of the holidays at ASI—is the Tomte: the traditional Swedish Christmas elf. The Tomte is always a big part of the ASI’s holiday celebrating; this year he’s popping up throughout the museum, in the gift store and in Twin Cities homes. “The American Swedish Institute wants to share the fun family tradition of the

Christmas Tomte with everyone this season,” says Karstadt.  “Did you know that every home has a Tomte? He’s just waiting to be invited in. This Scandinavian tradition is a lot of fun, and this year the ASI has Tomtes hiding throughout our museum, and more than 150 kinds of Tomtes available in our gift shop. Now everyone can take a Tomte home, along with information about the care and feeding of your own Scandinavian Christmas elf.”

ASI’s very own “living” Tomte will appear in person on Sat. and Sun., Dec. 1 and 2, at Julmarknad, ASI’s Christmas Market, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Handcrafted items from local artists will be available for sale, and everyone can participate in traditional handcraft projects called slöjd (“sloid”), cozy up around the outdoor firepit and try the fiskdamm (fishing pond). Outdoor booths will serve warm winter treats like toasted nuts, warm glögg, coffee and hot chocolate, and inside open-faced sandwiches and baked goods will be sold. Families can take a break with storytime or watch Christmas cartoons, and music and dance groups will perform — both indoors and out.

Visitors to the institute are invited to get artsy during “Making Traditions” in the Turnblad Mansion Sunday afternoons in November and December. The program is included with museum admission and involves drop-in slöjd projects as well as a musical performance from one of ASI’s many singing and dancing groups. Visitors can express their creativity with eight unique Nordic-inspired handcrafts that vary from heartstring ornaments to sparkling ice crystals to paper heart baskets. A special session for kids on Sunday, Nov. 25 will focus on making a Tomte.

Also included with museum admission is the charming third floor attic of the Turnblad Mansion, specially geared for kids. Little onescan interactively explore Swedish traditions through a youth exhibit and dramatic play area by pretend-baking gingerbread people and Lucia buns, dressing up in costumes, serving fika (tea and treats) to friends, and decorating the ASI tree with traditional Swedish ornaments.  The youth area will also include a wall-sized calendar displaying families, sites, and celebrations associated with Christmas in Sweden. Youngsters can enjoy Swedish holiday story times (read in English) on Saturdays, Dec. 15 and 22 at 2:30 p.m.

The Museum Shop at ASI has expanded for the holiday season, too, featuring two rooms of carefully curated Scandinavian jewelry, books, housewares, clothing and foods, including bulk Swedish candies; and more than 150 varieties of the Christmas Tomte to bring home— many handmade in Sweden.

Other programs, which require advance registration, are also offered this year at the American Swedish Institute, including family crafts and educational events. “Edible Architecture” on Sunday, Nov. 25, allows families to decorate a pre-assembled pepparkakshus with provided candy decorations and a dose of sugary imagination for creating an embellished, delicious gingerbread house.

ASI also offers interactive programs for preschool children and their adults, centered around the Tomte. “Hide and Seek with Tomte” is a search party for hidden elves in the museum on Saturday, Dec. 15 or Tuesday, Dec. 18 at 10:30 a.m. Along the way, kids will explore who Tomte is through stories, crafts, and activities.

Another festive gem not to miss is the Lucia Celebration, rejoicing in the darkness of winter with a Swedish festival of light. Beautiful songs from ASI’s Lucia Choir will accompany this stunning celebration on Saturday, Dec. 8 at 2:30 p.m. at the American Swedish Institute.

For more information on any of the activities and to register for the special events, call 612-871-4907 or visit

The American Swedish Institute (ASI) is a vibrant arts and cultural organization, museum, and historic home located at 2600 Park Avenue near downtown Minneapolis. ASI attracts more than 65,000 people each year for tours of the landmark 1908 Turnblad Mansion, exhibits, classes and events that connect the community to contemporary Nordic culture and cultural heritage. Founded in 1929 by Swedish immigrant newspaper publisher Swan J. Turnblad, ASI serves as a gathering place for people to share stories and experiences around universal themes of tradition, migration, craft and the arts, all informed by enduring ties to Sweden. Museum hours: Tue., Thu., Fri., Sun. 12–5 p.m., Wed. 12–8 p.m., and Sat. 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Museum admission: $7, $6 ages 62+, $4 ages 6-18 and students with ID. For directions or more information, visit


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