POULSBO – Vikings, torches and bonfire: It’s very different from anything Tricia Becker and her husband, Michael, have experienced before.
Both working remotely in the tech industry, the couple moved from Seattle to Poulsbo a month ago and visited Julefest for the first time on Saturday.
The Beckers arrived at Muriel Iverson Williams Waterfront at around 4:15 p.m. Shortly after, a group of people dressed in Viking costumes walked along the shore of Liberty Bay. Some wore horned helmets. Most of them held torches in their hands.
The Vikings were heading for a jetty when a small boat arrived. Dressed in a white dress, a red sash, and a crown of candles on her head, Santa Lucia’s bride got off the boat and was escorted by the Vikings to shore.
On the grass next to the Austin-Kvelstad pavilion, the Viking King read a winter solstice proclamation, followed by the group lighting a bonfire.
The crowd cheered and cheered through the flames.
“It’s wonderful,” said Tricia Becker. “I don’t know if everyone here is from the city, but I feel like the whole city is coming for this.”
The Beckers are used to seeing a city decorated and having Christmas tree lights for the holiday season, but nothing like a bonfire, Tricia Becker said.
“… Also, that great sense of community that we haven’t seen in Seattle,” said Michael Becker, who had lived in Seattle for seven years.
Over 280 people gathered at the park to witness the twilight event. People close to the Vikings raised their cell phones as high as possible to capture the scene. A few couples smiled at the camera and managed to snap a selfie in the crowd.
After a suggestion from his wife, Gregory Patterson, and his daughter, Marlie, of Silverdale, whose family is Swedish, also made it to Julefest for the first time. They arrived around 3:30 p.m. but did not have a chance to try Norwegian food before the ceremony as shops were packed with people queuing, they said.
“I think it’s very beautiful,” said Marlie Patterson. Seeing Bride Lucia made Marlie Patterson more curious about the tradition, she said.
“Loved it. It was just fun,” said Gregory Patterson.
Sons of Norway in Poulsbo has celebrated Julefest for 40 years since 1981, said Paul Anunsons, former president of the Poulsbo Lodge.
The mission of the organization is to preserve and promote Norwegian heritage. Local lodges are encouraged to organize events in their own way, so the way the lodge hosts Julefest may be different from what others do, Anunsons said.
“It’s not prescribed,” Anunsons said. “We just tried to join a tradition and a legacy to celebrate.”
17-year-old Katerina Kraus was thrilled to play Santa Lucia’s bride this year.
“It’s a real experience that I’m so happy to have had,” said Kraus.
A student at Bainbridge High School, Kraus joined the Sons of Norway as a child and danced for the organization’s events for 11 years, she said.
Attending Julefest is a way for her to show her appreciation for the culture her family belongs to, said Kraus, whose grandparents are from Norway. It’s also a way to encourage other young people to be a part of the culture they come from, she said.
“I feel like once you start to mature a bit, you can see that being a part of the culture is a really cool thing,” Kraus said.
Before the bonfire, Scandinavian vendors were selling Norwegian holiday items and food in the lodge. The event drew nearly 4,000 people who visited the lodge on Saturday, more than 2019, according to Anunsons.
Last year, the Sons of Norway were unable to hold a public rally as usual due to the pandemic, but they did live stream the arrival of Santa Lucia on Facebook, according to the organization.
The organization has been planning the Julefest event for three to four months, although not everyone is sure whether the pandemic would affect the event again, said Sherry White, president of the Poulsbo Pavilion.
“We had planned for the event to happen. We just didn’t know it would be such a success,” White said. “It’s just wonderful.”