Yes, there is a Santa Claus. His Name is Julenissen.

Do you know what a Julenissen is? I first heard this term in the summer of 2012, when Tony, Gio (hubby and son) and I spent the summer traveling around North Dakota. Even though I’m a lifelong North Dakotan and world traveler, up until that time I’d never taken the time to explore much of my home state beyond Fargo.

Gio is the 6th generation of North Dakotans in our family, and I wanted him to have a deeper connection to where and who he comes from. We called our adventure “Lost on the Prairie” and each weekend for over 3 months we visited someplace new in North Dakota.

Tony-in-LOTP-car.jpg

It was an extraordinary experience that created not only a deep sense of place and connection for all of us, but a love for our state that has only grown since that summer.

One evening, while out for dinner in Jamestown, ND, we ran into a large group of Norwegians who were traveling through the state.

As we waited nearly an hour for a table we struck up a conversation with one couple, and Gio couldn’t help but mention how much the man looked like Santa Claus. With a twinkle in his eye, he replied, “Well, that’s because I am.”

Norwegian Friends in Jamestown Julenissen

He then shared with us how he was an official Julenissen (Norwegian for Santa Claus), and was even a member of a Julenissen Society. We visited and learned that he was traveling with a group of musicians who would be playing later that week at the Sons of Norway in downtown Fargo.

Julenissen accordion

Gio and I went to watch their performance, and afterward we exchanged addresses with our new friends, then went our separate ways. Imagine our surprise when, three months later (just before Christmas), Gio received a package from our Norwegian Santa, with a t-shirt, books, music and an authentic Norwegian Julenissen doll.

Gio Julenissen collage

Each year we display our treasured Julenissen and share the story of how he came to our family. I love what this doll represents: friendship, travel, adventure, heritage and Christmas. Yes, there is a Santa Claus, and I’ve met him. His name is Julenissen. Jeg tror på julenissen.

We’re celebrating Norwegian good food and words all this week, so be sure to check out our favorite Norwegian Christmas recipes and enjoy a very Merry Christmas season and a God Jul!


Celebrate a Norwegian Christmas with Rosettes & More

My beloved grandfather, Don Mathison, was a proud Norwegian-American and as a child our family Christmas feasts showcased traditional specialties like lefse and pickled herring, as well as sweet pastries made by my mom, like krumkake and rosettes.

With much of my life overrun by all things Italian these days – men, pasta, pride – the holidays present a welcome opportunity for me to celebrate my Norwegian heritage in the best way I know – through food. Read More



Recipe Time Capsule, week of Dec. 2 – 8

I write a weekly food column for Forum Communications, which appears in The Forum newspaper and several of its subsidiaries throughout the Midwest. This page shares links to past columns featured this week, since the column’s debut in 2012. Enjoy, and let me know if you find a new favorite! For printable copies of each recipe, see the links at the bottom of the page.

Printable Recipes


Recipe Time Capsule, week of Nov. 25 – Dec. 1

I write a weekly food column for Forum Communications, which appears in The Forum newspaper and several of its subsidiaries throughout the Midwest. This page shares links to past columns featured this week, since the column’s debut in 2012. Enjoy, and let me know if you find a new favorite!

This Week In…

2017
Cranberry Snowballs &
Savory Pine Nut Cheese Crisps
Cranberry snowball cheese crisp collage

2016
Sarah’s Homemade Granolahomemade-granola-cropped

2015
Norwegian Glogg & Italian Hot Chocolate
glogg-hot-chocolate-collage-new.jpg

2014
Candied Nuts
candied-nuts.jpg
2013
Butternut Squash Soup
Butternut Squash Soup

2012
Peppermint Bark &
Panettone Bread Pudding
peppermint-bark-panettone-bread-pudding-collage.jpg