Posted by: marymarthatours | December 8, 2014

A Nordic Christmas at the American Swedish Institute

We are re-posting this blog article from 2 years ago – we hope you enjoy it:

It had been quite some time since I last visited the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis at holiday time, but this year I went twice. We took Martha and Collie there while they were in Minnesota at Thanksgiving time, and I thought it was so spectacular that I talked my mini club, the Sue’s Day Girls, into going there for a “road trip”.


American Swedish Institute, Minneapolis

The American Swedish Institute, an early 20th century fairy-tale mansion just south of downtown Minneapolis, and it’s newly constructed companion building, the Nelson Cultural Center, are the setting for the ASI’s annual holiday tradition, A Nordic Christmas. Five different rooms on two floor of the mansion are decorated for the Christmas season in the traditions of the Scandinavian countries of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland. This year the overall theme is “A Royal Christmas” and each room honors that country’s royalty or head of state.

Before you even get to the rooms, you are stunned by the absolutely gorgeous mansion entry hall. Two stories tall, the entry hall is dominated by a carved mahogany fireplace surround that goes to the ceiling and a wide stairway leading to the second floor.

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Also on the ground floor are the richly carved music room, the Rococo Revival salon, a den (now used to show a video of mansion owner Swan Turnblad’s story), and the dining room, the first of the country-themed Christmas rooms, the Sweden room.

I didn’t know where to look first in the dining room — at the elegantly set table, ready for the King and Queen of Sweden – the gorgeous Christmas tree with tiny, white, ball-shaped lights that I had not seen before – or just the room itself with its amazing sideboard and fireplace. After this feast for the eyes, it was fun to explore the shelves displaying ornately folded napkins.

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The Norway room on the second floor is actually 2 spaces, the former library and reading room. The library has a lovely table set for the holiday with a centerpiece that I intend to copy. The adjoining reading room features children’s toys and lots of nissen (A nisse or tomte is a Norwegian farm-elf or gnome).


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I was surprised to find a much more modern take on Christmas in the Finland room, but I liked it very much, especially the Christmas tree decorated with gingerbread cookie ornaments. Martha even found one of a fox, very special for her since her surname, Liska, means ‘fox’ in Slovakian.


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The Iceland room was a return to traditional holiday decorations, but the Denmark room was again more modern with its table set with beautiful Bing & Grondahl holiday plates.

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There was more to see on the third floor, but I will let you find that for yourself on a visit to the American Swedish Museum. Check out the Museum’s website for directions and hours. Be sure to stop at the FIKA coffee shop for a delicious treat and the holiday gift shop to purchase a nisse or two for your own house.


Martha checking out the gift shop

(by Mary)

All photos by Mary or Collie. The ASI allows photography if it is done without flash.



  1. Thank you for these lovely pictures of the Swedish Institute. I think I’d love to spend the day there, maybe curled up with a cup of tea and a good book, maybe sitting quietly in each room trying to absorb the craftsmanship and beauty and maybe enjoying a sumptuous meal in that elegant dining room. Hummm I wonder what the bedrooms look like. Merry Christmas to you both, peace, Kathleen

  2. Mary, what an amazing woman you are! Thank you for sharing all your stories ( and this website) with us while we visited at dinner at the Madonna Towers!
    Praying for you and hope your eye surgery went well. Bill’s rehab continues very slowly compared to last year! Happy thanksgiving to you and Jess

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