Thursday, May 17, 2012

Happy May 17th!

by Avery Baker, from Jennie Bentley’s Do It Yourself home renovation mysteries

My father’s name was Baker. Kenneth Baker. English ancestry, as you can probably guess. The village baker. And my mother’s name, before she married him, was Morton. Another English name. I figure their ancestors probably came over on one of the boats following the Mayflower, and from Plymouth Rock, ended up settling in Waterfield, Maine.

But somewhere back there, in the mists of time, I had a Norwegian ancestor. That’s where my Aunt Inga got her name. And that’s probably where I got blonde hair – more Mello-Yellow, really, but let’s not get picky – and pale blue eyes.  
I don’t celebrate my Norwegian heritage, or any other, all that much. Like most Americans I’m a mongrel, and proud of it. But once in a while, it’s fun to identify with someone in particular.

Today is one of those days. May 17th is the Norwegian constitution day. In Norway, they’re celebrating with marching bands and parades. Same in Brooklyn, where a lot a Norwegians live. When I lived in New York City – and I did until just a couple of years ago, when Aunt Inga died and left me her house in Waterfield – we went there sometimes to join the fun.

There aren’t many Norwegians in Waterfield. We don’t have a parade. And Brooklyn is a bit too far for a daytrip. But I do my best to create my own fun. I have a party and invite my friends. I serve salmon – plenty of that in Maine – and kransekake. I decorate it with small Norwegian flags, in the Norwegian tradition. And I enjoy, for one day of the year, that I can identify with a history that goes back more than a few hundred years.

So what about you? Do you identify with a particular people in your ancestry? Do you celebrate their special days? What do you do?  

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Avery Baker made her first appearance in Jennie Bentley's Fatal Fixer Upper, back in 2008. Since then, she's appeared in four more DIY mysteries, with the sixth - Wall to Wall Dead - arriving September 4th. You can learn more about her doings and undoings at  



  1. When I learned I had German ancestors, I got a German language CD and began listening to it. The language came so naturally to me that a native German told me my accent was impeccable and asked where I'd studied. It made me wonder if the language was somehow in my genes. :)

  2. Ancestral memory, or one of those things. Or - if you're the scientific sort, who likes logical explanations - at some point when you were too young to remember, you heard your family members speaking German around you a lot and it got lost in the recesses of your brain until you needed it again. Take your pick. Great story, though!

  3. Well, my heritage is English, and I drink a lot of tea, and being Canadian, I celebrate Victoria Day... does that count? LOL.

  4. God Syttende Mai! Though my heritage is a mix of English, German, French and Norwegian ancestry, I always identify most with the English and Norwegian (which, considering Viking conquerers, are very closely entwined). Though I have not yet made it to England, I have been to Norway and loved it.

    I cannot tell you how happy it makes me to see someone get it right about May 17th being Norwegian Constitution Day, not Norwegian Independence Day, which did not come for a very long time after.

    There were a lot of Norwegian settlers in my state, so there are a number of communities that celebrate Syttende Mai -- though most will hold the big parades and demonstrations this weekend, rather than today. Still, it always makes my heart swell when I see those Norsk flags flying.

  5. Love that word - kransekake! I am German on both sides. I grew up in Chicago speaking German with my grandparents and their neighbors. I don't remember most of it now. I'm afraid my heart is in England.

  6. Absolutely it counts, Victoria!

    Joyce, kransekake is indeed wonderful; not just the word, but the thing itself. Although it helps if you like almonds and/or marzipan.

    Heather, god syttende mai til deg også! I grew up in Norway, so I've got the history down. Constitution was signed in 1814, after the union with Sweden was dissolved, but the union with Denmark didn't end until 1907, and even then, the new monarch was a Danish prince who changed his name when he became king of Norway. He did a good job for us, especially through the war years, but most people don't realize that the monarchy in Norway is only about 100 years old. Before that we were ruled from Stockholm or Copenhagen. :-)

  7. I don't do anything to celebrate my own ancestors, but there's an annual Scandanavian festival not far from here that we love going to when we can.

  8. Jenna: How coll that you grew up in Norway! I lived with a family near Egersund for three months when I was in high school and loved it.

    And...sigh. One of the local news stations got it wrong again this year, stating that it was a day celebrating Norwegian Independence. You'd think a news station, particularly one that participates in festivities ever year, would verify their facts. :-\