Christmas greetings > Scandinavian style

Holiday lawn display is tribute to Nyberg family heritage
A tribute to the Scandinavian heritage of the Nyberg family in Gladstone is evident in this holiday display on the front lawn of Anders Nyberg in Gladstone. The display includes a figure of “Jul Tomten,” the Scandinavian version of Santa Claus, riding on a sparkstottnig, a Swedish kick sled. Merry Christmas greetings, complete with national flags, are also pronounced in both Swedish and Finnish.

Americans have their Santa Claus. The French have their “Pere Noel” (Father Christmas). He’s “Kris Kringle” (Christ Child) to the Germans. The Italians know him as “Babbo Natale” (Father Christmas).

The legend of the benevolent Christmas visitor is almost universal and what better way to showcase your heritage than to celebrate the Christmas season with your ethnic equivalent to Santa.

“Jul Tomten,” poised on his “sparkstottnig” on the front lawn of Anders Nyberg in Gladstone, has been creating quite a lot of interest to passersby. Jul Tomten is the Scandinavian version of Santa Claus, and a sparkstottnig is a Swedish kick sled. Both celebrate the Swedish and Finnish heritage of the Nyberg family.

“People drive by and have to take a second look,” said Anders’ father, Carl Nyberg, who spearheaded the ethnic Christmas project. “I don’t think this has ever been done before and our family thought it would be a cute thing, something different from the standard wreaths and candles. It’s something a little bit different.”

Included in the lawn display are two signs with the greeting “Merry Christmas” one in Swedish (“God Jul”) and Finnish (Hauskaa Joulua”). Each sign includes a flag of the respective country.

“The American equivalent to ‘Jul’ would be ‘Yule’ and a ‘Tomten’ is a little Brownie or elf,” the senior Nyberg explained. “It is the Scandinavians’ equivalent of Santa Claus, and it appears on all Swedish, Norwegian and Finnish greeting cards for the Christmas season. We have lots of Tomten in our house. We decided to make this display to honor our heritage, as my late wife, Florence, was born of Finnish immigrants, and my parents were immigrants from Sweden.”

Nyberg said the inspiration for this project came when his niece brought him some Christmas napkins that depicted the brownie or elf standing on a kick sled.

“In the Nyberg family, we have two of these sleds, one dating back to 1920,” said Nyberg. “My father used this for transportation to and from his blacksmith shop. There were a number of these sleds around during the Depression, when the streets were still snow laden. When my brother, Stanley, broke his leg one winter, brother Lloyd and I would take him to the fish shack before school, and pick him up at noon. A dozen years ago when the Olympics were held in Lillehammar, Norway, there were many of these sleds shown on TV.”

Although the idea to create the display was initially thought of as “kinda silly,” the family quickly got into the spirit.

“It was a family fun project and once we got into it, we really got kinda excited about it,” said Nyberg. “Betty (Nyberg’s daughter-in-law) made everything above the shoulders, and Lloyd (Nyberg’s brother) and Anders helped with the lower torso. Our thanks to St. Vinnie for supplying the body parts.”

Although Nyberg has been to Sweden on a number of occasions, he said he has never visited there over the Christmas holidays. Nevertheless, he believes the custom of the Christmas “elf” leaving gifts for children is similar to the gift giving of the American Santa Claus.