A window inside life at Augustana College

Tomte Spotting at Bishop Hill

Hello! On Sunday (Dec. 8th), the Scandinavian Club travelled to Bishop Hill, IL, for its annual Chocolate Walk. Being a member of the club and a lover of chocolate, I, of course, went with my friend Michelle.

It was the perfect day for such an event due to the fact it was snowing. I know there are a bunch of you out there that hate the snow, but c’mon, what is December without it? For those of you that love the snow and can’t get enough of it, look up the Swedish word for snow (snö) in Google Images. Varsågod! (You’re welcome!) But I digress.

Bishop Hill, for those of you who don’t know, is a small village in Henry county, IL. It was founded in 1846 by Swedish immigrants, including Eric Janson, and is considered an Illinois State Historic site. There are still some original buildings, such as the Colony Blacksmith shop and the there are goodies galore: Dala horses of all sizes, tomte ornaments, candles, toys, a whole array of candies (including Swedish fish), and much more. There are multiple signs stating encouraging one to come behind the counters to take a closer look at items on the shelves. It is always one of the first places I visit because I know I am sure to find something to buy, either a Christmas gift for someone or for myself.

Every year around this time, Bishop Hill observe some Jul traditions. One of which is having children dressed as tomtes walk around.


Tomte are mythological creatures from Swedish folklore typically associated with the winter solstice and Christmas season. They are somewhat like garden gnomes, being short, bearded, and wearing red hats. It is believed the tomte of the farmhouse would leave gifts if the residents of the farm were good and took care of the animals and land.

In Bishop Hill, tomtes were everywhere. Not that I’m complaining. In fact, I made a sort of game of it: find all the tomtes!




I also saw these straw goats…although they looked more like straw llamas to me. These straw goats are another Swedish Jul tradition.


So…with all these Swedish winter traditions, how about one more? Augustana’s Scandinavian Club holds a smörgåsbord every year in December called julbord. It is a standard Christmas dinner in Sweden. There will be cheese, crisp bread, meat, knöttbullar (Swedish meatballs–my favorite!), and desserts, including snow pudding, all of which is made by the members of the club.

This year, julbord will be December 15th in Founder’s basement. Come and enjoy some good food and good company!


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