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11

An Obituary for an Annual Dinner

For 70 years, Faith Lutheran Church in Forest Lake, Minnesota, served an annual lutefisk dinner on the second Tuesday in December. The community was settled by Scandinavian immigrants, and the church served a traditional dinner of lutefisk, lefse, boiled potatoes, meatballs, and other traditional dishes. The church has decided to discontinue the feast this year, and to get the community's attention, pastor John Klawiter wrote an obituary for the dinner, published in the Forest Lake Times. I guess it's true that more people read the obituaries than any other section of the newspaper. People outside of Forest Lake might think that the cause of death would be lack of participation due to a waning taste for lutefisk (a gelatinous dish made by reconstituting dried whitefish with lye), but that wasn't the case. Five hundred people came to eat last year. Go figure.

Ultimately, it was the aging of the volunteers that helped contribute to the decision to finally pull the plug on the 70-year tradition.

“We gathered earlier this fall,” Zarembinski said. “The process begins with a head count.  Who is still able to stand to help in the kitchen? Who is no longer able to drive and will need a ride or isn’t able to come at all? Who is in a nursing home and isn’t able to help as they have in the past? Who has passed away in the last year? Who has moved south away from the cold already?” There’s a theme here.

“The average age of the most recent core group of volunteers chairpersons is approximately 75 years old,” she said. “Not only is nobody getting any younger, but it has become more and more difficult to find volunteers that would have an impact on lowering that average age significantly.”

RIP, Faith Lutheran Scandinavian Dinner. -via Atlas Obscura

(Image courtesy of Rev. John Klawiter)


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If these are good Scandinavians, after the funeral they should be able to bury the dinner tradition for a few years, then dig it up and it should be ready to go again.
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I remember a heated discussion between my wife and mother-in-law about the making and eating of lefse. Neither of them had made it before and my father-in-law declared that family tradition stated that sugar and butter were the only allowed toppings.
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This is super sad. :( My family is from Finland, so I was raised with pickled fish and the Lutheran church. It's not something I've ever prepared myself though so I can kind of see how this happened... :(
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