Every year around Christmas time Nicole would have the store staff put up julenek on our garland and on our trees outside the store. Birds would come to eat the julenek and nobody who passed by could deny the Christmas spirit contained in those ties of grain. It was always fun for us to honor the Scandinavian heritage of our neighborhood, and we hope someone can carry the torch for us when we depart. Read more about julenek below.

A julenek (Norwegian and Danish) or julkarva (Swedish) is a sheaf of grain hung on a tree or pole as a Christmas treat for the birds. One of the most popular symbols in Scandinavia today, they are sold on street corners in the weeks before Christmas. Few homes are without one.

The tradition is actually from olden times, when people believed that taking care of the animals and spirits during the coldest, darkest days of winter would cause good luck and a bountiful harvest the following summer.

Like other winter solstice traditions in rural Scandinavia, it eventually became part of the celebration of Christmas. On farms, the peace of Christmas began before sundown on December 24th, when the sheaf was tied to a pole and erected in the farm yard. It was thought to be very lucky if birds flocked to it as it was being hung.

These sheaves of wheat were harvested by hand in Skagit Valley and were purchased from Stine's Scandinavian Sheaves here in good old Ballard. They are now on sale at the Field House for $3 a bunch.