Seattle’s Ballard community comes together for an old-fashioned family Christmas party with Juletrefest

Leif Erikson Lodge is the meeting place for Ballard’s Norwegian community, where Christmas is always the highlight of the year for young and old alike. Photo: Rene N. Fuller

Some should never change too much — at least that is the way Ballard’s Norwegian community feels about Christmas. For as long as anyone can remember, the Sons of Norway Leif Erikson Lodge decks the halls for the holiday season and their annual Children’s Juletrefest, the traditional “Christmas Tree Party.” And this year will be no different: the party will take place on Sunday, December 10, 1:00–3:00, as the lodge opens its doors to all children in the community to share in the festivities, Norwegian style.

As for the past four years, the Sons of Norway has teamed up with the Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association and the Karmøy Club to make the party extra special. Ballard is home to many families that find their roots in Bergen, Norway’s second largest city, and Karmøy is the ancestral home to many in the local fishing community. Christmas is time when you think about your roots, your family back home and where you came from, and the Juletrefest is the perfect opportunity for everyone to celebrate their Norwegian heritage together.

Juletrefest is fun for the entire family with a plethora of food, dance and song, Norwegian-style. Photo: Rene N. Fuller

Food and drink is always an important part of the celebration, and as usual, there will be plenty on hand: special Norwegian Christmas cookies, “julekake,” a special Norwegian Christmas bread, open-faced sandwiches, chocolate and marzipan treats, and to top things off, rice pudding with an almond hidden in the mix. According to tradition, the lucky one who finds it in their helping will be rewarded with a special prize and good luck for the entire year.

The entertainment lineup for the afternoon includes live music, as I will plop myself behind the keyboard to play some of the most beloved traditional Norwegian Christmas music (which happens to include a many of our American favorites). The music helps to get everyone, young and old alike, ready to dance around the Christmas tree together. As is custom, the tree itself is decorated with Norwegian flags, giving the day a feeling of nostalgia and authenticity.

A highlight of the afternoon is the appearance of Al “Allyoop” Hirsch, one of Seattle’s most beloved children’s performers, who delights his audience with puppets, games and special songs that all kids will want to join in on. It is also an opportunity to learn more about Christmas customs not just in Norway, but around the entire world.

But the real high point of the day is the appearance of Santa, who is there to listen to the Christmas wishes of all the girls and boys, with little bags of goodies for them. Even the adults will get a chance to join in the fun with the lottery and the chance to win a special yuletide prize.

You don’t need to be Norwegian to attend: everyone is welcome to join in on the fun. Tickets are available at the door for $8.00 for adults and $1.00 for children. For more information, please visit the Leif Erikson Lodge website at or email the Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association at