Rare Swedish folk art coming to Gammelgården

Ljuskrona can be a candelabra on the dining table or a chandelier above it.

If you don’t have Scandinavian relatives, chances are slim that you’ve ever seen one.

The odds increase slightly if you’re from Kansas.

The folk art object called ljuskrona (say “use-kroona”) is a Swedish candle holder wrapped with cut paper. It is usually placed on the dinner table for the Christmas Eve feast, but some resemble a chandelier and hang from the ceiling. A few are like trees, standing five to seven feet tall.

The base is usually metal or wood. Candle cups, metal cylinders or wire hoops are attached to each arm to hold the candles in place. The entire base is then covered with strips of cloth or paper, tightly wrapped to create a sturdy structure.

The final layer creates a delicate, lacy appearance. To prevent the paper from turning brown through exposure to light, the ljuskrona is wrapped and stored in a dark place until the next Christmas season.

Many families in Sweden bring out their ljuskroner on Dec. 13 to begin the Christmas season. The candle holders are placed in the center of the dinner table, where they remain until Jan. 12, King Knut’s Day.

Many ljuskroner are handed down from generation to generation.

Once well-known in Sweden, ljuskroner have largely been replaced by the more familiar evergreen Christmas tree. But in Kansas, where pine trees were scarce, Swedish immigrants continued the ljuskrona tradition.

The largest number exist in a 200-square-mile area in central Kansas. They can also be found in other midwestern states.

In 1994 the National Endowment for the Arts funded a traveling ljuskrona exhibit. As it was shown in Minnesota, Iowa, Arkansas, Missouri and Wisconsin, at each location people came forward and allowed their private objects to be photographed.

This year the exhibition will again be seen in Minnesota, at the Gammelgården Museum in Scandia. At classes on Saturday, Nov. 30 and Sunday, Dec. 1, guests can learn the history behind this Swedish decoration and make one to take home. Both classes begin at 1 p.m. and refreshments are served.

The $35 cost includes one ljuskrona kit. Families can work together. Add $10 for each additional adult and $5 for each child under 12.

Call 651-433-5053 for reservations.