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PHOTOS: Christmas Mystery Novel Reveals Norwegian Holiday Traditions

Wisconsin novelist Kathleen Ernst has written numerous historical books for children, but it’s a series of more modern-day mysteries that has adults anxiously awaiting new installments.

Credit Kathleen Ernst
Kathleen Ernst has written the fourth installment of her popular Chloe Ellefson series of historical mystery novels.

And the latest book in her Chloe Ellefson series has recently come out.  If you’re not familiar with that series, Ellefson is a curator at Old World Wisconsin around whom things just seem to happen. 

In her first two books, the reluctant sleuth found herself helping to solve murders at Old World Wisconsin.  A third book brought her to a lighthouse on Wisconsin’s Rock Island.

But the latest installment, Heritage of Darkness, finds Ellefson traveling out of state to the small town of Decorah, Iowa just before Christmas to go to the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum.

There, Ellefson learns about Norwegian holiday traditions, such as making lefse bread and going julebukking, a tradition in which revelers dress up and go door-to-door singing carols, often carrying a real or decorative goat head with them. Christmas gifts may have included chip-carvings, a traditional form of Norwegian wood-working, or items featuring rosemaling, a form of decorative painting. (You can find lots of resources and information at Ernst's website.)

Ellefson also learns about the role darkness plays in Norwegian folk tales - as well as the darkness some people hold inside this time of year.

Ernst is currently at work on a fifth – part of which, we’re told, will be set in Milwaukee.