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Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Trying out the drums at Milwaukee's Kwanzaa festival. © Milwaukee Public Museum

December 2000

Wisconsin Traveler
Heritage for the holidays

It's time to reconnect with your roots.

Trying out the drums at Milwaukee's Kwanzaa festival.

© Milwaukee Public Museum

TRAVELER has a theory: Cold weather makes people more aware of who they are and where they came from. Why? It could be that the brisk rasp of a 15-below-zero breeze induces a certain clarity of mind. Then again, perhaps it's just the brandy/rum/whisky in that hot toddy.

Whatever the impetus, December seems to be the time to reconnect with one's ethnic heritage and history. Wisconsin, so rich in cultures from across the globe, offers many opportunities to get back to your roots. Here are just a few:

Put a little oom-pah-pah in your week! Enjoy a real German winterfest featuring professional ice sculpture, snowshoe races, a Christmas parade, community concert, caroling and more during Mayville's Holiday Heritage Fest, December 8-10. From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mayville's downtown streets will be filled with the sweet aroma of freshly baked stollen and the pungent tang of savory rouladen. How can you resist? (920) 387-1167.

Those in search of history might find a stop in Markesan fruitful. There, on December 9, the town will host A Homespun Holiday to bring back the flavors of old. You can find a copy of your favorite holiday dessert recipe (could it be that someone else also possessed Great Aunt Zephira's secret for chocolate figgy pudding?) and compete to win top prize at a holiday bake-off. (920) 398-3031.

Recite the sagas of yore with pride and celebrate Finnish Independence Day on December 9 in Brantwood. Finns and friends can sup on a big bowl of mojakka (beef stew) cooked outdoors in a large kettle. Finnish poetry and music will ring through the Brantwood Community Center from 4:30 p.m. to midnight. (715) 564-2525, (715) 564-2251.

Santa is bound to make an appearance at every holiday festival. © Old World Wisconsin
Santa is bound to make an appearance at most every holiday festival.

© Old World Wisconsin

Hear tales of La Befana – the kindly old woman who brings gifts for good children and cinders for wicked little ragazzi – during an Italian Christmas Dinner on December 9 and 10 at Old World Wisconsin in Eagle. Enjoy holiday decorations in the 1880s Wisconsin village, then dine on a traditional ethnic meal followed by music and entertainment. Please call for times; reservations are required. (262) 594-2922. Old World Wisconsin

Pick and choose your Holiday Traditions at the Milwaukee Public Museum from December 18-20. First, take in a performance of Serbian, German and Irish dance and song. Then make an ornament: A Danish paper heart, Polish swiat, or Scandinavian yarn doll. Free with museum admission. 11:30 a.m. -2:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Sunday. 414/278-2702. Milwaukee Public Museum

After all the paper hearts have been folded and the yarn dolls tied, the museum will open its doors on January 1 to celebrate Kwanzaa, the African-American holiday corresponding with African harvest festivals. Food, dance, music, arts and crafts, cultural exhibits and a ceremony honor the day. Free with museum admission. 10 a.m.-7:30 p.m. See phone and website above for more details.