Taste of Norway at the Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church in Logan Square. Credit: Provided

LOGAN SQUARE — For the first time in more than 50 years, there won’t be a grand Christmas bazaar at Logan Square’s historic “red church” the weekend before Thanksgiving.

Because of the worsening coronavirus pandemic, leaders at the Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church at 2614 N. Kedzie Ave., more commonly referred to as Minnekirken, have moved the annual event online.

Now through the middle of December, anyone can support the church by buying homemade Norwegian cookies, Nisse hats and more on the church’s website.

So far, sales have exceeded church leaders’ expectations. Karena Dahl, secretary of the church council, has made more than 70 batches of cookie dough to keep up with orders. They’ve already sold out of the Norwegian cookie variety pack.

“We’re humbled by the response,” Dahl said.

The Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church, or Minnekirken, is hosting its annual Taste of Norway event online this year due to the pandemic. Havreflakk cookies (right) are among the baked treats being sold. Credit: Eric Allix Rogers/Chicago Architecture Center; Minnekirken

Minnekirken has put on a Christmas bazaar the weekend before Thanksgiving since 1968. The tradition started with a group of “resourceful” women parishioners, who, in an effort help the church out of hard times, put on a bake sale, Dahl said.

The women were “artisan bakers,” Dahl said. “They knew these old-world traditions and they took a lot of pride.”

They called themselves the Christmas Girls, or the Julejentene.

For decades, the event centered around the women and their homemade baked goods, but in 2013, new parishioners took the reins and renamed the event the Taste of Norway. They kept elements of the Christmas Girls’ event, but added components.

“I respect them immensely and we don’t want to imply we’re doing things to the same level they were doing them,” Dahl said.

Minnekirken’s Christmas Girls circa 1992. Credit: Provided
The Christmas Girls in the kitchen in 1997. Credit: Provided

The Taste of Norway brings together parishioners, locals and Norwegian Americans from near and far for a day of eating waffles and pea soup and shopping for Norwegian sweaters and other traditional goods. Some are so eager to celebrate they wait in line two hours before start time, Dahl said.

Church treasurer Matt Nygaard said while that event will be “sorely missed,” he’s proud church leaders have stepped up to continue the tradition in trying times.

“It’s a real credit to the church how quickly we’ve pivoted to continue this,” Nygaard said. “As bad as things are, we can provide some cookies. We’re very happy to do it.”

Credit: Eric Allix Rogers/Chicago Architecture Center

Most of the proceeds from the online store will go to the church’s operating costs. But proceeds from one special item — a Rosemald Minnekirken Christmas ornament made by a church member — will go to the church’s massive renovation project.

Minnekirken’s brick facade is falling apart and badly needs repairs. With major construction coming to the area, church leaders are worried the already-dire situation could get worse.

The church, which dates back to 1906, sits in the middle of two major upcoming projects: the Logan Square traffic circle overhaul and the Grace’s Furniture boutique hotel project.

Earlier this year, church leaders launched a fundraiser to help fund the nearly $600,000 renovation project. The church has been conditionally awarded a $250,000 grant through the city’s Adopt-A-Landmark program.

Church leaders plan to apply for more grants and use savings to reach their goal, Nygaard said. The leaders have also partnered with a neighbor who will put a giant Band-aid on the church facade Friday to draw attention to the fundraiser.

Since January, the fundraiser has raised about $50,000 in donations, Nygaard said.

“The fact that we’ve had such a wonderful response to this virtual store and through donations to the renovation fund is overwhelming and heartwarming,” he said.

Visit Minnekirken’s online store here.

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Logan Square, Humboldt Park & Avondale reporterrnrnmina@blockclubchi.orgnnLogan Square, Humboldt Park & Avondale reporterrnrnmina@blockclubchi.org Twitter @mina_bloom_