The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

O Lutefisk, O Lutefisk

To The Tune of O Christmas Tree

Original Words: O Tannenbaum, Ernst Gebhard Anschutz, 1824

Adaptation by Red Stangeland

Music: O Tannenbaum, German Folk Song
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer

O Christmas Tree - Notes

1. O Lutefisk, O Lutefisk, how fragrant your aroma,
O Lutefisk, O Lutefisk, you put me in a coma.
You smell so strong, you look like glue,
You taste just like an overshoe,
But lutefisk, come Saturday,
I tink I eat you anyvay

2. O Lutefisk, O lutefisk, I put you in the doorvay.
I wanted you to ripen up just like they do in Norvay.
A dog came by and sprinkled you.
I hit him with my overshoe.
O lutefisk, now I suppose
I'll eat you while I hold my nose.

3. O Lutefisk, O lutefisk, how well I do remember.
On Christmas Eve how we'd receive our big treat of December.
It wasn't turkey or fried ham.
It wasn't even pickled Spam.
My mother knew there was no risk
In serving buttered lutefisk.

4. O Lutefisk, O lutefisk, now everyone discovers
That lutefisk and lefse make Norvegians better lovers.
Now all the world can have a ball.
You're better than that Geritol.
O lutefisk, with brennevin [Norwegian brandy]
You make me feel like Errol Flynn.

5. O Lutefisk, O lutefisk, you have a special flavor.
O Lutefisk, O lutefisk, all good Norvegians savor.
That slimy slab we know so well
Identified by ghastly smell.
O Lutefisk, O lutefisk,
Our loyalty won't waver.

On December 1, 2002, I received the following email:

The author of this prime poetry was the late Red Stangeland, Sioux Falls, SD.  In 1990 I was the winner of a contest that he organized for a new verse ... the prize was ten pounds of lutefisk ... and this is the winning verse:

O lutefisk, O lutefisk, when my poor heart stops beating
The pearly gates will open wide, I'll see the angels eating
From steaming platters of the stuff, and there will always be enough
O piece of cod that I adore, O lutefisk forevermore!

Robert L. Lee
Crystal, MN

I asked Mr. Lee for permission to reprint his prize-winning lyric (and asked whether he received any lefse in addition to his lutefisk).  He responded on December 3rd:

Happy Holidays to you, too!  Yes, by all means, you have my permission to the use the prize-winning verse.  I collected my ten pounds of lutefisk (no lefse included) at the historic Norway Store in Norway, Illinois ... the oldest Norwegian settlement in the US, and it was great.

A point of interest:  The lefse that they serve in Illinois is the flour and water variety, not potato lefse ... which they refuse to call lefse, but say that they are potato cakes.  The Norwegian-Americans in the area put their lutefisk, potatoes, and melted butter in a piece of this lefse, wrap it up and eat it like a burrito.  They roll up their sleeves, too, since the butter often drips down one's arms.

Ya, sure!

R. Lee

Editor's Note:

For the record, my Norwegian grandmother served lefse of the potato variety, and we consumed it in two ways:  (1) rolled with butter and brown sugar, and (2) a Norwegian "burrito": lutefisk, turkey, dressing, potatoes, etc (I love these cross-cultural references). My wife's family, also of Norwegian descent, consumes their lefse in variation 1 that I have mentioned above, plus a dash of cinnamon. However, I've only been in that family for 10+ years ;)

My Norwegian grandparents only spoke Norwegian when they didn't want their children or grandchildren to know what they were saying.  It worked.

By the way, my wife's family recites the following Norwegian prayer before holiday meals:

I Jesu Navn
gaar vi til Bords
at Spise og Drikke
Paa Dit Ord;
Dig Gud til re
Os til Gavn,
Saa Faar vi Mat [or Mad]
i Jesu Navn,

An English translation:

In Jesus Name
We go to the Table;
To Eat and Drink
By Thy Word
To God the Honor,
Us the Given,
We receive the Food.
In Jesus Name

As I am totally bereft of any linguistic talent (demonstrated by my lack of acquisition of either French or Greek -- of which I've receive a total of three years of instruction), I silently listen, and conclude with "Amen."

The following was posted December 9, 2002, on the Christmas International group at, of which I am a member and recommend:

This was posted here about two years ago. It's about a traditional Scandinavian "treat" that they eat at Christmas time.

One thing that is often found on the dinner table in Scandinavia during the Christmas season is a concoction called lutefisk. Just as visitors to Australia have a difficult time enjoying vegemite, visitors to Scandinavia are not often prepared to deal with lutefisk.

I don't want this to become another Christmas recipe club, however, the following directions for preparing lutefisk are worth noting:

1. Get the lutefisk

2. Lay it on a pine board

3. Flatten with a meat cleaver

4. Salt and pepper it and pour on butter

5. Bake on board in oven for 30 minutes

6. Remove from oven and allow to cool

7. Throw out the lutefisk and eat the board

It's been said that if you eat the lutefisk, it helps you to appreciate the rest of the meal. As you sit and look at this quivering gray mass on your plate, they'll tell you "it builds character."

It's certain to mask all odors of the turkey, yams, and pumpkin pie and gives you an excuse to drink a lot as you try to wash it down.

It's been said that lutefisk at the dinner table will separate the REAL Scandinavians from the visitors.

Check the following URL for a first-hand experience with lutefisk:

Bill - (who really did enjoy the vegemite in Australia).

Editor's Note:  I have eaten lutefisk and lefse all my life, and actually lived to enjoy it.  One of my two sisters, however, refuse to touch the lutefisk; the other does so only grudgingly for her father's sake (we refer to her as "The Good Daughter").  Clearly, there's no accounting for taste!  I freely admit that a butter & bacon basting improves the experience. A lot. So does a glass of wine.  Or carafe.

Bring on the Christmas Lutefisk

The following was printed 28 December 2002 - The Norway Post

In a Christmas Day feature, "The New York Times" claims that the Norwegian delicacy of the Christmas Season, the Lutefisk (lye-cured cod) splits US families, particularly when only one partner is of Norwegian descent.

"All along the lutefisk zone - a vast swath of the US, stretching from Chicago to Seattle - it is again the season to rejoice in, and quarrel over, a food that stinks up hundreds of Lutheran church basements and injects menu-planning torment into hundreds of thousands of mixed marriages", NY Times reporter Blaine Harden writes.

The paper tells the story of Allen Vevang, an undertaker of Norwegian ancestry, who had to enjoy his annual lutefisk dinner in solitude at Pearson's Restaurant in Minneapolis, an institution that caters to the seasonal cravings of Scandinavian-Americans.

If Charlotte, his wife of 30 years would join him, Vevang says, he would be filled with joy. But Charlotte (of German descent) refuses, as long as lutefisk is on the menu.

Despite the strained relations in some families, more lutefisk is consumed in the US than in Norway. Annually, Americans put away around 500 tonnes of the dried cod which is soaked in water and potash lye, the paper writes.

Posted on the Christmas International Group at, January 12, 2003.

Editor's Note: Lutefisk does not stink; it does, however, had a distinctive odor.  No flavor.  Just odor.  Add lots of butter and its better. Also, in my family, it was pronounced Loo'-ta-fisk.  Your mileage may differ.  A light white wine is recommended.

A couple of Lutefisk sites on the web:

Team Lutefisk purported to be "the premier website for the purpose of honoring the Lutefisk".  (I applied for membership and I was immensely gratified to have been accepted into the membership of this august group.) Regrettably, the site has disappeared. Perhaps some stalwart Scandahooovian will take up the banner! [2003]

O Rapture! Team Lutefisk (renamed "Team Uffda") is back! Team Uffda [2004; 'Just say Ja!']

Editor's Note: 'Uffda' is a generic term encompassing a multitude of feelings.  It's mostly a question of emphasis and context. It is kinda pronounced:  ooof '-da.  But it depends on the context.  Note to military personnel:  same usage as 'hooah.'

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