The Making of Diocco (Contact)

See behind the scenes of the making of Diocco, an original mural painted for the Phillips by Senegalese artists Muhsana Ali, Fodé Camara, Viyé Diba, and Piniang (Ibrahima Niang). Of the process, Muhsana Ali says, “we started feeding off of each other’s ideas and energy, and the idea of this collaboration between—or relationship between—the United States and Africa started coming through in many different ways.”

Family Nordic Art-Venture: Part 2

This weekend, the Phillips is hosting a Nordic Wonderland family program in collaboration with the embassies of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. To help us get ready for the celebration, we asked staff to share important Nordic winter traditions from their countries. Read Part 1 here and learn about traditions in Denmark, Iceland and Finland.

Snow fun and ice fishing in Finland.

Snow fun and ice swimming in Finland.


Holiday Season in Finland

It is the end of one year, the beginning of another, and usually also the beginning of the proper winter. It is the time to relax, be with family and enjoy outdoor activities like skiing, skating, or playing ice hockey, after which it is a perfect time to enjoy a cup of hot chocolate by the fire. For those brave enough, try one of the favorite activities of Finns in the winter: there are around 180,000 lakes in Finland, and we use them in the wintertime simply by making a hole in the ice for winter swimming. At first, winter swimming can sound crazy (even scary!) but combine a warm sauna with the dip and you will experience relaxation beyond your dreams. Trust us Finns, take a chance.

In the morning of December 24, Joulupukki (Santa Claus) starts his journey from Korvatunturi and brings presents for children. He must visit every home in one evening so logistically it’s quite a challenge but he knows how to do it. Santa spends a little time in every household and enjoys some gingerbread cookies before continuing his journey.

Fireworks are an integral part of the New Year’s celebration, but the best firework display one could have is seeing the Milky Way above you in a crisp January night. Traditions also include predicting the future from tin figures which you make yourself by heating tin and pouring them in cold water. What will 2015 have store for you?

We hope everyone has a beautiful Christmas and a happy new year. Or as we Finns would say, Hyvää Joulua ja Onnellista Uutta vuotta!

Keijo Karjalainen, Cultural Counseler, and Pauliina Pennanen, Culture and Media Assistant, Embassy of Finland

Photo: Lena Granefelt/

Photo: Lena Granefelt/


Lucia in Sweden

The Santa Lucia celebration on December 13 is one of Sweden’s most cherished cultural traditions. Legend claims that Lucia was a mythical figure with the role of light bearer in the dark Swedish winters. In the old almanac, Lucia Night was the longest of the year.

The Santa Lucia procession is a line of girls and boys in white gowns singing Christmas carols. The boys are usually dressed as tomtar (Santas) or stjärngossar (star boys); girls are tärnor (Lucia’s handmaidens). Each year in every town and village around the country a Lucia is selected, and there is even a National Lucia in Sweden. The Lucia celebrations are enjoyed with Swedish holiday delicacies like pepparkakor (ginger snaps) and lussekatter (saffron buns) that are usually accompanied by glögg (hot mulled wine) or coffee.

To learn more, watch, “Swedish Lucia For Dummies.” 

Linda Tocchini-Valentini, Communications Officer, Embassy of Sweden

Family Nordic Art-Venture


Traditional small paper hearts from Denmark

This weekend, the Phillips is hosting a Nordic Wonderland family program in collaboration with the embassies of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. To help us get ready for the celebration, we asked staff to share important Nordic winter traditions from their countries.   

“Hygge” in Denmark

In Denmark, wintertime is about bringing light and warmth into your homes and being with the ones you love. The Danish word for this is “hygge.”  One very popular activity for Danes in December is creating small paper hearts to hang around homes to contribute to a cozy atmosphere—“hygge.”

Jette Renneberg Elkjær, Cultural Attaché, Embassy of Denmark



Gígjökull, an outlet glacier extending from Eyjafjallajökull, Iceland. Photo: Andreas Tille via

Gígjökull, an outlet glacier extending from Eyjafjallajökull, Iceland. Photo: Andreas Tille via


The Old Calendar in Iceland

The vikings that settled Iceland more than a thousand years ago faced life in a difficult and challenging natural environment. This was particularly true in winter as this was long before houses had central heating or Icelanders learned to tap the warmth of the Earth’s core for heating and energy. The old Icelandic calendar was therefore based around the solstices and equinoxes that celebrated the times when the day started to grow longer and the darkest Winter was ending. Each of the twelve months was 30 days long with an additional four day period in summer known as Sumarauki or “summer-addition,” a welcome way to mark the brightest and warmest part of the year. Currently we are in the month of Ýlir or “howler” which is fitting for the windy and dark winter months in the North Atlantic.

Erlingur Erlingsson, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Iceland


Cross-country Skiing in Norway. Photo: Lars Verket/MFA.

Cross-country Skiing in Norway. Photo: Lars Verket/MFA.


Cross-Country Skiing in Norway
Out of countless winter traditions, cross-country skiing might be the most beloved of all in Norway. This popular activity can be describes as travel on skis over snow-covered terrain by self-locomotion, either by striding forward or by a skating motion, aided by arms pushing ski poles against the snow. In contrast to downhill skiing, cross-country skiing usually takes place over plains and landscapes with both ascents and descents along the way.

Cross-country skiing first started as a means of transportation almost five millennia ago in Scandinavia. Today, most Norwegians cross-country ski for recreation and fun, and many enjoy it as a competitive sport as well.

Almost as soon as the first snow falls, you will find skiers of all ages in forests, mountains, and open fields enjoying the snow covered landscapes. Cross-country skiing is a very popular family activity, and it is not unusual for children to go on school trips to ski. What many look forward to the most when cross-country skiing, however, is reaching one of the many cabins along the trails serving Norwegian waffles and hot chocolate to weary skiers in need of rest.

Silje R. Morsman, Student Trainee, Royal Norwegian Embassy