Early Risers Love the Julotta Tradition

Post a Comment » Written on December 10th, 2005     
Filed under: News
CHICAGO, IL (December 10, 2005)  – Although the Christmas Julotta service is a  memory for many older Covenant churches, it continues to flourish in a  number of congregations.

The traditional Swedish service generally is held at 6 or 6:30 a.m.  while it still is dark outside – and it ends by lighting candles held by  each of the participants who then go out to greet the day.
“We try to pick up the feeling of real early morning,” says Charles  Olson, choir director for North Park Covenant Church in Chicago. “The  new day of Christ’s birth is brought home in a real positive way.”  Despite the early hour, the service is popular, drawing people from  neighboring congregations as well.
Olson says the church continues to hold the service every Christmas to  stay connected with the past. “We have kinship with the Swedish  heritage, and we believe it is important to continue that connection.”
Keeping that connection also has been important for the Evangelical  Covenant Church of Lindsborg, Kansas, but the congregation now  celebrates Julotta every other year, including this year. “The flavor of  our congregation has changed,” says Ruth Peterson, the church’s organist  and worship planner, in explaining why the church has scaled Julotta  back from an annual event. “We have so many non-Swedish people.”
Julotta always has been an important service at the Lindsborg church.  When the church was built, a funeral was delayed so that the first  service in the building would be Julotta, Peterson recalls.
Julotta services now include traditional carols, including some from the  Swedish tradition. At least a stanza of some hymns are sung in Swedish.  The Lindsborg church will include the Swedish hymns “When Christmas Morn  Is Breaking” and “Listen, Listen, Hear the Angels Singing.”
Following the service, churches often serve coffee and Swedish coffee  cake. At North Park Covenant, the parlors where the reception is held  are decorated festively and only with candle light,” says Olson.
North Park Covenant also will celebrate a Christmas Eve service and a  regular 11 a.m. Sunday service. Lindsborg Covenant will have a modified  Sunday service at 9 a.m. that will include primarily singing and a short  meditation.
Lindsborg is a small community with a rich Swedish tradition. Three  other churches in the area also celebrate Julotta. The day after  Christmas, a community service is held, and done entirely in Swedish,  although it also is translated. About 100 people attend the service,  says Peterson.
Many first timers to Julotta services leave saying the worship  experience is wonderful. Some have difficulty waking up to attend, however.
Paul Knight says that he overslept and missed the beginning of the  service during his first year on staff in Duluth, Minnesota. The service  started at 6 a.m. but he overslept until 6:45 a.m. “Made it to church  during the benediction,” he says.
“We had advertised the service in the paper and a dramatic dialogue the  pastor and I were going to do,” Knight says. “The church was full and  into the foyer. I was not there to hold up my end of the bargain.”
Knight thought his ministry at the church was over. “I resigned my  position that morning,” he says. “I was absolutely shaken. I missed  Christmas my first year as a pastor.
“(Pastor Kendall L.) Carlson laughed, hugged me and said go home and  enjoy Christmas,” Knight recalls. “Paul Rees (Covenant pastor) mentioned  to me one time that he and I have in common the fact that we both slept  through Julotta.”
Copyright © 2011 The Evangelical Covenant Church.
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