For the past quarter century or so (I’m not sure of the year the tradition started), our Mjanger cousins and aunts and uncles have celebrated the family with an annual Midsommar reunion known as Mjangerdagen, “Mjanger Day.” The standing invitation is for all Mjangers, whether in Norway or beyond, to return to the farm for a day-long gathering filled with food, activities, and conversation.
You may recall a post of mine from some time ago titled “We’re all Mjangers”. My dad, Robert William Bergeson, loved to talk about how the original Norwegian family name was Mjanger. His grandfather was named Berge Rognaldsen Mjanger due to his birth on the Mjanger farm near Bergen, Norway. When his son Ragnvald was born (my grandfather), Berge was living a few miles away on farm known as Duesund, so that’s the name Ragnvald had for the first two decades of his life. By the time he was 24 he was in the United States and when he married Gladys Parke he changed his name to Bergeson in reference to his father. The Bergeson name continues, but bottom line, we’re all still Mjangers from Vestland (the county in Norway that Mjanger is in).
Mjangerdagen 2020 was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Mjangerdagen 2021 is on and is taking place today, July 10. I wish I could be there, but sadly, I’ll have to wait a bit longer.
The one and only time that I got to enjoy Mjangerdagen was in 2003. My daughter Kari Bergeson Holden and I were visiting Norway after her graduation from high school. We visited family in Oslo, Bergen, and Sæbo. a small community on the shore of Hjørunfjord near Ålesund. One of my sisters, Beth Bergeson Behrens, and her husband Paul have also attended Mjangerdagen on their Norwegian pilgrimage.
The party begins mid-afternoon and is quite informal. The first order of business is to share a meal together. Tables are set near the fjord at one of the many boathouses that line the waterfront. The meal period lasts for an hour or two with lots of mingling and conversation. Then there are water activities for those who are adventurous. Boating and swimming in the fjord are the most common. I don’t remember anyone fishing, but that wouldn’t be out-of-the question if a person were so inclined.
The evening is spent sitting around a fire and singing or spinning yarns from the old days. Adult beverages may be involved during this time! Folks start to drift away after about 10 pm, but there are those who stay much longer. I met relatives from the United States that day that I didn’t know I had. Small world!
The Mjanger diaspora to the USA has grown dramatically since Ragnvald and his two siblings, Olufina Duesund Andvik and Olaf Duesund Bergeson, arrived in this country in the early 20th century. Several Mjanger cousins also emigrated to the U.S. in the late 20th century. There are now offspring in Minnesota, Seattle, California, Texas, Florida and New York. They would all be welcome at Mjangerdagen at any time in the future!