Fragrant with the lovely scent of cardamom, this golden, Swedish-pearl-sugar topped braid has been part of the Good Templar Swedish Day festival tradition for decades. But what—or perhaps who, is a Good Templar?
With an organizational structure modeled on Freemasonry (but open to both men and women) the Stockholm-headquartered International Organisation of Good Templars (IOGT) was one of many temperance organizations founded in the 19th century promoting a lifestyle free of alcohol and drugs. And it has some strong North Shore connections.
Good Templars who immigrated from Sweden to Chicago set up lodges for their gatherings all over the city. Hoping to preserve Swedish traditions, lodges on the north side came together early in the 1900s to sponsor a large Swedish festival at Linden Park in Evanston. Because the festival was so well received, in September of 1911, Chicago Good Templars expanded the party to become the annual “Svenskarnas Dag” (Swedish Day) at Ravinia Park, celebrating Midsommar—the longest day of the year. By 1924, with festival attendance topping 10,000, the group started scouting for their own property. They bought a pretty, 66-acre site near the Fox River in Geneva (now known as Good Templar Park) and kicked off the first Swedish Day there on June 30, 1925 with more than 14,000 celebrants.
This year’s summer solstice happens on Sunday, June 20th –Good Templar’s 96th Swedish Day at the park .There will be traditional music, a Viking reenactment, Maypole dances, and plenty of Swedish food—including this lovely cardamom bread. The vintage recipe, from Beatrice Ojakangas, allows you to chill the dough after mixing, eliminating some of the time and effort. It’s very best fresh out of the oven, with a little butter on top.