Beginning on Tuesday with a Norwegian Christmas celebration, chapel services included a German Advent service on Wednesday, a Russian service on Thursday and Friday's Medieval Christmas celebration.
Language students appreciate the alternative opportunity to hear their language spoken outside of class.
"It was so cool to hear German sung in Boe," said Carmen Cummings '09, a German major. "I thought the readings were beautiful."
College Pastor Bruce Benson also sees language value in having multi-lingual Chapel time.
"There is a good language-learning reason to have these services," Benson said.
This year, the German and Norwegian departments, which often hold Christmas services, contacted Benson to plan the events. Benson then contacted the Russian department and asked if they had interest in a Chapel service as well.
Professor of Norwegian and Norwegian Department Chair Margaret O'Leary has been leading some sort of Norwegian Christmas service at St. Olaf for nearly 30 years. In the last decade, these services have moved from weekend events to weekday Chapel services. O'Leary says that switch helped involve more students and community members.
"On Monday the chapel was full, not only of students, but also community members who came from town," said OLeary. "We like to ask students in Norwegian 231 to participate in the service because it is often their last semester, but anyone can volunteer to sing."
Norwegian exchange students also share their Christmas traditions. At the end of the service, community members formed a chain around the perimeter of Boe and linked arms while singing "Silent Night" in Norwegian. "We try to make the services interactive. That's why we have students decorate the tree and sing familiar songs," O'Leary said.
The German Advent service included readings from Martin Luther's original translation of the Bible and featured German Christmas hymns, including "Silent Night." Upper-level German students read Bible passages and German and Austrian exchange students shared traditions from their country.
Professor of German and chair of the German department Karen Achberger has enjoyed planning the German advent service.
"It's been a tradition for 45 years," Achberger said. "We've been in Boe the last five or six years. It's a lot of work, but it's such a wonderful way to get our upper-level students and international students speaking the language."
Achberger also appreciates what the service does for the community.
"Sometimes it's the only time of year when we see German-speaking members of the community come up to campus," Achberger said.
Students attending chapel services this week may have also noticed the boat-like advent wreath at the nave of Boe Chapel. The wreath was created by Professor of Art John Sauer and reflects the Scandinavian tradition of suspending a small boat in church during Advent.
The form of the boat is meant to reflect the fluid and buoyant passage of the mariner, and was chosen to represent the fluid journey on which students travel during the advent season.