Tomte naming contest and workshops offered in Bishop Hill 

BISHOP HILL — The chainsaw sculptures of two giant Tomte in front of The Bishop Hill Creative Commons have become social media stars. These traditional Swedish garden gnomes were carved during the fall harvest festival, Jordbruksdagarna, by local artist Bryner Chainsaw of Kewanee. They are lighting up social media with hundreds of likes and shares. As soon as they are named they will have their own instagram account. This is where the Commons is asking for your help. The first week of Julmarknad, The Commons is collecting suggestions of names for both him and her. Keep track on social media and like the ones you prefer. At the end of the Christmas Market they will narrow the choices down to four or five and then open it to a public vote. Folks can vote in person or on-line. During Lucia Nights they will reveal the names that the public chooses.

And for those who do not speak Swedish, a Tomte is more than just a garden gnome, these magical creatures help take care of the earth, tending both livestock and helping wild creatures, mending fences and tending crops. During the holidays, it is a tradition to leave out a bowl of porridge with butter to thank them for their help. Throughout the seasons folks are encouraged to take a selfie with the Tomte. 

The Commons is also hosting a few make-it, take-it hands-on craft workshop so you can make your own tomte tree ornament on Saturday, Nov. 30 and make a Sock Tomte Dec. 7. Many of the artists in the Commons are making Tomte themed crafts. VASA is hosting storyteller Brian “Fox” Ellis for Lucia Nights Dec. 14 when he will be telling Tomte Tales.

The whole town is gearing up for their annual celebration of the Scandinavian roots of Christmas. The Poppy Barn makes large Julbach. Hantverk Pottery has tomte and julbach themed bowls, mugs, and Christmas ornaments. And the Colony Store has a wide array of Tomte and julbach imported from Sweden. Bishop Hill aims to be your headquarters for all things Tomte.

Make your own tomte tree ornament on Saturday, Nov. 30, from 9-11 a.m., $5 per tomte.

Make your own sock tomte on Saturday, Dec. 7 from 9-11 am., $5. Bring an old sock or two, something fuzzy or blue for the body and something brightly patterned or red for the hat.

Sign up is encouraged so there is enough material for everyone.

For more information, call (309) 696-1017.