History

The Scandinavian Beneficent Association Nordlyset celebrated its 125th anniversary this year. Throughout all this time, the Association has had an important role in the lives of most Scandinavians settled in São Paulo.

Foundation of the Scandinavian Club

First phase (1891-1923)
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We can observe in the registers of the Scandinavian presence in Brazil that since its beginning, back in the Imperial times, a preference for settlement in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro– a trend that is accentuated starting from 1870, when European immigration became more intense. In São Paulo, just like the English, Scandinavians chose to work and live in Jardim da Luz and its surroundings. On June 4 1891, the first general assembly took place and founded the Scandinavian Association. In 1915 the Nordlyset flag was exhibited for the first time. All started by four Danes.

Second Phase

(1923-1945)
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Despite all difficulties, the Scandinavian Society had its best times in little more than twenty years, between 1923 and 1946, when it went through important transformations in its structures. The profile of the board of directors started to change. Since then, directive posts had been occupied by Scandinavian immigrants of humble background, especially craftsmen and merchants. They were replaced by their descendants, often executives of international companies, professionals prepared to take care of the Association’s finances and other important administrative aspects. The start of alternation in the board of directors among Danes, Swedes, Finns and Norwegians dates from 1923.

Third Phase

(1946-1990)
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The world received the end of World War II with great relief and joy, and the good feelings about peace soon arrived to Brazil too. Nordlyset organized a Victory Party whose revenues were divided between the Red Cross in Denmark and Norway.

In 1953, the Club counted with 384 members, 65 of which were Brazilians (15 married with Scandinavian women). The female members of the Club, however, were unsatisfied for not participating in executive luncheons. The board of directors examined complaints and decided to keep the old system – luncheons were for business purposes, and there was no place for women.

The 1960s brought great impulse to the Association, which focused on three priority initiatives: the building of the Lutheran Church of São Paulo; the experience of Vikings Restaurant and the transfer of the Association‘s head office from the city center to the South region of São Paulo.

In 1966, Nordlyset managed to obtain an interview with the Brazilian Minister of Finances, who accepted the idea to create a Scandinavian Fair and provided the necessary authorization of Itamaraty for import tax exemptions.

In 1979 a decision was made to buy a definitive seat to house the Scandinavian restaurant, bridge nights, typical festivities of the five nations, and other activities. The house in Rua Morais de Barros 1009, in Campo Belo neighborhood became Nordlyset’s new address.

Another of the Association’s old aspirations, a center for Scandinavian activities, started to take shape in the 1980s. The colonies wanted to have a leisure space apart from a country club, whose distance from town was a barrier for its daily use, especially for kids. From that need arose Scandinavium, located on the same ground of the Church, on Rua Job Lane, next to the Scandinavian School.

The good functioning of the Scandinavian Fair has always been one of the Association’s greatest concerns. By the late-60s, the Association came up with the idea to reunite in a single event the traditional bazaars of the Club, the Church and “Círculo Salvai as Crianças”. The Fair has become the greatest event for Nordic fraternization in Latin America.

Fourth Phase

(1991-today)
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1991 was a great year for the Scandinavian Club. That year, it celebrated its 100th anniversary and organized 22 cultural events in São Paulo. HRH Prince Joachim of Denmark participated in these celebrations. Among them:

Sweden

Orrefors/Kosta Exhibition and photography exhibition by Lennart Nilsson

Norway

Edvard Munch graphic exhibition (400.000 visitors)

Denmark

Hans Christian Andersen exhibition, Danish Design, Nordic Contemporary Art, organization of the first Albert Eckhout exhibiton, performances by the Royal Danish Ballet

Finland

Sibelius Quartet, Soile Yli-Mäyry art exhibition.

These Scandinavian cultural events were the largest international events held in São Paulo in 1991/1992. Vogue Magazine published a special issue about the Scandinavian events and a review for each of the Scandinavian countries – a big honor and status for the Scandinavian countries and communities.

Vogue Magazine brought huge prestige and acknowledgement to the Scandinavian Club

We should mention that HRH Prince Joachim of Denmark celebrated the Scandinavian Club’s 100th anniversary with a night gala and the opening of Nordic exhibition Blue Transparency at MASP.

Since then, the Scandinavian Club has been very active in the community social and cultural activities and has become a center to all Nordic countries. Among its main activities there is the “Scandinavian Fair”, held for over 50 years at Clube Pinheiros, always with great success and an audience of between 10.000 and 15.000 people, raising funds for 24 beneficent institutions responsible for 8000 needy children in São Paulo. The Scandinavian Fair is considered the most important of its kind in the city.

In 2016, we will celebrate the Scandinavian Beneficent Association Nordlyset’s 125th anniversary, one of the oldest clubs in Brazil and probably the oldest Scandinavian Club in the world.

On July 29th, we will be hosting a gala night with HRH Prince Joachim, HRH Princess Marie and 400 Scandinavians in Scandinavium.

On the same occasion, the Danish National Girls Choir will make a presentation, and we will honor several Danes that made significant contributions to the Scandinavian community over all these decades.

The Scandinavian Club is alive, active and happy. It went through an important reform and a complete revision of the Scandinavian restaurant Svanen, which will continue to serve traditional Scandinavian cuisine for many years.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank the support, contributions and help of Brazilian authorities, ambassadors and consuls general and supporters of the Scandinavian community.

We are all optimistic about the future and value of the Scandinavian Club and its activities in the city of São Paulo.

Long live the Scandinavian traditions, values and culture and, not to forget, we all love our Scandinavian cuisine and a cold aquavit. We can only say thank you and skål!