Eric Dregni, author of the book, “For the Love of Cod: A Father and Son’s Search for Norwegian Happiness,” is speaking at 10 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 9, at the Gyda Varden Sons of Norway Lodge, 1401 Ninth Ave. S. The event is free and open to the public.

Norway is usually ranked as one of the happiest countries on Earth, according to the World Happiness Report. The book -- in which Dregni explores if and why this is true -- is “a droll report on the state of purported Norwegian bliss,” according to the University of Minnesota Press, publisher.

“Honest, funny and down to earth, ‘For the Love of Cod’ is an eye-opening look at how Norway discovered the key to real happiness,” according to Foreword Reviews.

Beginning in 2003, Dregni, as a Fulbright fellow, and his wife lived for a year in Norway where their son, Eilif, was born. When Eilif turned 15, father and son ventured to Norway to try to uncover the bases of this supposed nationwide contentment. They returned to the country Dregni’s great-great-grandfather left, at age 18, in 1893.

When Eilif was born, the Norwegian government paid for the birth, gave the couple $5,000, and made a $500 monthly deposit into their bank account. But is a generous health care system the key factor to happiness for this country’s inhabitants -- what about the months of mostly-sunless days, Dregni wondered.

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“We complain about our winters and how dark and cold they are and everything, but at least they’re light,” said Dregni, who lives in Minneapolis. “I would take a Midwestern winter over a Norwegian one any day.”

Why so happy?

On his return visit, in interactions with Norwegians, Dregni found that their happiness is not simply attributable to the massive infusion of money from the North Sea oil fields, but how these funds are used to support the country’s version of democratic socialism, which greatly minimizes differences between the rich and poor.

A shared commitment to active environmentalism, a passion for community volunteerism, and widespread rejection of the hectic pace of modernity seem to undergird the sense of happiness among residents, Dregni discovered.

Environmentalism translates to the “flyskam,” or “flight shame,” that keeps Norwegians in the family cabin for long vacations prescribed by law and charges a 150% tax on gas guzzling vehicles -- which, Eilif observed, means more Teslas seen in one hour than in a year in Minnesota.

Norwegians embrace an attitude of “slowing things down and appreciating what you have,” said Dregni, professor of English, journalism and Italian at Concordia University in St. Paul and, in the summer, is director of the Italian Concordia Language Village, a language immersion camp near Bemidji that is sponsored by Concordia College, Moorhead.

Another factor that seems to fuel happiness is Norwegians’ strong connection with nature, he said. In the long, sunlit days from spring to fall, “they are out all the time.”

“There’s a saying in Norway: there is no bad weather, only bad clothes,” he said, noting that in rainy Bergen “kids are out in full rain gear,” and in the winter snow, they don little skis -- like starter skis -- and play soccer.

Even in the long dark days, “they go into sort of a ‘semihybernation’ and do other things,” Dregni said. Knitting is a popular pastime -- it’s taught in school -- and it isn’t unusual to see students, along with older folks, knitting while riding the bus, he said.

So are Norwegians as happy as the World Happiness Record suggests they are?

“I think overall it’s probably accurate,” Dregni said. “If you ask someone in Norway why are Norwegians so happy, they would have an answer -- all of them.”

Many responses have to do with health care coverage and the security of their pensions, he said. “(Because of) the social safety nets, if something goes wrong in their lives, they’re not going to be out on the street.”

The cost of health care is completely covered, so “it’s not even an issue,” Dregni said. Norwegians have no fear that catastrophic illness could lead to personal bankruptcy.

“Norway has essentially conquered poverty,” he said, noting that Americans could benefit from studying Norway’s model and “looking at, what is our system -- what is working and what is not working.”

Prolific author

Dregni has written 20 books, including “Weird Minnesota” and “Let’s Go Fishing!” “Vikings in the Attic” is about the traditions and customs Norwegians and other immigrants brought to this country. His first book was published in 1993.

Many of his books are humorous, some described as memoires, and some are topical, serving as cultural studies, he said.

As a Fulbright fellow to Norway in 2003-04, he survived a dinner of rakfisk, a fermented fish, thanks to 80-proof aquavit; took the “meat bus” to Sweden for cheap salami with a crowd of knitting pensioners; and compiled his stories in the book, “In Cod We Trust: Living the Norwegian Dream.”

He wrote about living in Modena, Italy, in “Never Trust a Thin Cook and Other Lessons from Italy’s Culinary Capital.”

Dregni's latest book conveys the author’s desire “to look for the Norway his great-great-grandfather left, which he found hard to find in modern Norway,” said G. Paul Larson, Sons of Norway member.

In 1893, at age 18, Dregni’s great-great-grandfather came to this country by way of Canada, then to Hackensack in northern Minnesota and on to Minneapolis, where he opened a blacksmith shop, Dregni said. “He never saw his mother again.”

Saturday's event “should appeal to everyone, not just those of Norwegian heritage,” Larson said. Dregni will read from some of his books. Copies of “For the Love of Cod” will be available for sale. Masking is optional in the Sons of Norway building.

For more information, call Cindy Dahl, lodge president, (701) 741-9132.