Jul i Vinterland (Christmas in Winterland) market downtown Oslo. (Photo: Jul i Vinterland)
The Norwegian Christmas holiday is based on Christian traditions, with elements from Norse midwinter celebration and Jewish Hanukkah. However, new traditions frequently appears.
From late November, the Norwegian Christmas preparations begin. The first weekend of Advent, the lights in public Christmas trees across the country are lit, with Christmas concerts, performances and markets ongoing throughout December.
In the weeks before the holidays, it is common that companies, associations and friends arrange julebord – a Christmas party with food and lots of drinks.
Norwegians celebrate Christmas on 24 December. On the 23, aka “Little Christmas Eve”, most families have their own traditions like decorating the tree and make gingerbread houses. This is a day of many chores. It is common to eat rice porridge with almond, and in the evening, everyone is watching the 1963 TV sketch “Dinner for One”. Although the protagonists are celebrating New Year’s Eve, this has become a Little Christmas Eve tradition in most Norwegian homes.
The 24 is Christmas Eve. It is the pinnacle of Norwegian Christmas celebration. The first part of the day is spent panic shopping all the things forgotten or some go for a quiet time in church. Many light candles for their loved ones at the cemeteries. At five o’ clock, it is officially Christmas when the boys’ choir Sølvguttene (Boys of Silver) sing and Christmas dinner is served. The presents are placed under the tree, and both young and adults look forward opening them later that evening.
Sølvguttene at the Trinity Church. (Photo: Anne Liv Ekroll/NRK)
The days between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve is called romjul and is often used for family parties. In the days after Christmas Eve, many go to parties and the streets are filled with people. From December 27, the stores are open and it is common to exchange (unwanted) Christmas gifts.
The most widespread Christmas dinner is ribbe (pork ribs), but also lutefisk (lye fish), pinnekjøtt (lamb ribs), cod, roast ham and turkey are common dishes. During November and December, most Norwegian restaurants are serving Christmas specials.
Rice porridge with sugar, cinnamon and butter is a dish with a long tradition. The leftovers makes a delicious rice pudding with red raspberry sauce – a common dessert after the Christmas dinner.
Norwegians become creatures of habit when it comes to TV programs through the Christmas season, and love to watch the same movies every year. There is no Christmas without Reisen til julestjernen (Journey to the Christmas Star), Flåklypa Grand Prix (The Pinchcliffe Grand Prix) Tre nøtter til Askepott (Three Wishes for Cinderella) Home Alone, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and Die Hard.
Tři oříšky pro Popelku: Three Wishes for Cinderella airs every Christmas Eve. (Screendump)
According to tradition, one should bake seven types of cookies before Christmas. There are many different kinds to choose from, but the most common are Smultringer (Donuts), Sandkaker (Sand Cakes), Sirupssnipper (Syrup Cakes), Goro, Krumkaker (Curved Cakes), Fattigmann (Poor Man) and Berlinerkranser (Berlin Wreath). According to folklore, the period when everyone is baking is called kakelinna – a mild weather period before Christmas due to the heat from the ovens.
During December, it is common to serve gløgg, mulled wine. It usually includes red wine, but is also available alcohol-free. It is served with almonds, nuts and raisins.
Gingerbread is very popular, and eaten in huge quantities during the Christmas season. Many parents bake gingerbread cookies with their kids and the most patient build and decorate a gingerbread house.
Du grønne glitrende tre: A traditional Norwegian Christmas tree (Photo: SNL)
Christmas is high season for confectionery and candy, and huge amounts of marzipan are sold. According to producer Nidar, 5 million Norwegians consume over 40 million marzipan figurines during Christmas. Also chocolate and nuts are found in most homes. It is also common to give away boxes of chocolates for Christmas.
Traditional Christmas sweets like roasted almonds and candied apples have become less common, but are sold at some Christmas markets.
Before Christmas, Norwegians decorate their homes with Santa ornaments, garlands, angels, hearts, stars, pigs, mice, nativity scene, and gingerbread house. An increasing number decorate externally with lights and garlands. It is common to have a Christmas tree in the living room. The tree is decorated with lights, bulbs, glitter, Norwegian flags and a star at the top. The old Christmas song Du grønne glitrende tre (Good Day, You Green And Glittering Tree!) provides an insight into how a Norwegian Christmas tree might look like. (Translation by: The Hymns and Carols of Christmas)
Norwegian / English
Du grønne glitrende tre, god dag! / Good day, you green and glittering tree!
Velkommen, du som vi ser så gjerne, / We welcome you as we gladly greet you,
med julelys og med norske flagg / With Christmas lights and Norwegian flags
og høyt i toppen den blanke stjerne! / And high on the top is your shining star.
Ja den må skinne / Yes, it must shine for us to remind,
for den skal minne / Yes, it must shine for it will remind
oss om vår Gud. / Us of our God, yes, of our God.
Text by: Anette Broteng Christiansen, ThorNews
Source: Visitoslo, Store Norske Leksikon
Featured image by: Norsk Folkemuseum