Christmas in Norway

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Photo: Marte Kopperud - Innovasjon Norge

Christmas is one of the most traditional festivals in Norway, and the main celebration is on Christmas Eve, 24 December.

Advent: Many children have an advent calendar which may contain small chocolate figures or small gifts – one for each day of December. Some families stick 24 cloves into an orange and count down to Christmas by removing a clove each day. Santa Lucia, which was originally a Swedish festival, is now celebrated in many schools and kindergartens on 13 December. Children bearing candles form a procession, sing Lucia songs and hand out special Santa Lucia buns called lussekatter. Advent is traditionally a time for baking seven different kinds of Christmas cakes and biscuits, giving the home a thorough clean and put up the Christmas decorations. Many people decorate their tree on the day before Christmas Eve, which is known as Little Christmas Eve.

Christmas Eve: For most people, the main celebration is on Christmas Eve. This is a traditional family time. Rice porridge is often served in the middle of the day, and at 17.00 the church bells ring to announce the start of Christmas. Many people go to church, and the boys choir Sølvguttene sings carols on television. The traditional Christmas food varies from region to region. Alternatives are ribs of pork, dried ribs of mutton, or cod, according to where in the country you live. Christmas beer and aquavit my be served. Children are often given a sweet red fizzy drink, julebrus, that is only available at Christmas time. Rice cream is a favourite for dessert. The person who finds the hidden almond wins a prize – usually a marzipan pig.

According to the folklore of rural Norway, each farmstead has a gnome living in the barn. These gnomes can play tricks on people if they are not well looked after, and some people still put out a bowl of rice porridge sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon to keep their barn gnome happy. There are many types of gnomes in Norwegian folklore, and the chief gnome, with his many helpers has traditionally played a part similar to that of Father Christmas or Santa Claus in other countries. When the family have finished their Christmas dinner and have sung carols round the Christmas tree, the Christmas gnome often pays a call bringing gifts for the well-behaved children. Then it is time to open the parcels.

The days between Christmas and New Year: The days between Christmas and New Year are called “romjulen”. There is a special church service on 25 December. The menu for this period may well include fish treated in the traditional manner with lye, various types of pickled herring, dried meats and special Christmas sausages. Children dress up as Christmas gnomes and go from door to door singing carols, and are given sweets in return. Many companies, associations and schools give Christmas tree parties, where the children form rings round the tree and walk around it singing songs. Cakes and hot spicy drinks are usually served.

We wish you a happy Christmas and New Year!