Christmas is a festive holiday celebrated by millions around the world; thanks to the unique culture and beliefs of countries around the world, the way that this holiday is celebrated by each family differs greatly.
Christmas Around The World: Norway
When we think of Christmas in other parts of the world, images of trees, gift giving, and elaborate meals take center stage. We may choose to attend worship services with family, or kick off the season with some lavish parties with friends. Regardless of how we choose to celebrate the season, there are no doubt certain traditions that must be adhered to in order for it to feel like a real holiday.
Christmas in Norway involves several traditions that are unique to Norwegians; they proudly boast that Santa Claus has his origin here, and the ratio of snowy days to sunny days makes it the perfect backdrop for some Yuletide fun. Here are some of the most popular Christmas traditions that make it holiday time, and it just wouldn’t be the same without these festivities. Those Norwegians know how to celebrate a holiday, and here is how they do it:
1. They summon the snow
It’s not a guarantee that every Norwegian city is covered in snow at Christmastime, so if Norwegians really want to kick off the holiday right, they head to the mountains. There they can enjoy quiet nights by the fire, skiing and sledding to their hearts’ content, and other outdoor activities that hail the beginning of the holiday season. While they do enjoy their summers as well, it’s the Norwegian winters that get everyone outdoors and moving around, enjoying snow, sun, and winter sports.
2. Christmas marzipan appears
Most people have a love/hate thing going on with marzipan, a chewy, sugary confection that has a bold flavor. Norwegians happen to love the sweet stuff, and there is an entire section dedicated to it at supermarkets around the holiday season. Marzipan makers get creative with flavors, shapes, and colors, so you are no doubt able to find just about everything one might need to make your individual celebration grand and glorious. And let’s not even get started with the marzipan pig; it’s a very big deal to be awarded one of these delicious pink prizes.
3. The smell of lutefisk permeates everything
If you have an ounce of Norwegian blood flowing through your veins, you no doubt know what lutefisk is. Those of us who are “lucky” enough to have smelled or tasted it have the experience permanently embedded in our memory, and unless you have had the pleasure of cooking or tasting this delicious, jelly-like fish, it is hard to describe what it tastes and smells like to someone else. Our advice? Take the opportunity to do it once; you are not likely to forget it.
4. Fancy new clothes appear at dinner tables
Dressing up for dinner is a major event, and people often stress out about finding just the right outfit for the “julebord”. It is not uncommon to be invited to several holiday gatherings throughout the month of December, leaving people with the enormous task of making their holiday fashion statements at all of the fabulous holiday gatherings they attend.
5. Krumkaker irons roll out
It’s not Christmas without the appearance of krumkaker, a fancy, sweet cookie that is flat ironed and then rolled into a festive and beautiful cone. Sometimes eaten alone, sometimes eaten with sweet cream, you’ll no doubt overindulge in this sweet treat if you visit anyone with Norwegian heritage. Careful….those irons are hot!
6. The cities will glow with the twinkling of a thousand lights
Whether the lights come from twinkling lights or tiny candles, a thousand effervescent bulbs, Christmas in any Norwegian town is filled with light, warmth, and joy. People take great care to decorate and infuse their holiday with beauty and light, making it all the more special for those that partake in holiday festivities with family and friends.
7. The Christmas soda comes out in abundance
Julebrus can be likened to a fizzy fruit punch, and it comes out in abundance at every Christmas festival; it is served up with Christmas sausage, lefse, lutefisk, and other traditional Scandinavian treats. In true Christmas fashion, soda and all things related to Christmas decorating are red; make sure you brush your teeth after Christmas soda, or you’ll be smiling red!
8. The Christmas wheat is set out
In a celebration of gratitude for an abundant harvest and the promise of a new growing season to come, Norwegian families tie a bundle of “wheat” or “oats” on the outside of their doors for the birdies to snack on. This gesture of goodwill and gratitude is a message to the gods that they are expecting abundance not only this year, but every year afterward.
9. Milk becomes “Christmas milk”
It seems that all food becomes Christmas food in December, and funny as it may sound, some of us can actually taste the difference between regular milk and “Christmas milk”. Milk companies celebrate the festive season with the addition of Christmas icons, symbols, and elves on the outside of their packages. Who knows what they sprinkle inside to sweeten the batch? One thing’s for sure……it contributes to some seriously good rommegrot!
10. Christmas eve is very important
While most of the world celebrates Christmas day as the most significant part of this holiday, Norwegians hale the eve of the 24th as the more important celebration. After all, this was where all the action happened at the stable, or so the story goes. Perhaps they just use it as an extra excuse to snuggle close to loved ones and take in the wonder of the season.
11. A cookie baking extravaganza begins
Any good Norwegian knows that Christmas is a time for cookie overload; there are seven types of cookies that families bake in preparation for celebrating with family and friends. In addition to krumkaker, a number of pepperkakaer, serinakaker, and rosettes are meticulously crafted to symbolize the beauty and significance of the season. Unbuckle those belts now!
12. Christmas markets pop up everywhere
From crafts to clothing to bags and homemade glow (spiced wine), Christmas markets pop up in abundance in towns all across the countryside. The air is chilly, people are merry, and food and drink flow in abundance as people shop and enjoy performances by local musicians and dance troupes. All of this merriment adds to the festivity of the season, making Norwegians glad for the traditions that they adhere to each year.
13. Tree gift giving begins
Every year, as a show of appreciation to the UK for how they assisted Norway during WWII, Norway gifts a humongous tree to the people of Great Britain. This tree is proudly displayed in Tralfagar square, and it is adorned with thousands of lights and decorations that bring warm thoughts and memories to all who behold its beauty.
14. Family and friend celebrations ensue
What would Christmas holidays be without the love and companionship of family and friends? One of the most important parts of celebrating the Christmas season for Norwegians is being able to share this special time with loved ones. No matter the gathering, large or small, Norwegians gather to celebrate and enjoy long standing traditions that will surely be around for centuries to come.