Norwegian Holiday Traditions
Posted by maggiemyklebust
Today is the first Sunday in Advent and the Christmas season in Norway has officially begun. The Norwegians call it, Juletid. Four purple candles, symbolizing anticipation and preparation are progressively lit each Sunday counting down the four weeks until Christmas.
A wall hanging with twenty-four numbered pockets representing the days in December, before Christmas is used as an Advents Kalender. The pockets are filled with little treats and sweets for the children to take each day.
It’s not typical for Norwegians to put Christmas lights on their houses, although they do sometimes light up a front yard tree with white lights. They also put electric candles in their windows.
December is a dark month and the sun can no longer be seen in the North. I live in the South and while the sun never gets very high, we still manage to see daylight. Lighting candles, playing music and buckets of tea, help a lot during this time. By March, the days will start getting longer and by June, we’ll be going to bed with the sun still shining… It’s a pretty fair trade.
This is also the time of year when Norwegians like to bake Christmas cookies. They’re called Småkaker, which translated means small cakes. Since I mostly bake American cookies, I went around to few of my Norwegian friends (Marita & Anja) and took pictures of their cookies. I even got to sample and take some home. There are many different types, here are just a few:
Sandnotter (Sand nuts) which are not made with nuts, but with potato flour!
Kakemenn (Cake men) which can be cut into different figures, here are some pigs:
Fyltekjekks (filled cookies) two wafers filled with icing. And Brunepinner (Brown sticks) which is a brown sugar cookie and my favorite.
December 23, is called Lille julaften, or little Christmas Eve. This is when most Norwegians decorate their tree and eat Risengrøt (rice pudding). The grown ups drink Gløgg, which is a mulled wine with spices, nuts and fruit… And sometimes a dash of spirit (brandy, rum or vodka).
On the evening of December 24, families gather for a festive dinner. A traditional Christmas dinner for this area of Norway is; Pinnekjøtt (lamb chops) Ribbe (rib roast) and a white sausage, winter vegetables, cranberry sauce and rich gravey. In my house it’s turkey (after all – we did miss out on Thanksgiving) Riskrem for dessert, it’s made by mixing whipped cream and cold rice pudding together and topped off with a sweet red-berry sauce. There is an almond hidden in the bowl and who ever finds the almond in their dish, wins a prize.
Afterwards, the children wait while their father takes a quick trip to the neighbor… And that’s when Julenissen (Santa) always seems to come knocking on their window. They open the door, invite him in and giggle at the sight of him.
Julenissen, unlike Santa is neither fat nor jolly, he wears a red robe, a mask and mumbles when he talks. His first words are always, “Are there any good children in here?”
He open’s his sack, hands out a present to each child and shakes their hand. After asking for directions to one of the children’s friends houses, he leaves and their father returns, cursing for having missed Julenissen, AGAIN!
From the first day of December until the last, I play Christmas music, in my house and in my car, non-stop! I love it.
En Stjerne Skinner I Natt (A Star Shines Tonight) is my favorite Norwegian Christmas Carol and is sung by The Oslo Gospel Choir. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I do…
God Jul (Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays)
About maggiemyklebustI grew up on the Jersey Shore and now live in Norway. I have also lived in Houston and the Netherlands. I have written a memoir called Fly Away Home.
Posted on December 2, 2012, in all things Norsk and tagged Advent, baking, celebrating, Christmas Carols, cookies, decorating, food, Norwegian Christmas, Santa, traditions. Bookmark the permalink. 33 Comments.