NORWAY

The major day of celebration in Norway, as in most of Northern Europe, is December 24. Although it is legally a regular workday until 4:00PM, most stores close early. Church bells chime in the Christmas holiday between 5:00PM and 6:00PM. In some families the Christmas story from Luke 2 will be read from the old family Bible. The main Christmas meal is served in the evening. Common main dishes include pork rib, “pinnekjøtt” (pieces of lamb rib steamed on a grid of birch wood). Many people also eat “lutefisk” or fresh, poached cod. Rice porridge is also popular (but most commonly served as an early lunch rather than for the main Christmas dinner), an almond is often hidden in the porridge, and the person who finds it wins a treat or small gift. In some parts of Norway it is common to place porridge outside (in a barn, outhouse or even in the forest) to please “Nissen”. In many families, where the parents grew up with different traditions, two different main dishes are served to please everyone. If children are present (and they have behaved well the last year), “Julenissen” (Santa Claus) pays a visit, otherwise gifts are stored under the Christmas tree.
For a lot of Norwegians, especially families, television is an important part of the earlier hours of Christmas Eve. Many Norwegians do not feel the Christmas spirit until they have watched the Czech-German fairy tale Three Nuts for Cinderella (Norwegian title: Tre nøtter til Askepott), the Disney Christmas cavalcade From All of Us to All of You the Norwegian fairytale movie Reisen til Julestjernen or the comedy sketch Dinner for One. Attending one of the many stage productions of Putti Plutti Pott and Santa’s Beard is also a very popular tradition.

December 25 is a very quiet and relaxed day. Church services are well attended. The old tradition of a very early morning service before breakfast has been replaced in most areas by a service in the later morning. Afterward many families get together for a large festive meal.

December 26 is also a day of many festivities. Cinemas, night clubs and bars are full, and there are lots of private gatherings and parties, where all kinds of traditional Christmas cookies and sweets are enjoyed. Fatty, tasty dinners are also part of it. The time between Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve is called romjul. During this time children in some parts of Norway dress up as “nisser” and go “Julebukk” – “Christmas goat” – in their neighborhoods and sing Christmas carols to receive treats, much the same way as in the American Halloween. January 6 (13th day of Christmas) is commonly regarded as the end of Christmas, while some end Christmas on the 20th day, and some even at Candlemas.

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