Ever wondered how Norwegians celebrate Christmas and the time building up to it? Check out the article below and prepear for a Norwegian Christmas!
While Norway is predominantly a Christian country, Christmas wasn’t celebrated here until about the 10th and 11th centuries. Before then, people celebrated yuletide in the middle of the winter, and drank beer in honour of the Norse gods, waiting for the warmer weather to return. It is believed that the word Yule derives from the Proto-Germanic language, but the etymology of the word remains uncertain. To this day, Christmastime is still called juletid in Norway – and while it has preserved some Old Norse traditions, it is also influenced by hundreds of European and American Christian practices. Here’s our guide to celebrating Christmas in Norway.
Every city is decorated and prepeared for Christmas, buzzing with people doing their Christmas shopping. Several Christmas trees are lit during the first weekend of Advent. Christmas markets, concerts and shows are popping up around the same time.
During advent, which starts December 1st, it’s common to have pre-Christmas parties, which we call “Julebord”. One of the few times restaurants and clubs are filled up with cheerful Norwegians. This is also the time when we open our advent calendar and light advent candles.
“Little Christmas Eve”
Little Christmas eve is Decemeber 23rd- the day before Christmas eve. This is the day where we decorate the Christmas tree, eat rice porridge with one almond hidden inside of it only to win a marzipan pig. Some have even started to call December 22nd “Little little Christmas eve”.
Christmas Eve is the day every Norwegian has waited for- and the main Christmas celebration. The first part of the day varies from family to family- some go to church, some visit the cemetary to honor their dead and others sit at home watching beloved Christmas shows on TV. At five the church bells rings Christmas in and most families celebrate together with a traditional Christmas meal. Present under the tree and are normally opened after dinner.
25-30 December is the time we like to call romjul- the time for relaxation, family and friends. Typically spent going to brunches and dinners with family and friends- where some go out during the evening.
Norway has many food related traditions when it comes to Christmas- and each vary by the region, the most popular being Ribbe and Pinnekjøtt.
Ribbe is a sort of pork ribs or pork belly with the bone still in.
Pinnekjøtt is dry-cured ribs of lamb served with swede and carrot mash and potatoes.
Lutefisk is cod cured in lye, enjoyed with bacon, brown cheese, mustard, peas and flat bread.
Rakfisk is a tasty, but smelly dish made of fermented cod served with flat bread, potatoes, red onion and sour cream.
Rice porridge is a very traditional Norwegian dish, not only enjoyed during Christmas, but is now seen more often during Christmas then before. If there is any rice porridge left, it’s used to make rice pudding the next day. A very common Christmas dessert with whipped cream and red sauce.
Snacks and cookies
During Christmas it’s common to bake seven kinds of cookies and sweets and serve them on Christmas eve. Now a days four or five will suffice for most. Many families bake ginger bread house with their children which is first used as decoration and then broken and eaten at the end of the holidays. A bowl of nuts, chocolate, figs and clementines are often found in Norwegian homes during Christmas as well as burnt almonds.
Gløgg is one of Norways most popular drinks during Christmas. A warm, spicy drink similar to the German Glüwein. Served hot (with red wine for the adults) with finely chopped almonds and raisins. They are commonly served at Christmas markets. Pepperkake (gingerbread cookies) goes perfectly with a cup of Gløgg.
Akevitt is enjoyed heavily throughout Christmas- and is perhaps the only thing that makes our digestion work during the holidays.
Every home is decorated with wreaths, angels, gnomes (nisser), hearts, stars and candles. Most families have a Christmas tree in the living room with a star on top, decorated with garlands, tinsel and ornaments. Take a trip to one of Oslo’s Christmas markets if you want to buy traditional Norwegian Christmas decoration.
Most Norwegians watch a lot of television during Christmas and has shows like three gifts for cindarella, dinner for one and a lot of disney classics on their top list.
“Dinner for one”/ “Hertuginnen og Hovmesteren” is broadcast on little Christmas eve and Norwegian national television NRK has been broadcasting the 11-minute Swiss version of the sketch every December 23rd since 1980. Today, families still come together every year on Little Christmas Eve to watch this sketch.
Three Wishes for Cindarella has since 1975 been sent on Christmas eve on NRK (Norwegian broadcasting channel) similar to Dinner for One, it has become a holiday classic in Norway. The movie is based on Bozena Nemcova’s version of the tale of Cinderella, with a feminist approach. The film was originally released in Czech and German, but NRK broadcasts it in Norwegian. The one year that NRK did not send it, there was a big demonstration and complaints from Norwegians- it was sent later that Christmas.
Disney Classics has for as long as Norwegians can remember been a thing to watch during christmas eve morning. Have breakfast with the family and feel like a kid again.