I am pleased to introduce a guest post by my friend from Norway, Renny Bakke Amundsen, who is author of the popular blog RennyBA’s Terella:
Christmas in Norway brings a lot of traditions, myths, habits and cultural highlights. Remember, we are on top of the northern hemisphere (the capital, Oslo; 60°N) in Scandinavia, where the return of the sun – winter solstice – has a significant impact and has been celebrated thousands of years back.
We call it Yuletide and the idea behind this is that the year turns like a wheel, The Great Wheel of the Zodiac, The Wheel of Life, of which the spokes are the old ritual occasions. In Norwegian wheel is “hjul” pronounced about the same as Yule. At this time of year, we have winter and snow with a temperature around – 5C (23F). In Oslo; the sun is up 5 hours a day (equally 19 hours at summer solstice). So no wonder I call it significant and that we look for lightening in a dark and cold period of the year. With that in mind, let me share some memories and traditions:
The first tree heard of was from mid 1800s and it became common from mid 1900s. Everyone has either a spruce or a pine tree in their living room – decorated with white lights, Norwegian flags and other (mostly home made) ornaments for Christmas. In my childhood, I so much remember when we made paper baskets and chains of coloured paper. The baskets were filled with candy or nuts. Before the presents are opened (in Norway at Christmas Eve!), the family dances in a ring around the tree while singing traditional Norwegian carols.
In our home, it was decorated the night before Yule Nissen (see below!) and after parents had checked (I so much remember the anticipation!), we where guided in to see 🙂
Santa or Yule Nisse:
The Nisse is thought of a stocky fellow with a long, grey beard and a red knitted cap and of course in my time he brings children gifts. But the role wasn’t always like this. Several decades ago, he was though of as the protector of the family farm. Stories about him have been passed down for generations. On the farm, he helped with the work in mysterious ways. For example, because he enjoyed helping horses more than cows, he would often steal hay from the cows to give an extra portion to a favourite horse. He expected being served a large wooden bowl filled with rise cream porridge, with a big "eye of butter," in the centre on Christmas Eve.
In our family, like most others, we have a tradition that one of the family members dress up like a Nisse by putting on a stiff mask and a costume on Christmas Eve. The Nisse with his sack knocks on the door. He asks the question: "Good evening, are there any good children here?" In the sack on his back there was the gifts we where waiting for.
Traditional Norwegian Yule food:
As the name implies, feasting is a major part of Yuletide traditions. At Christmas Eve we have pork ribs and coincidentally that is served cold at Christmas Day accompanied by huge feasts of a usually smorgasbord.
Here we are talking about recipes passed down for many generations and I consider myself lucky having a mom who still holds on to them. From my childhood I clearly remember the smell of Christmas in our house weeks before the Holiday. It was a hectic period of course, as everything should be ready, clean, fresh and prepared. My mom and grandmother did most of it in the kitchen with fresh meat coming directly from the butcher.
Nowadays we start this buffet at my parent’s house around noon and it lasts until 6PM at least. We are eating all the time, but most of all talking and enjoying each others company. This is the time when we share and remember the passing year and keep each other updated on plans for the year to come. Grandpa and Grandma is curios about their grandchildren’s future dreams and ambitions as well, of course 🙂
As told; To celebrate their belief in the powers of the gods, the Norsemen (Vikings) held festivals. The father of the Gods was Odin or Thor, commonly called the Yule Father (referred to the sun). The original Yule Log Ceremony was a festival celebrating the sun during the winter solstice, which occurs close to the time we celebrate Christmas today. After the Norman invasion of England in 1066, the Yule Log tradition was passed on to the British and evolved to the tradition that it is today.
In the picture you see Yule Log as Christmas decorations, or a choir – my sister’s speciality!
On my blog; RennyBA’s Terella, there are plenty of more posts about Norway at Yuletide and I hope you’ll enjoyed this guest post as well as the one at my blog as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them:
- Norwegian Christmas Day Smorgasbord:
- Christmas Tree and food Traditions in Norway:
- Yuletide Nisse and old world food in Norway at Christmas:
- Christmas myths like Santa or Yule Nisse from Norway:
(Thank you for a wonderful and comprehensive look into Christmas in Norway, Renny, and for taking time out of your busy schedule to write this for us.)