Christmas time has always been magical, snow is falling, days are getting shorter and socially distanced family gatherings are becoming increasingly common. Although Christmas originated as a religious holiday, it has since transformed into a cultural one, with each country having a different way of celebrating it, Norway is an Arctic country with its own traditions. That is why we’re here today, to discover these wonderful, diverse traditions that bring the Christmas cheer to the streets of Norway.
Interestingly enough, Christmas in Norway has been celebrated long before Christ, which is why it is referred to a jul (Yule) instead. It’s origins include celebrating the winter solstice and the light reappearing after months of darkness. Norwegian Christmas traditions first appear at the beginning of December. To keep the gloom out, and make the long, dark winter days seem more festive, families put up white lights all over their houses, lighting up the streets of Norway.
The holiday cheer continues with Norwegian advent calendars, Julekalender. Found in many cultures, Julekalenderen are open on the four Sundays in December. The tradition is celebrated with four candles, lighting a new one each week. Celebrations are then continued into the week, starting with school celebrations Monday morning. It is common for children in schools to gather to sing traditional Christmas songs.
Santa Lucia, celebrated on the 13th of december, is most commonly known as a day of feasting. The most traditional food to eat in Santa Lucia is Lussekatts, a saffron and raisin bun. The tradition stems from the tale of a young girl who secretly brought food to persecuted Christians. The 13th of December was the shortest day of the year, also known as the winter solstice, a pagan holiday surrounding lights which over time transformed into the Santa Lucia tradition.
The 23rd of December is known as Lille Julaften, or The Little Christmas Eve, and is a family-oriented tradition surrounding eating risengrynsgrøt, a porridge with nuts hidden in it. The tradition goes as follows: whoever gets the nuts in their porridge wins a piece of chocolate or marzipan. Each family has their own way of celebrating the day, with some eating rice pudding instead of porridge. It is also common for families to come together and decorate their house with gingerbread houses and a variety of other holiday ornaments.
Julekage: a traditional Norwegian Christmas bread.
Julaften, or Christmas Eve, is one of the most important days of the celebration, and unlike many countries, in Norway, the 24th is the focal point of the holidays. Depending on the family, the day starts by watching typical Christmas shows and movies with the whole family. Parents usually start cooking a big dinner at around noon, making an afternoon out of it. This is followed by Christmas bells, which can be heard precisely at 17h00, as well as boys choirs broadcasted on TV. The dinner is eaten soon after, with presents being opened at the end of the meal.
Christmas day is a day dedicated to visiting family, which is why all shops are closed. Typically, everyone will stay inside and spend the day watching movies, playing board games, drinking not chocolate and eating food. The 25th is a day to spend peacefully, with one another. Many Norwegians also raise the national flag, a __ that is done only on special occasions.
The last magical day of the holidays is the 27nd, which is known as the sacred day. Similarly to Christmas Day, everything is closed. However instead of it being a day celebrating family, it celebrates friends. On this day, big parties are held and all teenagers go out with their friends. It is one of the biggest traditions of the holidays for teenagers.
After a long month of traditions, activities, feasts and parties, holidays come to a swift end on the 3rd of January, when schools and universities resume. Although the holidays are now over, the excitement of a new year, school terms and longer days are enough to keep joy in the air.