Christmas Traditions in Norway
Winter season brings the magic Christmas time – Christmas is one of the most important holidays in Norway and is widely celebrated across the country. Christmas traditions in Norway, though, are something special – they can be found only in this region and the fabulous vibe they create is absolutely unforgettable!
Across Scandinavia, jul is a commonly known term and it is a name for this period of the Christmas holidays that stretches for a few weeks. But there is also a narrower use of this term: many people refer to jul as the period from the Christmas Eve to New Year’s Eve.
In Norway, winter holidays start in November, with the arrival of Advent. Advent is a period that precedes the Christmas Eve and it usually starts on the 4th Sunday before the Christmas Eve.
Norwegians have a tradition of Advent calendars, which are basically a countdown to the Christmas Day. Don’t get too jealous, but there’s another custom: family members receive some small gifts on every Advent morning (or each Sunday, depending on how a family celebrates).
During the period of Advent, many companies hold pre-Christmas parties, which are called julebord and are quite popular in the country. And that explains why the nightlife in the cities gets extremely vivid and vibrant during these months.
If you visit a home of your Norwegian friends in mid-December, you might be surprised to see a Christmas tree without decorations. And that is an important cultural difference — there is a tradition of decorating the Christmas tree together with your family (traditionally, on December 23) in Norway’s culture. And the most important day of celebration is the Christmas Eve, on December 24 — it’s the time when the entire family comes together and celebrates the forthcoming Christmas!
Santa Claus never made it to Norway, but you can still expect gifts on Christmas Eve from the nisse. According to the Norwegian Christmas traditions (and other Scandinavian ones), he is a short creature with red hat and long white beard who lives in stove chimneys across Scandinavia; Julenisses come bearing their bounty after eating two whole wheat buns slathered in butter all by themselves while singing carols too!
Norwegian kids and teenagers happily receive gifts from this Norwegian, enhanced version of Santa Claus. And it is not uncommon to see people wearing Julenisse costumes on the streets, at parties and on the Christmas markets.
The arrival of winter holidays is the perfect time to visit Norway’s Christmas markets. The country has an entire system set up just for their celebration, with everything from traditional food vendors and drink stands in Christmas-time villages all across Scandinavia, as well decoration overload on every street corner!
Indeed, one can absolutely say that the Norwegians’ love for the Christmas markets runs deep in their DNA. From November to December, Norwegians can’t wait for their favorite time of year when they get bundled up and head out into the cold with a hot toddy or mulled wine in hand. The Norwegian Christmas markets are an excellent place to taste gløgg, a warm, alcoholic drink.
In fact, there are Christmas markets everywhere across the country – from the dozens of markets and shows in the Norwegian capital to small markets in remote Norwegian towns in the north. It is a genuine Norwegian experience everyone should try at least once!
ATTENTION! We are going to stream a number of live events from the Norwegian Christmas markets. Check out on this event page on Facebook or on our Facebook page and enjoy your virtual journey to the Norwegian markets and shows. 😉
Food and Drinks
You cannot imagine a Norwegian Christmas without a cup of gløgg – just like it’s impossible to visit a Christmas market in Germany without drinking Glühwein. Here, though, we will talk about the other traditional Norwegian meals and drinks on Christmas.
One of the most loved meats in Norway is ribbe, which is traditionally served with sauerkraut and red cabbage on Christmas Eve. This dish has been popular throughout Europe for centuries because it can be preserved well during winter months – just at the time when fresh meat was scarce.
Lutefisk is another traditional dish that has for centuries been served during Advent and on Christmas. It is made from dried whitefish soaked in water for about three days before being rinsed to remove excess salt, then boiled until it becomes gelatinous.
Besides, Norway has a Christmas tradition of cooking up a big pot of pinnekjøtt, or spiced lamb shoulder from an ancient recipe. While the origin is unclear, it’s been a part of Norwegian culture for many centuries and often served during festive occasions.
Risengrynsgrøt is one more traditional Norwegian meal served on Christmas. It is made with rice porridge, sugar, raisins, and milk. The tradition of eating risengrynsgrøt can be traced back to the 1500s, when Christians wanted to eat something during the holidays that was more filling than their typical fare.
Of course, Christmas time is a perfect time for you to relish in all types of snacks, candies, chocolate, and marzipans. Don’t forget to try a pepperkake, or a Norwegian version of the gingerbread cookie! Pepperkake (gingerbread) house is a delicious treat you should try for sure – there are plenty of them on the Christmas markets!
Christmas Traditions in Norway: Decoration
It might sound like a cliché to say that Norwegians are known for their love of Christmas. But when it comes down to what they prefer most during this season, the answer is clear – heart-shaped decorations! There’s even an annual festival dedicated just specifically to these julekurver (or “Christmas baskets”). Besides, people often stuff these baskets with different treats or Norwegian flags and ornaments, then place them on the trees.
When you visit a Christmas market in Norway, you will also notice the Norwegians’ love for everything heart-shaped – from waffles to gingerbread cookies. The latter can oftentimes be spotted hanging in the windows of shops and houses, creating an inspiring festive atmosphere.
By the way, viewing the Northern Lights is another amazing activity to do in Scandinavia during the winter season. Check out this guide to the best places for viewing the Northern Lights in Scandinavia.
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