How to celebrate a proper Norwegian Christmas

Are you dreaming of a white Nordic Christmas? And would you like to spend a real Norwegian Christmas somewhere in the mountains one day? Well, I'm happy to say that Ben is taking over the blog today to tell you all about Norwegian Christmas traditions - and how these differ from his home in England!

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Hello there! I am an English expat and freelance blogger. I’m originally from the big city of London, but for the last three months I’ve been living in the beautiful town of Kristiansund on Norway’s west coast.

I’ve long been a fan of Norway, and since it’s coming up to Christmas time, I thought I’d share with you some of the things I’ve learned about how to have a proper Norwegian Christmas.

 

Christmas really does come early

If you're in Norway for the holiday season, and you see people opening their presents a day early, don't be surprised – Norwegians actually celebrate Christmas on the 24th of December, not the 25th.

This isn’t just the case in Norway. In fact, all of the Scandinavian countries, as well as central and Eastern Europe, have their main festivities on Christmas eve.

But don’t worry, this doesn’t mean that everything goes back to normal on Christmas day! Norwegians treat this as a special day to spend with family, which usually involves eating a second festive meal and enjoying quality time together.

Norwegian Christmas traditions

In fact, the yuletide fun is often spread over many days of relaxing, chatting, and filling up on tasty food. Which brings me onto my next point…

 

Eat, drink and be merry

In Norway, as with everywhere else it’s celebrated, Christmas tends to revolve around delicious and special foods.

In England we’d usually serve a fat and juicy turkey, along with crunchy-on-the-outside-fluffy-on-the‑inside roast potatoes, and other mouth-watering sides. I was expecting something equally yummy when spending Christmas in Norway, and I wasn’t disappointed!

Norway is a country that values its traditions, and you’ll still find many families tucking into the old favourite of pinnekjøtt. While this is directly translated to ‘stick meat’, it actually means ribs of lamb, served with a hearty dollop of swede and potato mash.

christmas traditions in norway

There’s also the unusual delicacy of lutefisk, or dried cod that has been soaked in lye until it has a jelly‑like consistency. I was warned on many occasions that this dish had a strong flavour, and that as a foreigner I probably wouldn’t like it – but in reality it was quite mild, with an interesting texture.

Lastly, I’ve been informed that many Norwegians are now opting for something a little more informal for their Christmas meal: a Grandiosa pizza. This is perhaps unsurprising, as this flavoursome pizza is often referred to as ‘Norway’s unofficial national dish!’

 

Gather round the television

As I mentioned, Norway is strong on tradition, and there are some TV programmes that everyone simply has to watch over the yuletide season.

Top of the list is an English comedy sketch that’s wildly popular in countries across Europe, but virtually unknown in Britain. “Dinner for One” has a cast of two: an old aristocratic lady, and her equally aged butler.

It’s slapstick comedy at its very best, and sure to put a smile on your face. Watch the below clip and you’ll be well on your way to experiencing a true Norwegian Christmas.

Of course, there’s also the dubious pleasures of the ‘Julekalender’ series, a cult favourite that makes its way onto television sets every few years. The show involves three lovable Christmas dwarves, or ‘nisses’.

The funniest thing about this show is the fact it is recorded in ‘Norwenglish’ – a hilarious blend of Norwegian and mangled English. Try to watch the below video without wincing. Go on, I dare you.

 

Deck the halls with… advent candles

In Britain, the word “advent” conjures up images of cardboard or linen calendars, filled with chocolates or other little treats – with one to be opened each day in the run‑up to Christmas.

As a child, the challenge would be to avoid eating all the chocolate from the advent calendar at once. Or to succumb to temptation, then try to cover up after yourself by closing the little doors and pretending nothing had happened.

But “Advent” is also the name for the period leading up to Christmas, and in Norway there are some special customs to be followed during these weeks. For instance, it’s common to light a candle on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, and then light another candle each Sunday until the big day.

Norwegian Christmas traditions

These candles are often left in windowsills, so they can shine out at passers-by. Driving through a town or village at night, and seeing these little lights winking at you from every house, is a truly magical experience.

As you might have realised, Christmas is a big deal in Norway. Whether you’re tucking into delicious food, watching festive TV programmes, or sipping on some gløgg (Norwegian mulled wine), the most important thing is to be together with family.

This is a time for gathering your loved ones and rejoicing in each other’s company, as the nights draw in and the cold Norwegian winter starts to bite. So pull up a chair, put on an episode of Julekalender, and let the holiday season begin. 

 

How do your Christmas traditions differ from Norwegian ones?

Leave a comment below!

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About the author:

Benjamin Steele is a freelance writer and PR specialist, who's recently moved to Kristiansund in Norway. You can find (and hire) Ben on his website, or connect with him on Twitter and Linkedin.

 

 

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