Birthdays in Norway

Posted on 31. Jul, 2014 by in Traditions


Photo by Nina Svenne at Flickr. (Creative Commons Licensed.)

Photo by Nina Svenne at Flickr. (Creative Commons Licensed.)

Gratulerer med fødselsdagen! (Happy birthday!) Since July is crowded with birthdays in my family, I thought it would be nice ending the month with some facts about fødselsdagsfeiring (birthday celebration) in Norway.

Mange norske barn har barneselskap. (Many Norwegian children have children’s birthday parties.) The barneselskap is hosted by the child’s parents. Children from the skoleklasse (school class) or barnehage (kindergarten) of the fødselsdagsbarn (”birthday child”) are invited to the consumption of kaker (cakes), brus (lemonade), gelé [shellEH] (jelly), snop (candy)… Gjestene [YESTeneh] (the guests) are expected to bring gaver (gifts) or penger (money).

• Adult nordmenn (Norwegians) continue celebrating their birthdays, but it’s often more low-key later in life. The exceptions are the runde fødselsdager (round birthdays) like 25, 30, 40, 50, 75… These are often pretexts for huge parties.

• Norwegian actually has two words for ’birthday’. The second one is bursdag (or gebursdag), which comes from the German word Geburtstag. In some parts of the country the right thing to say is: Gratulerer med bursdagen! Ask the locals to hear which word they use.

• It quite normal for the guests at a birthday party to sing a fødselsdagssang/bursdagssang for the celebrant. When people are in a hurry, they sometimes go for the English ”Happy Birthday To You”. Otherwise, there is a nice Norwegian song, ”Hurra for deg som fyller ditt år”. The song has special moves that follow the text. The first verse runs like this:


Hurra for deg som fyller ditt år!
Ja, deg vil vi gratulere!
Alle i ring omkring deg vi står,
og se, nå vil vi marsjere,
bukke, nikke, neie, snu oss omkring,
danse for deg med hopp og sprett og spring,
ønske deg av hjertet alle gode ting!
Og si meg så, hva vil du mere?


Hooray for you who’re completing your year,

yes, you we will congratulate.

Everybody is standing around you in a ring,

and see, now we’ll march,

bow, nod, curtsy, turn around,

dance for you with jumps and bounces,

wish form the heart all good things!

And say me then, what more do you want?



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Ylvis Explained

Posted on 27. Jul, 2014 by in Humor, Music, Politics

YlvisAfter Ylvis had the whole world wondering WHAT DOES THE FOX SAY? back in September 2013, the Norwegian comedy band have been enjoying global stardom. They have been guests at American talkshows, and their other songs have received many clicks on YouTube. Selv om de synger på engelsk (even if they sing in English), there are a couple of words and cultural references which may confuse Non-Norwegians. Jeg skal prøve å forklare dem: (I’ll try to explain them:)




The Cabin 

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• This is a perfect parody of hytta, the place where many Norwegians go when they have some days off and need to relax. The point is to enjoy naturen (Nature) and spend some quality time with your family or friends. With all the beautiful sceneries in Norway, you don’t need a lot of entertainment, a game of kinasjakk (china chess) or a kortspill (a deck of cards) might be enough. Many people keep their cabins a bit ”primitive” on purpose, even if they could afford to buy new cutlery etc. An awful lot of Norwegians seem to have this romantic idea of conquering steep mountains, being alone in the woods among wild animals, etc. To people who haven’t spent time in Norway I guess Ylvis are quite right that the whole hytte thing may look like a joke! :-)

• At 3:53 there are the strange lyrics You know there’s no such thing as bad weather/Only bad kleather.This is a fun way of ”translating” a proverb every Norwegian knows: Det finnes ikke dårlig vær/Bare dårlige klær. ”There’s no bad weather, only bad clothes.” (Strangely, Norwegian children aren’t always motivated when their parents tell them this!)


Jan Egeland

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JePak (128)

The real Jan Egeland.

• Mr. Egeland is a Norwegian politician who’s done a lot of work as fredsmegler (peace mediator) in FN (Forente Nasjoner = United Nations). I guess the rest Ylvis are singing about him is a bit exaggerated, but anyway, it’s nice that they highlight one of all those silent, hardworking helter (heroes) you don’t normally hear about. The fun part here for Norwegians is the mock-American pronunciation: In Norwegian, the name is pronounced [yaan EHghelann] (hard G and dark A’s).

The Oslo treaty plan refers to the ”Oslo Accord” in 1993. It was an attempt to make fred (peace) between Israelis and Palestinians.

Gahr Støre refers to Jonas Gahr Støre, who used to be the Norwegian utenriksminister (Minister of Foreign Affairs, 2005-2012).

Not a daddy’s boy like Jens refers to the former statsminister (PM) Jens Stoltenberg [Yens…], the son of the legendary politician Thorvald Stoltenberg.


And finally…

• Ylvis is pronounced with the same vowel sound as in lys: Round your lips to blow a kiss, then say eee without changing your lips’ position.

A love letter to høyfjellet

Posted on 30. Jun, 2014 by in Nature

Høyfjellet at Hardangervidda (Photo courtesy of Christian Theede Christiansen on Flickr.)

Høyfjellet at Hardangervidda (Photo courtesy of Christian Theede Christiansen
on Flickr.)

According to the late Norwegian singer and humorous writer Odd Børretzen, the first Norwegians were nuts: With istida (the Ice Age) coming to an end in Europe, do you think these sturdy fellows stayed to enjoy the sunny lands in central Europe? Nope, instead they followed the retiring is (ice) on its path nordover (northwards) to de ugjestfrie fjella (the unwelcoming mountains) of Norway-to-be, where kulda (the cold) and the sparse soil made life an uphill struggle… (Of course, the stereotypical nordmann – Norwegian – loves climbing hills and mountains!)

You’ll see those Stone Age pioneers got it right when you visit det norske høyfjellet – the Norwegian “high plateau” (literally: high mountain). With tregrensa (the “tree limit”) well below you, there’s only your friends and you, and lier (highland pastures) and daler (valleys) and fjelltopper (peaks) så langt øyet rekker (as far as the eye can see, literally “reaches”). The air is clean as spring water, and the enormous stillhet (silence) around you makes every heartbeat resonate. You’re very tett på himmelen (close to the sky/heavens) now, so take care that you don’t become too religious! :-)

Om vinteren (in the winter) the høyfjell is like another planet where everything is white and alien. People go skiing on plains of snø (snow) so thick that you often glide past the uppermost twigs of trees, jutting out of the cape.

I påska (in Easter) høyfjellet gets a makeover as påskefjellet (the Easter mountains), and Norwegians are swarming on the high plains, as it’s often the only place where there is still snow. Sola (the sun) is really hot now and its stråler (rays) are reflected by the snow. Remember to dress lightly, even if there’s snow underneath you, and remember lots of solkrem (suntan lotion) and solbriller (sunglasses, shades). Otherwise, people will seriously think you’ve been vacationing in the Sahara! :-)

Om sommeren (in the summer), when there’s only snow on the highest peaks, høyfjellet is popular among trekkers who often go from hytte til hytte (cabin to cabin). There are many cabins that are free for tourists to use.

Naturally, there is nothing quite as vakker (beautiful) as høstfjellet – the mountains with autumn hues at their feet.