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Christmas in Norway Posted by on Dec 24, 2021 in Holidays

(Photo by Jona02 from Pixabay; no copyright.)

Hurra, det er jul! (Hooray, it’s Christmas!) For billions of people, that means glede (joy) and spending time with familien (the family). But what is special about the høytid (feast, literally ’high time’) in Norway?

Jul [yool] is a very old tradition in Norge – in fact, even the Vikings had a party this time of year! They called it jól [yohl], and it was a celebration of vintersolverv (winter solstice): From now on, the days would get longer. After the Viking Age, the ancient jul was replaced by a kristen fest (Christian festival) celebrating the birth of Jesus.1In 2021, of course, many people celebrate Christmas without being religious. But the name stuck! 🙂

Nisser also survive from ancient times. The little ”hobgoblins” with røde luer (red caps) are a part of Christmas decorations everywhere in Norway! In fact, some people in rural areas put our grøt (porridge) for the local nisse to eat… Julenissen, the Norwegian version of Santa Claus, is like a big version of a nisse. When bringing his sekk (sack) of gaver (presents), he’ll say in Norwegian: ”Ho, ho, er det noen snille barn her?” (Ho, ho, are there any kind children here?)

Most of the presents, however, are placed under juletreet (below the Xmas tree) on julaften – Dec. 24th. This is the big day of jula (the Xmas), where people eat julemiddag (Xmas dinner) and unwrap their gifts to hverandre (each other) in the evening. In the long ventetid (waiting time) earlier in the day, many families watch tradisjonsrike (”tradition-rich”) shows such as Reisen til julestjernen (The Journey to the Christmas Star) and Tre nøtter til Askepott (Three Nuts for Cinderella). And you won’t believe how many Norwegians associate jul with Disney cartoons! 🙂

Most families have a traditional main dish for the evening – either ribbe (pork ribs), pinnekjøtt (mutton) or lutefisk (cod). Recently, some Norwegians also started eating kalkun [kalKOON] (turkey) for Christmas. After the dinner, a few families går rundt juletreet (walk around the Xmas tree) and sing julesanger (Xmas carols) before opening the gifts. A speciality in Western Norway is celebrating jul around a furu (pine), but most families have a nicely decorated gran (spruce) as their juletre.

Måtte alle ønskene dine gå i oppfyllelse! (May all your wishes come true!)

God jul og godt nyttår!

(Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!)

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    In 2021, of course, many people celebrate Christmas without being religious.
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About the Author: Bjørn A. Bojesen

I was born in Denmark, but spent large parts of my childhood and study years in Norway. I later returned to Denmark, where I finished my MA in Scandinavian Studies. Having relatives in Sweden as well, I feel very Scandinavian! I enjoy reading and travelling, and sharing stories with you! You’re always welcome to share your thoughts with me and the other readers.


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