Norwegian Language Blog

Christmas in Tromsø Posted by on Dec 9, 2011 in Culture, Holidays, Traditions


Although I have not had the pleasure to spend Christmas in Tromsø (or any place in Norway), I can imagine what the island must feel like.  Even on nice summer nights, people would pack into the cafés, bars, and restaurants.  It was always very cozy, whether it was a Tuesday evening or a Saturday night.  I think the people that are from northern Norway and especially those that still reside in the arctic, find it natural to be social and close to one another.  Because the winter is so long and dark, people are forced to either find ways to cope with this or be miserable.  Therefore, most make it a priority to see friends and family often to maintain lots of human contact.

Folks around Tromsø start to get ready for Christmas in November where there are little markets that handicraft makers sell their goods at.  This is a good opportunity to get the holiday shopping started.  During the last weekend of November, the lights in the main square are lit.  The second weekend of November brings in a significant amount of inland folk.  Inhabitants expect lots of caroling, lefse making and coffee brewed outdoors.

While Tromsø is not a large city, I very much enjoyed browsing the stores downtown.  There are very nice home décor stores, gift stores, sports and outdoor stores, and of course souvenir shops.  Popular Christmas gifts that visitors purchase in Tromsø to take home include luer (hats) and votter (mittens).  If you go this route, be sure to ask about the felted wool products-these are extra warm and often more durable than the wool most people are used to.  I have a pair of cream colored felted votter that used to be my bestemor´s (grandmother´s), which were passed down to my aunt, and then me.  I believe it was my great-grandmother who knit them, so they are really old, but still super warm and in great shape!


Other great gifts include unique jewelry, sweets such as lefse, and a very lovely gift would be a hand-made blown glass ornament from the world´s northernmost glass-blowing studio!  I still would love to make it to one of these…

Why else might one want to go to Tromsø for Christmas you might ask?  Especially for those of us that already reside in a cold winter climate like MN?!  Several reasons:


-Aurora Borealis. The Northern Lights.  Winter is a great time to see the Northern Lights because there is little to no light at all for months during the winter in the arctic.  Therefore, the Northern Lights are that much more prominent against a dark sky.

-You can go skiing, dog sledding, snow shoeing, etc.  Endless fun winter activities!

And if you stick around until New Year´s, you will see a graceful end to Christmas and a very festive welcoming of the nytt år (new year).

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About the Author: kari

I attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, where I majored in Norwegian and History. During college, I spent almost a year living in Oslo, Norway, where I attended the University of Oslo and completed an internship at the United States Embassy. I have worked for Concordia Language Villages as a pre-K Norwegian teacher and have taught an adult Norwegian language class. Right now, I keep up by writing this Norwegian blog for Transparent Language. Please read and share your thoughts! I will be continuing this blog from my future residence in the Norwegian arctic!


  1. David:

    Quick question here. Would it be possible when you are giving the Norwegian word to also give the pronunciation for that word? I can usually figure it out but struggle with some words — usually the o with slash and y when they are next to each other. Thanks. Love the blog. DT

    • kari:

      @David Hi David,

      I will try to incorporate more pronunciation explanations in my posts. Thank you for the suggestion! I also encourage you to purchase Wyki products through Transparent Language so that you can learn Norwegian on your own as well.