Happy Romjul Posted by Bjørn A. Bojesen on Dec 30, 2013 in Holidays, Traditions
Norwegians just can’t get enough of jula (”the christmas”). When the whole family has received their gaver (gifts) on julekvelden (Christmas Eve, December 24th), there is still første og andre juledag (1st and 2nd day of Christmas, December 25th and 26th), a time for eating and visiting friends. (Hva fikk du i julegave i år? What did you get for Christmas this year?)
Don’t panick, it isn’t over yet! 🙂
To stretch it just a little bit further, Norwegians invented romjula [ROMyoolah]. In modern Norwegian rom means ”room” or ”space”, and although I’m not sure that’s the original meaning of the concept, it fits the idea pretty well: Romjula is the ”space” between jul and nyttår (New Year, January 1st).
In romjula, the social activities of the Christmas days go on. A number of people, however, have to jobbe [YOBBeh] (work). With weekends and everything, the arbeidsdager (working days) of romjula are usually quite few. In a way, it’s like a second juleferie (Christmas holiday). Many people, including teachers and students, don’t have any duties in romjula.
Romjula is the ideal time to bytte gavene dine (change your gifts). Got the same Norwegian course from two different family members? Off to the shop you go – but remember byttelappen (”the exchange note”, a special kind of receipt with a deadline for changing the item in the store where it was bought!) A lot of butikker (shops) even have a romjulssalg (romjul sale) to tidy up their shelves after Christmas, so ideally you should have a time-machine when shopping julegaver in Norway!
Formerly, romjula ended on trettendedagen (”the thirteenth day” after Christmas Eve, January 6th). That is still the day when many Norwegians will scrap their Christmas tree. Let’s give the last word to the late poet-songwriter Alf Prøysen, who’s still loved and sung:
En skulle vøri fire år i romjul
da julelysa brente dagen lang
og væla var et hus med fire vegger,
der saligheta var et bessmorfang.
En skulle vært fire år i romjula
da julelysene brente dagen lang
og verden var et hus med fire vegger,
der saligheten var et bestemorsfang
One should have been four years old in Romjula
when the Christmas lights were shining all day long
and the world was a house with four walls,
where the very bliss was a grandmother’s lap.
With this, I’d like to wish all of you a Happy New Year! See you in 2014.
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Thank you for this descriptive understanding of Romjul. I heard the word just today from a friend with Norwegian heritage, and find it charming, restful and delightful!
I wonder if you could expound on another Norwegian jule custom: Julebokking. I grew up in a rural Minnesota community with Norwegians all around us (we were the only non-Scandinavians for miles and miles), and remember vividly the visits from the Julebokkers every winter between Christmas and New Year’s–our country school Christmas vacation. I know the word means “Christmas Fool”, and the purpose is to confuse and startle and surprise. What else can you tell me? It was a rural holiday tradition that as far as I know is no longer practiced . Times have changed too much.
Bjørn A. Bojesen:
@Bonnie Smith-Yackel @Bonnie – Thank you for the request. It’s a great idea that I’ll add to the bucket list. 🙂