Christmas in Norway is truly a festive affair. Like other parts of the world, it usually begins on Christmas Eve with an exchange of presents.
Of course, the gifts will usually be brought by Santa Claus (which the Norwegians call “Julenissen”).
Besides Santa, the presents will also come from little gnomes called “Nisse.”
Interestingly enough, there is also some hobgoblin attire for everyone to enjoy.
Children have an enjoyable time choosing their presents directly from the foot of the Christmas Tree, and they also love to read the unique cards that are placed on the gifts.
They might first read them silently to themselves, but then they will read them out loud to the rest of their family.
During either the Advent or late winter months in Norway, there are times when small gifts will be given on each day of December leading to the big day.
Denmark has a similar tradition. All of these gifts are often paired up with a fancy chocolate-flavored calendar!
They even have a name for this time of year: Adventsgave or Kalendargave.
Norway also has some Christmas traditions that are similar to Finland.
The main one of these would be the practice of leaving out a sheath of wheat for the birds to eat over the Christmas holidays.
A lot of Norwegians believe the “Nisse” is busy keeping watch of the farm animals, so many of them will leave out a bowl of porridge to keep them from going hungry.
Caroling and Lighting Candles
There are parts of Norway where the children will go out caroling. They will often dress up as a few of the main characters from the Biblical Christmas story.
Sometimes, they will dress up as shepherds. Some of the more ambitious kids will go as the Three Wise Men.
Either way, most of the carolers will have paper stars with them.
Yet another unique tradition in Norway would be the family practice of lighting a candle for every night in December that leads up to Christmas.
History of Christmas in Norway
Christmas didn’t become a major holiday in Norway until 1000 or 1100, as that was when Christianity was first spread to the area.
Before this occurred, people had a celebration during this time, but it was called “jul” or “jol”, and it simply meant they were observing that the harvest was over and was now looking ahead to the spring.
The Norwegians would brew a lot of beer (juleol) during this time, and many individuals would drink this beer in honor of the pagan gods of the Scandinavian region.
They have had this custom since the late 1940s because this tree is given as a way to say “thank you” for the huge assistance that the United Kingdom did to help Norway during the horrors of World War II.
England will always place this tree in Trafalgar Square in the middle of London.
Thousands of locals and tourists alike will come to see this tree when it is revealed in all its beauty with the lights turned on.
Norwegian Christmas Decorations
Some say that famous Norweigan writer Hans Christian Andersen possibly invented these tree ornaments in the 1860s!
The following site has instructions for making these ornaments: http://www.stavanger-web.com/baskets.php.
Christmas in the Norwegian Language
In Norwegian, they will say “God Jul” or “Gledelig Jul” for the terms “Happy Christmas” or “Merry Christmas”.
However, there are certain parts of Norway, Russia, Finland, and Sweden where they might say “Buorit Juovilat.” An exhaustive list of how Happy/Merry Christmas in other languages.
Christmas Food in Norway
A smorgasbord of cakes and biscuits are eaten during a Norwegian Christmas. They will include many different native dishes, including a popular recipe for a special bread named “Julekake.”
This confection has raisins, cardamom, and candied peel in it. Called “Norwegian Hole Cake” in English, there are many recipes for it online. All you have to do is Google it.
The Norwegians also love to eat Rice Porridge on Christmas Eve. It is served either as a lunchtime meal or dessert accompanying an evening meal.
They always serve this meal with butter, cinnamon, and sugar.
With the evening meal, they might put whipped cream in it too! One tradition states that if someone finds an almond in their serving they are supposed to receive a marzipan pig from the server!
A Norweigan family’s main Christmas meal will usually consist of mutton or port ribs with a side dish of “surkal.”.
This red or white cabbage is normally finely chopped and prepared with vinegar and caraway seeds.
Add these two to meals to potatoes and the Norwegians are ready to make some fond Christmas memories!
Musevisa – The Mouse Song
It was originally composed in 1946 by Alf Proysen, and this song is one of many traditional Norweigan folk tunes.
The plot of the song details some mice who are getting ready to celebrate Christmas, but their mother and father are warning them to steer clear of some mouse traps someone had set out in their path!
In 2008, they discovered an extra verse that they originally thought was hidden.
This paragraph in the song describes the misadventures of the Christmas mice as they seek to avoid a nasty cat as well!
Although it was later determined to have been a hoax brought about by Norweigan photographer named Ivar Kalleberg, many individuals thought that was quite charming fun and that Alf Proysen would have gotten a good chuckle out of Mr. Kalleberg’s joke!
There is no question that the Mouse Song has captured the imagination of most Norwegians even though it is only been around for seven decades.
Many individuals even enjoy the newer versions of the song, so here is a thorough summary of this unique Norweigan Christmas song:
Summary of the Mouse Song
In the first couple of verses, it discusses how the nights are starting to get longer.
The song briefly delves into how the lakes will freeze into ice, and then Father Mouse is warning the young mice about “a foul device”, that of a mousetrap!
He wants his family to have a good Christmas, and he knows the only they will do so is to stay away from these traps.
The song then discusses how Mother Mouse is working very hard to keep their home as clean and cozy as possible.
The children don’t want to get in her way, so they go off on their own and do the polka dance to pass the time away and kill boredom.
When the youngsters finally come back to the house, they all are still very excited, simply because they know that Mama Mouse is going to let them stay up very late. They never get to do that!
They also are excited because they know they spruce up an open-toed boot with some decorative nails they found and they can drape their living area with some cobwebs.
It isn’t too long after this that Father Mouse comes in and tells them they should dance in front of this book.
Each little mouse takes the hand of their partner and they listen to their Old Granny singing a fairy tale.
The whole mouse family will have some Christmas dinner, consisting of Arctic Halibut, hazelnuts, candy paper, yuletide ham, and some nice apple jam.
What comes after this is everyone’s favorite part: the gift-exchange. In this part of the song, the mice each exchange their gifts!
First of all, Granny gets a rocking chair, which is a hollowed-out potato that members of the mouse family have gnawed out for her. Granny is so happy she will start to sing, and the child mice sing right along with her.
The next verses tell us of Granny getting tired, and amid the “early dawn” she lets out a huge “yawn.” Before she goes to bed, she tells all of the mice to be careful with the mouse traps.
Father Mouse joins in at this time, and he is very serious, saying the mice should “take a nap” and just think of the Yuletide festivities and don’t think about that awful trap.
Thus, Father Mouse keeps watch, and the children will try to go to sleep. In this part, they hum a small verse to help them rest.
Of course, all of these verses were from the version that was written before 2008. Ivar Kalleberg’s verses are very interesting, to say the least.
The Mice Encounter a Cat
Kalleberg’s version first of all talks about how all the mice were sleeping, but unfortunately a cat came passing by.
He decided to eat up all of the mice and even another rat that was passing through.
Tragic as this may seem, Kalleberg admonishes the reader that there is nothing to worry about because they all flew to the heavenly gates to a celestial mansion!
However, fortunately for the children that were later revealed to be Kalleberg’s “hoax verse.”
Another later ending to the poem was constructed by him, and in this one, he still makes not of a cat coming by, but instead of eating the mice they all celebrate the Christmas season together!
Learn More With the Help of Video
Main Points About Christmas in Norway
- Norwegians are big on Christmas trees and Christmas decorations. Their decorations always include a ‘nisse’ (a mythological creature in Norwegian folklore).
- It is common to find children caroling in costumes of the characters in the Christmas story.
- Families in some parts of Norway as a custom always light a candle from Christmas eve, up until New Year’s Day.
- The most popular Christmas tradition in Norway is the giving of the big Christmas tree to the UK as a ‘thank you’ to the people of the UK.
- On Christmas day, people often visit families and friends, share meals and have a great time together.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Christmas in Norway
As in the rest of Scandinavia, Christmas Eve is the most important day of Christmas and when presents are opened but it’s still a working day (not a school day though), but most people finish early this day to get home to their families in time.
Advent Calendars with gifts are popular in many families, and for dessert, on Christmas Eve you might have a tall cake called “Kransekake”.
Word Cloud for Christmas in Norway
The following is a collection of the most used terms in this article on Christmas in Norway. This should help in recalling related terms as used in this article at a later stage for you.