Norwegian Christmas Traditions

Norwegian Christmas Traditions

As the festive season unfolds, we invite you on a heartwarming journey to discover the enchanting Norwegian Christmas traditions that make Norway's celebrations truly unique. Steeped in history, rich in symbolism, and filled with warmth, Norwegian Christmas traditions add a touch of magic to the holiday season.

1. Julenisse Magic:

In Norway, the Christmas season is not complete without the Julenisse (Santa Clause). Setting out a bowl of porridge for him the night before Christmas Eve is a tradition that continues to capture the imagination of both young and old. The Julenisse often visits schools and shopping malls in the weeks leading up to Christmas Eve and the children adore him. In Norway the Christmas gifts are opened on Christmas Eve, right after the wonderful Christmas dinner. The children have a hard time sitting still at the dinner table looking at all the presents under the tree that are waiting for them. 

2. Advent Candles:

The countdown to Christmas in Norway begins with the lighting of Advent candles, 4 candles for the 4 Sundays leading up to Christmas Eve. The advent candles and advent decorations are usually purple and many families decorate the dinner table with purple things as a lead up to Christmas. Families gather to mark each of the 4 Advent Sundays leading up to Christmas, creating a cozy atmosphere and building excitement with every candle lit. In schools and kindergartens all over Norway the advent candles are lit every week as the kids sing the Advent Candle Lighting song:

Text: Sigurd Muri 1963 - Melody: Emmy Köhler 1898 (Nå tennes tusen julelys)

Nå tenner vi det første lys (Now we light the first candle)
Alene må det stå (Alone it must stand)
Vi venter på det lille barn (We wait for the little child)
Som i en krybbe lå (That in a manger laid)

Nå tenner vi det andre lys (Now we light the second candle)
Da kan vi bedre se (So that we can better see)
Vi venter på at Gud vår Far (We wait for God our Father)
Vil gi sin sønn hit ned (To give his son down here)

Nå tenner vi det tredje lys (Now we light the third candle)
Det er et hellig tall (It is a holy number)
Vi venter på at Kongen vår (We wait for our King)
Skal fødes i en stall (To be born in a stable)

Nå tenner vi det fjerde lys (Now we light the fourth candle)
Og natten blir til dag (And the night becomes day)
Vi venter nå på frelseren (We wait now for our savior)
For alle folkeslag (For all mankind)

3. Advent Calenders:

The julekalender (advent calender) is a must for every Norwegian Child. Every morning of December they open up that day's surprise and the excitement towards Christmas Eve builds. It used to be that the Julekalender contained a small piece of chocolate for every day, but now the Julekalender is made with all kinds of candy and toys. Even the adults get advent calenders now. The calenders are often filled with make-up, perfume or skin care for the ladies, and the men may get a case of 24 beers, one for each day.

4. Pepperkaker and Other Christmas Treats:

The delightful aroma of Pepperkaker, traditional Norwegian gingerbread cookies, fills Norwegian homes during the Christmas season. Baking and decorating these sweet treats is a cherished activity, bringing families together in the kitchen to create edible masterpieces. In Bergen you can visit Pepperkakebyen (the gingerbread city) which is Bergen city made up entirely of gingerbread cookies. It is so cozy and it smells amazing. 

5. Lighting Up the Night:

Norway embraces the darkness of winter by adorning homes and streets with intricate light displays. Candles in windows and twinkling outdoor lights create a warm and welcoming atmosphere, transforming even the coldest winter night into a spectacle of beauty. The most traditional lights you will see in every home during Christmas is the seven-armed candlestick that usually sits in one window, and the Christmas star that hangs in another window. 

In certain parts of Norway, December 13th is celebrated with the enchanting St. Lucia Day procession. Young girls don white gowns and crowns of candles, symbolizing the light that St. Lucia brought to the darkest days of winter.

6. Julebord – The Christmas Feast:

Julebord, the traditional Christmas feast, is a celebration of abundance and togetherness. Families gather around tables laden with dishes like pinnekjøtt (cured lamb ribs) or lutefisk (dried fish), savoring the flavors and sharing stories that have been passed down through generations. The workplace Julebord (Christmas Party) is the main event for many Norwegians and it is a great time to laugh and enjoy the amazing Christmas food before Christmas Eve. 

7. St. Lucia Day Celebrations:

In certain parts of Norway, December 13th is celebrated with the enchanting St. Lucia Day procession. Young girls don white gowns and crowns of candles, symbolizing the light that St. Lucia brought to the darkest days of winter.

8. Christmas Eve Delight:

For Norwegians, Christmas Eve is the main event. Early in the day many families enjoy Nissegrøt (porridge) with an almond hidden inside the big bowl of porridge. The lucky person to get the almond, wins a marzipan pig to enjoy. Many Norwegians have a tradition of visiting the graves of their loved ones on Christmas Eve. They lay down beautiful wreaths and light candles and torches to remember them. On the eve of Christmas Eve families exchange gifts, enjoy a festive meal, and attend midnight church services. The evening is a time for reflection, gratitude, and the joy of being surrounded by loved ones.

9. Skiing into Christmas Day:

If you find yourself in a snowy Norwegian landscape during the holidays, you might witness the joy of Christmas Day skiing. Families venture out for a brisk ski on freshly fallen snow, combining the festive spirit with a love for the outdoors.

In Closing: Embrace the Hygge of a Norwegian Christmas:

As you navigate the season's hustle and bustle, take a moment to infuse your celebrations with the coziness and warmth of Norwegian Christmas traditions. Whether it's savoring Pepperkaker, lighting an Advent candle, or sharing a Julebord feast, these customs invite us to slow down, connect with loved ones, and embrace the true spirit of the holidays.

So, here's to a Christmas season filled with the charm, magic, and hygge that Norwegian traditions bring to our hearts and homes. God Jul (Merry Christmas) to all, and may your celebrations be touched by the enchantment of Norway's festive spirit! 🌟

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