I have already been attending Christmas parties and have got many more invitations all the way to January. Now I realise in Norway, Christmas comes early and ends way after January. In a nut shell, it is said, it is a 20 day celebration. Nice, this simply means attending more parties and after January, expect to see a small elephant because I will eat all the deserts regardless of the calories.
A Norwegian Christmas is filled with many celebrations and traditions, old and new. The fall of snow, which has already turned my city into a white landscape, is believed to be first sign of Christmas and Norwegians begin to prepare for their long season of juletid the Christmas celebrations.
Christmas parties is one of their major traditions. Work, clubs, schools and every other organisation hold their Christmas parties throughout November. It is very usual for Norwegians to attend several parties over this time. This far I have attended four and more are on the line up.
Kristiansand, looks beautiful than ever before. There are decorations all over, on the roadsides as well as in most houses and shopping malls. Every year, usually at the end of November when the dark season has set in, each city has a lighting of the City Lights ceremony, complete with parade and an honorary person pulling the big switch to light up the city streets. Most homes have candles lit and put by the windows and the same is done in church. Major sales all over, of candle holders and candles.
Like many Christians around the world, Norwegians celebrate the birth of Christ with joyous festivity. The Norwegian Christmas season lasts from December 24th to January 13th. It is preceded by a four-week preparation period known as advent.
Advent means ‘coming’ and is a preparation time for Christians to celebrate the birth of Christ. Advent starts on Advent Sunday which marks four Sundays before Christmas. A candelabra that holds four candles is used to commemorate each Sunday. On the first Sunday the first candle is lit. On the second Sunday the first two candles are lit and so forth. At each lighting of the candles special song is recited.
The various cities within Norway have a huge Christmas tree standing tall in the centre square. Usually on the first Sunday of Advent, the township gathers together for the lighting of the Christmas Tree celebration. When the tree is lit the people hold hands and dance around the Christmas tree singing carols. Julenisse (Santa Claus) makes an appearance and hands out gifts to the children – normally chocolates and clementines.
Throughout Christmas carollers sing to the townsfolk and children often dance around the Christmas tree. The tree stays up until the 13th January – the official end of the Norwegian Christmas season.
Most Norwegians will celebrate this on December 13, as a way of commemorating Saint Lucia, a Christian who helped others by bringing food to the hungry. In the past, people celebrated Saint Lucia Day in their homes. The oldest daughter of the family would dress in a white gown, a red belt, and a crown of candles. In memory of Saint Lucia, she would bring food to her family. However, that has changed and Saint Lucia Day is most often celebrated in schools and other public places. Young women dressed as Saint Lucia led the processions of young children.
The Norwegians will tell you, Christmas is a tradition that brings with it many more traditions that have continued to be observed many years back. Little Christmas Eve occurs on the 23rd of December. Traditionally, Norwegian parents brought Christmas trees into their homes while their children were asleep. When the children awoke, they would find the trees decorated. Today, trees are usually decorated with strings of tiny Norwegian flags and white lights.
On Christmas Eve, family members often hold hands and sing carols as they circle around the Christmas tree. While in Kenya we open our presents on the boxing day which is on the 26th December, presents here are usually opened on Christmas Eve, 24th.
Last Saturday as I attended NRK´s Christmas party it was evident that my colleagues were happy to enjoy lots of pork. While in Kenya we will enjoy Chapati, Birian and Pilau over Christmas, it is not the same here.
“Pork is the most popular Christmas Eve meal in Norway. It is most often eaten with boiled potatoes and cabbage,” said one of my colleagues. “The pork is made ready and dried in autumn and preserved to keep it´s freshness. However there are families that still adore Lutefisk (codfish). The cod is first soaked in a liquid called lye, which adds flavor and preserves the fish, which is then baked,” he said.
Julekake (Christmas cake) is commonly baked around Christmas time, it is a sweet bread with raisins and so are special biscuits and cookies. My friend Hilda promised to take me to her place and see how the cookies are decorated, I just can´t wait. Norwegians also enjoy lefse which is a flat, sweetened bread eaten with butter and sugar. Rice pudding is a popular dessert at Christmas dinner. A single almond is hidden within the pudding. The finder receives a gift.
Most Norwegians celebrate their Christmas on 24 December. Traditionally, this is a day to be spent in the company of family
members. During noon, “lillejulaften” (rice porridge) is usually served. In some regions of the country, the porridge dish is usually placed outside (in a barn, outhouse or even in the forest) to please “Julenissen”(“Santa Claus” – as called in Norway). Family members are gathered in joyous mood and in the afternoon, church bells ring to beckon people to the church services. Many people attend these religious services. At 5p.m, church bells toll to announce the beginning of Christmas. Though it varies from one family to another, there is a custom of reading a Christmas story from Luke 2 from an old family Bible. The families gather for the main Christmas meal which is served in the evening. Traditional drinks are beer and aquavit for adults and “julebrus” (a sweet red fizzy drink made specially during Christmas Time) for children. A favourite Christmas dessert is rice blended with whipped cream served with a red sauce.
People invite their friends and loved ones to have meal with them. Different varieties of cookies are served and everyone is wished God Jul!-Merry Christmas. Different nuts, fruits, figs, dates and sweets also belong to the celebration.
This is the 6th of January and usually referred to as the Three Kings Day, a traditional day believed to be a day when the three wise men visited the baby Jesus in the manger. It is also counted to mark a premature end-of Christmas party for those who can’t wait until the 20th day to chop down and chop up their Christmas trees.
End of Christmas season
The 13th January officially marks the end of Christmas season. Decorations are put away and the Christmas tree is chopped into firewood and used in the fire. The final Christmas parties are held. Children, families, relatives and friends sing carols and dance around the Christmas tree one last time. Julenisse makes his last appearance to hand out the last of the Christmas treats. And the greeting ‘God jul’ (Merry Christmas) is used for one last time.
This and much more is Norwegian Christmas in a nut shell, full of activities and festivities. I have my eyes and ears wide open to see how it goes and will definitely write another story to compare and contrast Christmas festivities in Norway and Kenya. Keeping reading my blog.
Jeg ønsker deg en riktig god jul og et godt nytt år!