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Norwegian Christmas traditions & what to expect

Norway, as any other country has some particular Christmas traditions you should know about, in addition to the ones that exist across many countries. Some are newer and influenced by other cultures and countries - but some remain quite Norwegian. Become a true Oslopolitan and know about these Norwegian Christmas traditions!

Christmas in Oslo CH Visit Norway com

Photo: CH - VisitNorway.com

Read about the Norwegian Christmas traditions day-to-day and learn what to expect, and maybe there is something you want to replicate? 🎄
Photo: CH - VisitNorway.com

December 23th: Lille Julaften (the little Christmas Eve)

The day before the "big day" is for many the last working day before Christmas, and is often when you travel to be with friends and family during the holidays. Stores are often as normal, and the same with Vinmonopolet.

NRK (the Norwegian Broadcasting ...) offers a show called "Kvelden før Kvelden" (The Night before the Night) and every year they show "Dinner for One", a German English-speaking sketch from 1963. It is so popular that more than 1 627 000 Norwegians saw it in 2019. Most Norwegians will know of the story of the old countess hosting a birthday dinner on New Year Eve with imaginary, deceased guests and her butler James impersonates and drinks instead of each of the guests. As he goes around the table, James gets noticeably drunk, and repeatedly asks Miss Sophie: “The same procedure as last year, Miss Sophie?” to which she responds: “The same procedure as every year, James!”

Lille Julaften has also been the traditional day to decorate the Christmas tree and the Pepperkakehus (ginger break cookie house).

Food and drinks:

Many will drink gløgg (mulled wine with Christmas spices) on Lille Julaften, and start the tasting of the Norwegian Christmas cakes and cookies. Have you baked the traditional seven-kinds of christmas cakes and cookies?

Photo: CH - VisitNorway.com

Norwegian Christmas Santa kids performing at the christmas fair Norsk Folkemuseum CH Visit Norway com

December 24th: Julaften (Christmas Eve)

Christmas Eve is the main day of celebration in Norway. Stores will close at the latest at 16.00, and they will not open until Monday, December 27th (with exception of the grocery stores which are normally open on Sundays).

Christmas is for kids, but kids and adults alike gather around the TV to watch old Disney cartoons, as well as Movies that have become a tradition. Since 1975, NRK shows "Tre nøtter til Askepott" (Three Gifts for Cinderella) in the morning, and it has become a holiday classic in Norway. The film was originally released in Czech and German, but NRK broadcasts it in a dubbed Norwegian version."Reisen til julestjernen" (Journey to the Christmas Star) is a Norwegian fairy-tale adventure film from 1976, which is also shown on Christmas Eve.

For many families, a trip to the local church to hear the Christmas Eve sermon and hear Christmas songs is a part of the tradition as well. When the service is over, it is signaled with the church bells ringing, which is known as "ringe julen inn", ringing in Christmas", symbolizing the beginning of the main holiday

Norwegians open their Christmas gifts after dinner on the 24th and celebrate the rest of the night by drinking more Gløgg and eat Norwegian Christmas cakes and cookies. Many families will also sing and dance around the Christmas tree. maybe you want to practice Norwegian juletresanger (Norwegian Christmas tree songs?)

Parents will often hang a Christmas stocking filled with candy and treats for the children, either on the 23rd of December or the 24th for the kids to enjoy in the morning.

Photo: Didrick Stenersen, Visit Oslo

Norwegian Christmas Winterland Oslo Didrick Stenersen Visit Oslo

Food and drinks:

For many Norwegians, it is quite common to eat julegrøt for lunch on Christmas Even, and old tradition included putting a bowl outside for the "Fjøsnisse"/ "Gårdsnisse". The fjøsnisse is known for being naughty if not given grøt on Christmas Eve, and it was thought to have supernatural powers. The Nisse was also the one responsible when anything strange or unexplainable happened on the farm. In Norwegian folklore and literature, he has been described as the guardian saint of the farm.

The most typical Norwegian Christmas food is "ribbe" (pork rib), "pinnekjøtt"(literally “stick meat”, robs from lamb), "lutefisk" (stockfish treated with lye) and cooked cod. In addition, Christmas beer has strong historical roots, with local breweries making their own special version. What is defined as Norwegian Christmas food is culturally conditioned and depends on both geography and tradition of each particular family. Here you can read more about Norwegian Christmas food traditions

Up north in norway it is common to eat "multekrem", cloudberry with whipped cream. But it is most common to finish off the Christmas Eve meal with the traditional "riskrem", which is rice pudding with whipped cream and served with a red sauce of berries. In this rice pudding, Norwegian will place an almond, and the person who finds the almond will win a marzipan pig.

Many will also enjoy either "julebrus" (special Christmas soda, either brown or red), "juleøl" (often a darker ale with extra spices) or "juleakevitt" (traditional Norwegian aquavit with some extra spices) with the Christmas eve meal, and which brand you have will differ based on where you live.

Which is your favorite Norwegian Christmas Eve tradition?

Trailer for "Three Gifts for Cinderella"

December 25th: 1. juledag (Christmas Day)

December 25th is a day that is very "family-focused" and people usually stay where they are. Many watched Christmas movies, play games, gof ro walks or even ski. Some even go to the cinema as many films are released on the 25th of December. No regular stores will be open, and there is not much to do.

December 25th also marks the first day of "romjul", which is the days between Christmas Eve and New Years Eve.

Food and drinks:

Many families eat what is known as "Christmas breakfast/brunch/lunch", which is a lavish buffet with both warm and cold dishes.

For dinner, many eat leftovers from Christmas Eve and continue eating Norwegian Christmas cakes and cookies.

December 26th: 2. juledag (Second day of Christmas)

December 26th is often the day when people go back home or travel to new relatives and friends if they have been away from him during the holiday. It is still a holiday and stores will be closed. Norwegians often have dinner parties with friends and family this day.

December 26th is the last day of the "official" Christmas, but Romjul lasts until Christmas Eve, and was previously known to have great sales (which starts on December 27th).

Norwegian Christmas market at Norsk Folkemuseum Paal Mork Visit Norway com

Photo: Paal Mork - VisitNorway.com

J3 A8355 5084005 Foto Didrick Stenersen

Photo: VisitOSLO/Didrick Stenersen

Other Norwegian Christmas traditions:

- Have you heard of the Norwegian advent calender shows on TV? NRK will annually air an episode a day as a Christmas countdown, often with original content. Many of these advent calendar shows are aired year after year. In 2021 they showed a new show called Kristiania magiske tivolitheater, but at www.NRK.no you can now see all of the previous and cherished julekalendere.

- There are advent calendar shows for adults as well! One of the most famous ones are called "The Julekalender" and was aired on TV2 in 1994. TVNorge has created Nissene på Låven, which actually has a remake in 2021, called "Nissene i bingen".

- Julebukk is a tradition that doesn't exist much anymore. It included dressing up as Santa, and going to the neighbor's houses to perform Christmas carols in return for treats, both fruit, and sweets. This was usually conducted during Romjul (from Christmas Day until New Years Eve).

- Every year, Oslo Municipality donates a huge Christmas tree to the city of London, which is placed in Trafalgar Square, London. Oslo has sent a tree over from Norway every year since 1947, as a thank-you for the support Norway was given by Britain during World War II.

Photo: VisitOSLO/Didrick Stenersen

J3 A1599 6652319 Foto Didrick Stenersen