If you're not a Norwegian, chances are you've never heard of "Norwegian wood." But if you've ever heard someone say they'd like to spend Christmas in Norway, then you're probably familiar with this phrase. The thing is, though: Norwegian Christmas isn't quite what most people expect!
Christmas Eve is the big night for most families in Norway.
Christmas Eve is the big night for most families in Norway. It's a time for family, friends and food. Many people stay up all night to celebrate Christmas Eve. People eat a special meal on Christmas Eve. They usually have lutefisk (fish soaked in lye), which is very salty fish that has been dried and stored for years before it is eaten. Some people also eat ham or other meat dishes with potatoes, gravy and vegetables like carrots or broccoli drenched in butter sauce.
The Christmas table often includes codfish and mutton.
Norwegian Christmas is a big deal, and it's all about the food. The traditional Christmas table often includes codfish and mutton.
Codfish is served with potatoes and pickled herring, whereas mutton is usually served with potatoes and gravy. Both are often served in the form of a roast or a stew, but some families might serve them as a salad or in soup form as well.
A traditional Christmas dessert is a kind of porridge called risengrynsgrøt.
Traditional Christmas desserts include rice porridge, which is served warm with milk and sugar. It is a simple dish made from rice, water and salt.
Risengrynsgrøt is considered to be the most popular Norwegian Christmas dessert!
Rice porridge is a must for Santa, too.
Rice porridge, or risengrynsgrøt as it's called in Norwegian, is a must for Santa. It's also a must for Christmas and the holidays. Rice porridge is a must on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day. The dish is traditionally served with cinnamon and topped with whipped cream, but you can use whatever toppings you want!
The Norwegian Santa goes by the name Julenisse.
Although the name Julenisse is not used in Norway, it's worth mentioning because it's a corruption of the English "Yule Nisse." In Sweden and Denmark, Julenisse is a general term used to refer to both St. Nicholas (called Jultomte in Swedish) and Santa Claus (called julenisse and nisser).
In addition to delivering gifts, he also takes time to play pranks on people.
In addition to delivering gifts, he also takes time to play pranks on people. Known as the "Christmas gnome," julenisse is a jolly, naughty elf who goes around wearing a red hat, red coat and red boots. He has been around since the 1800s but is still a popular figure in today's holiday celebrations.
Although you may be familiar with Santa Claus and his friendly demeanor, julenisse is known for being more mischievous than your average elf—he's often seen sneaking into houses at night or hiding in attics until it's time for mischief. But don't let this make you think that Norwegian Christmas isn't fun: You can expect lots of singing around the fire with friends and family members while sipping glogg (a sweet wine punch) or fårikål (cabbage stew).
Christmas trees have been popular in Norway since the 1800s, when Queen Josephine introduced them to the royal court after adopting them from Germany.
Queen Josephine was the wife of Frederick III, who ruled Norway from 1859-1872. She was born in Stockholm and was the daughter of King Oscar I of Sweden and Norway and Josephine of Leuchtenberg.
In 1851, she married Prince Carl Bernadotte (who later became King Charles XIV John). The couple had four children together: Oscar II, Sophia Louise, Margaret Alexandra and Haakon VII.
Queen Josephine brought Christmas trees to Norway after she visited Germany with her family in 1858 or 1859 (dates vary in different sources). The trees were a hit at court and soon became popular among other Norwegians as well
However, Norwegians get their trees early, usually right after Advent starts on the first Sunday in December.
You've heard of Norwegian wood, but what about Norwegian Christmas?
If you're picturing a jolly Santa Claus with a white beard sitting on the lap of a smiling child, you may be in for some surprise.
The tradition of having Christmas trees is really old. It goes all the way back to ancient times when people used to decorate their homes with evergreen branches and berries that were supposed to keep evil spirits away. Today's modern-day Christmas tree is believed to have originated from Germany, where it was called "Christbaum" or "Baum des Lebens." The custom spread throughout Europe and eventually reached Norway during 19th century
Traditionally, they are lit with real candles but these days many opt for strings of lights instead.
Traditionally, they are lit with real candles but these days many opt for strings of lights instead. The candles are often given as gifts and decorated with porcelain figurines and other decorations. They can also be used to decorate the Christmas tree or fireplace mantle.
There are also many old Norwegian legends about the Christmas tree.
The Christmas tree is a symbol of the life-giving power of nature. This is because evergreen trees have a special ability to keep their leaves during winter, which is an important trait that allows them to grow and reproduce year after year. The most famous Norwegian Christmas legend tells us how this came about:
The sun god, Solheimr, had two sons: Skinfaxi—who was white as snow—and Haakon—who was black as coal. One day, these two brothers went out hunting together and saw an old man sitting on top of a mountain with his feet in the air. They were curious why he did this and decided they would ask him when they returned home later that evening..
When they did return home that night and asked him why he sat on top of mountains with his feet in the air all day long instead of resting inside where it was warm like everyone else did at night time (this part isn't mentioned in any other version), he replied by saying "because I'm waiting for my shoes."
Traditions and practices around Norwegian Christmas vary greatly from American traditions
If you've ever celebrated Christmas in the U.S., you might be surprised to learn that Norwegian Christmas is celebrated on December 24th—not the 25th. In fact, most of Europe celebrates on December 24th because it falls earlier in their calendar year than our December 25th date does. However, since Norway is a very different place from the United States and other European countries, its traditions surrounding Christmas are even more unique.
To begin with, while Americans celebrate Christ's birth with a decorated tree and Santa Claus delivering presents from his sleigh pulled by reindeer (a traditional Scandinavian myth), Norwegians traditionally prefer to keep things simple for their holiday celebrations: no trees or gifts were exchanged at all until about 200 years ago! The custom became popular due to Nikolai Astrup (1789-1859), who was inspired by stories he had read about how King Charles IX of Sweden would give his children gifts on St John’s day (June 24), as well as Martin Luther’s suggestion that Christians should celebrate both Christ’s Nativity and Baptism during this period of time rather than just focusing only on his birth alone.
I hope this has been an interesting and illuminating look at Norwegian Christmas. In many ways, it is different from the American version of the holiday. For example, Norwegians enjoy a feast for dinner but serve fewer desserts than Americans do; they also have strong traditions around gift giving and decorating their homes with Christmas trees that seem very foreign to us. However, there are still some similarities between our countries' customs—like eating pork chops and having a party on Christmas Eve!