We say farewell to the Christmas traditions of Nigeria and travel due north to Norway for 5,714km.
Situated in Northern Europe and stretching up into the Arctic Circle, Norway is a popular destination for seeing the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis). Norway's most northerly point (and Europe's) is North Cape.
You may be surprised to find out that a king penguin called Nils Olav was knighted by Norway in 2008. His home is in Edinburgh Zoo, Scotland.
IKEA uses the names of Norwegian places for its beds, wardrobes and hall furniture so if you visit Norway, you may recognise some of the place names.
So, how do they celebrate Christmas in Norway?
Christmas in Norway is celebrated on 25th December but advent is when the festivities begin.
In Norway, they have Christian traditions with elements of old pagan traditions and Jewish Hanukah.
There are decorations themed around the ‘nisse’, so people may have hobgoblin statues or pictures. Most people will also have a Christmas Tree. To decorate the Christmas Tree, ‘Julekurver’ are made which are small paper baskets shaped like a heart (it’s rumoured that they were invented by Hans Christian Anderson in the 1860s). Christmas lights are also common decorations in the towns and in homes whether on their own or wrapped around a Christmas Tree.
People exchange presents at Christmas time in Norway. ‘Julenissen’ (Santa Claus) brings presents as do small gnomes/elves called ‘nisse’. Children get their presents from under the Christmas Tree and read the cards on them aloud to their family. Some families will give small gifts each day of advent leading up to Christmas, and chocolate advent calendars are also popular.
People may leave a sheaf of wheat out for the birds to eat over Christmas and a rice porridge may be left out for the nisse who are believed to guard farm animals. Carol singing is popular among children in some parts of Norway and they’ll often dress as characters from the nativity as they go house-to-house singing, sometimes they’ll also carry paper stars.
From Christmas Eve to New Year’s day, families will light a candle every night in some parts of Norway.
Every year, Norway gifts England a big Christmas Tree that’s put up in Trafalgar square as a ‘thank you’ for their help during WW2. There are Christmas concerts, Christmas markets, and Christmas parties all throughout advent in the build up to the 25th December.
Christmas Eve is often considered the main celebration in Norway; in the morning people will usually either go to church or finish their last minute gift shopping, at 5pm church bells are rang for Christmas and people will begin their meal with their family before opening their Christmas presents.
A special bread called ‘julekake’ is popular over the Christmas period – it has raisins, candied peel, and cardamom in it. Risengrynsgrøt, a hot rice pudding served with cinnamon, sugar, and butter, is often eaten on Christmas Eve either at lunch or as a dessert to the main Christmas meal in the evening. An almond may be mixed into the pudding along with whipped cream and whoever gets the almond gets given a pink/white marzipan pig.
The usual dishes in the main Christmas meal are pork or mutton ribs, served with potatoes and ‘surkal’ (white/red finely chopped cabbage cooked with caraway seeds and vinegar). ‘Lutefisk’ (cod cured in lye), boiled cod, roast ham, and turkey are all also popular. Juleøl, a malty Christmas beer is a common drink around Christmas time and many people will have it with their meal.
Our next Christmas destination looks at Christmas in Pakistan.