Late merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
What’s the worst think you could ever say to a Norwegian? This: “C’mon, It’s just Christmas!” There’s a big chance that they’ll not be very happy to hear that. Christmas is THE BIG THING in Norway. The 24th of December is the day that is the most looked forward to, here(yes, not the 25th. Christmas is celebrated on the 24th) . Here’s why, in a few points:
- The celebration starts crazy early!
From the 1st of November, the milk boxes have “God Jul” (Merry Christmas) written on them… And the shops are getting filled of Christmas goods… The first julemesse (Christmas market) we went working in was on the 13th of November! Also, many Christmas concerts (with tons of Christmas Carols!) were held in november, or early December. A big Christmas fair started in Oslo around the 20th of November… For me, Christmas could start after the 1st of December only. But, to be honest, I liked this good mood and ambiance, this “stemning” as they say. It’s so dark that having something to look forward to is good…
- A lot of (food) traditions
Outside the advent calendar, which is quite common I guess, there is a selection of food and drinks that are special for Christmas time: clementines, “Gløgg” (a kind of spicy drink), “julebrus” (Chrismas soda (!)), gingerbread, and lots of cake of course…. And finally, there are three special dishes that you have to eat on Christmas eve, on the “julebord” (Christmas dinner). Those dishes are only for Christmas, not for any other days. Of course, you will not eat all the three of them. How to choose then? Well, it is “ribbe” (Pork ribs) on the Eastern Norway, “pinnekjøtt ” (Sheep ribs) on the West Coast, and Fish on the south and the North. There are some exceptions of course, but this is the normal tradition.
Fun fact: there is even a TV program teaching how to cook the ribbe on the national TV on the 24th of December! A program TV that lasts for about 7 hours!
- A family time
Norwegians work quite much and it’s not that often that the big family is reunited. I think that Christmas is the only time to reunite and be nice to each other, have good time. Nice clothes, big table, good food, good mood. This is a perfect mix for being happy together, right? A part from the dinner itself, there are more family traditions for Christmas, like dancing and singing around the Christmas tree, watching Christmas movies and shows together every year on TV… And giving presents to each other… a lot of presents. It brings joy and smile to everyone in the family!
Where is Jesus then?
I realized that Christmas is very commercial in Norway,… more commercial than religious. Where I come from, the attention and celebration is more directed towards Jesus coming to earth than towards Santa distributing gifts …. here, I felt that it was a bit the opposite. This is of course a worldwide phenomenon, not only in Norway.
The 24th of December, nevertheless, people come to church, and churches are surprisingly full. I really enjoyed singing Christmas songs and reliving the nativity story through church activities.
I think that Christmas was a good time for me here, I liked it. It brought more light to the darkness of December, and I could still focus on the center of Christmas, Jesus,…
Of course I was not home, with my own family, but I had very nice company and lived unforgettable moments in a family, in the church, and in the Society.