Christmas and the wintery months are my favorite time of year. Not because of the cold temperatures, but because of the warmth of the atmosphere. I’m surrounded by family and since the semester is generally over, I’m also with friends who have come home from their respective universities. This year, I’m a little far from home, but have been lucky enough to share the holiday with Tine and her beautiful family. This Christmas was even more special than usual because I got to experience a true Norwegian Christmas with the unique traditions.
December 23rd is the beginning of the Christmas celebrations. It’s a little earlier than most people in America celebrate and this day is full of neat traditions. This day is known as “Little Christmas Eve” and for me, it is a cozy way to start all of the festivities. When I arrived at the house, the family immediately started speaking with me in Norwegian. It threw me off since most people begin with English when they know you’re not Norwegian. I quickly realized Tine told them to only speak with me in Norwegian to help me practice. It was challenging, but I was more comfortable by the end of the night.
On the 23rd, most families decorate the Christmas tree. Tine’s sister went with red and silver theme. The kids decorated as we watch and ate delicious snacks. When they walked away for a while, Tine and I rearranged some of the ornaments and luckily they didn’t notice.
We celebrated Little Christmas Eve by eating risengrøt and drinking gløgg. Risengøt is a creamy, rice porridge, which is served with butter, cinnamon, and sugar. An almond is hidden within the porridge and the person who finds it, gets a gift or some kind of surprise marzipan pig. The youngest girl, who was maybe 7, tried to eat as many bowls as she could to increase her chances of finding the almond. They told stories of kids making themselves sick just to find the almond. Tine actually found it in her first bowl and hid it in her mouth until everyone finished. We also drank gløgg, which is similar to the German Glühwein. It is a drink made with many tasty spices, like cinnamon and cardamom. Raisins and almonds are also added. It has become one of my FAVORITE beverages because it is the essence of Christmas and the warm atmosphere that comes with generosity and spending time with family and friends.
We ended the evening by watching TV programs and writing Santa a note. Every year, NRK, the Norwegian public media platform, shows a children’s Christmas show. The season lasts the length of the December month and there is a new season every year. It’s tradition to watch this show and it’s heartwarming to hear older Norwegians remember watching the same program when they were kids. When the program ends and before the kids prepare for bed, the youngest girl who still believes in Santa Clause wrote a note to Santa Clause. She also left out a bowl of risengrøt for the reindeer. It was the cutest thing!!! As kids, we left Santa cookies, but it was thoughtful and endearing to leave items for the reindeer too.
We headed to sleep and woke up to Christmas Eve, the day full of action. This day is full of breakfast together, presents, and dinner later. The breakfast was an assortment of pålegg, or things you put on top of an open-faced sandwich. There was salmon, hollandaise sauce, and tomatoes, and eggs, and my god it was delicious. We had some tea and moved onto a few presents.
Generally opening presents is an all day thing so Norwegians start unwrapping in the morning. At home in the U.S., we open all of the presents on Christmas day. Each person is surrounded by their presents and goes to town ripping off paper. In Norway, one child is assigned the task of handing out presents. One person will open their present, say their thanks, and the next gift is opened. This way seems nice because it forces people to slow down and show their gratitude and appreciation for each gift.
In the middle of all of these presents and sandwiches, it started snowing. As Tine drove me home, I reflected upon my first true Norwegian Christmas. It was such a neat experience. The traditions were new and I hope to continue some of them. I loved the food and the gløgg. I loved the idea of a Little Christmas Eve where you just eat loads of candies and snacks and watch tv and eat some more. Anything involving food are things I am interested in.
Special shoutout to Tine for inviting me over and sharing such and intimate time of year with me! ❤