[Guest post] How we celebrate Christmas in Norway

by Bianca Wessel of Little Scandinavian


It’s 4pm and all you can hear is the sound of the church bells calling and the crunch of your footsteps in the snow. Snowflakes swirls down from the dark blue skye, your coat feels warm and snug. At home the Christmas dinner is all ready, waiting for you, after being slow cooked for hours in the oven.

Christmas is finally here.

By the end of November you find yourself running around  to get hold of an endless amount of small treats and gifts for your children’s Advent Calendar. And it’s with great satisfaction, in the 12 hour, that you finally can admire the finished present galore. Early next morning the children gather excited to be opening the very first present, as a token that Advent has started. We’re counting down the days to Christmas.

Around the same time it’s also the first Sunday in Advent, celebrated with a candleholder holding four deep purple candles.  As soon as the daylight disappears the family will be gathered around the candles, lidding the first out of four. And it’s the youngest family member who reads the Advent poem by Ingrid Hagerup; The first Advent light is burning for joy.

By now, you know the days up until Christmas will just fly away; Christmas fair, Christmas play, Christmas cards to write, Christmas gifts to buy and wrap up, house to be cleaned, food to be made, cookies to be baked, there’s mulled wine and gingerbread men cookie Christmas parties to be held, there’s the annual Christmas party with colleagues and then several with friends. And then before you know it it’s the 22 December and time has nearly run out.

By then the shops go more quite and if you’ve done everything else by now, this is the time to perhaps renew your collection of Christmas decorations. There’s so many lovely things, especially from Danish designers such as By Nord and Ferm Living. And then in the evening, you’ll head out in the dark December night together with your family. The frost bites, but it doesn’t matter, as you are on a mission! On a quest to find the most beautiful Christmas tree. You need to look at several trees, to search high and low, before you finally choose one. Full of satisfaction and joy you’ll drag the 7 feet tall Norwegian Fir home and leave it in the hallway, for it to gradually warm up.


The 23 December is the day when the Christmas tree will be placed in the living room. You’ll tell the cat off for climbing it, before heading off to the kitchen to cook dinner for the entire family. Aunts and uncles, siblings and grandparents are all invited on ‘Little Christmas Eve’ to eat rice porridge, served with sugar, cinnamon and butter. The big excitement of the night is who will get the hidden almond in the porridge, and win the prize, a giant marzipan pig. (This make sense if you’re Norwegian.) Then after the guests have left, you comforted the disappointed children that didn’t win the marzipan pig, before it’s time to open a bottle of nice red and decorate the tree.

You start by getting the children to bed. My husband arranges the fairy lights, and has to the this at least twice before it’s approved. Then we’ll decorate the tree together, enjoying unwrapping vintage, homemade and design decorations, finishing it off with the shining star on top. And then you share the rest of the bottle of red whilst you admire your work, well knowing how excited the children will be when they wake up the next day.

On the 24, which is our big day, the children will watch Christmas cartoons and films, Disney classics and Cinderella. The adults start early with preparing the food, peeling vegetables and preparing the meat. And just in time for church you change into evening wear. Norwegians are quite formally dressed on Christmas Eve. And before you know it you are out in the snowy weather, in your snug winter coat, holding your children hands, on your way to church…

In Church we are told the story about the baby being born in a barn. This is followed by a social gathering outside church where friends and neighbours wish each other a Merry Christmas! Then at home, theres a decorated tree, lots of candle lights lid, small ‘nisser’ (Norwegian santa) on every shelf and a hearty pork belly roasting in the oven. The pork will be served with sausages, pork meatballs, white cabbage- and red cabbage stew, boiled potatoes, brussels sprouts and cowberry jam. The dessert to follow is Cloudberries, dusted with sugar and served with cream and ‘krumkaker’ (Norwegian Christmas Cookies). By then the children are getting restless, and can’t wait to see what’s hiding in all the presents underneath the Christmas tree. The adults will be served coffee alongside seven different types of Christmas cookies. And then there’s someone knocking on the door… “Ho ho ho! Is there any good children at home?” It always comes as a surprise! The younger children slightly startled and almost frightened whilst the older children smiling suspiciously. The man, dressed in red, with a mask, enters. He talks to the children and hands out presents to all. Then he’s being very naughty and kisses mum goodbye before he leaves. And poor dad -he was busy in the kitchen and missed it all!


Then the unwrapping of the rest of the Christmas presents can take place, some lovely cloudberry liqueur being served with traditional Christmas music, perhaps Alf Prøysen playing in the background.

Oh the joy of a peaceful Christmas Eve.


[Thank you Bianca for writing this beautiful story of Christmas in Norway. While reading it I felt like I was there with you. Head over to Bianca's blog Little Scandinavian to read more about all things trendy from Scandinavia for kids and families.]


  • December 21, 2012 - 1:14 PM | Permalink

    My second oldest friend Gunnar is from Norway so my heart is a little over there.
    Plus I also have an Oslo based retail client in cool footwear.

    Nice to learn the inside story.
    Put more pictures of the snow.

    Merry Christmas / Joyeux Noël
    Bonne et Heureuse Année 2013

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