Christmas in Norway
These pages should give you a flavor of a Norwegian Christmas. They have been on the internet since 1997 and are one of the top results for the Google search "Christmas in Norway". If you miss anything, please contact us at postmaster "at" stavanger-web.com.
Christmas Trees in Norway
In Norway most everyone has either a spruce or a pine tree in their living room - decorated with white lights, tinsel, Norwegian flags and other ornaments for Christmas.
The children make paper baskets of shiny, colored paper. The baskets can be filled with candy or nuts. Chains made of colored paper are also very popular.
Colored lighting is becoming popular, but white lights are more like the candles they are supposed to represent. Christmas trees became common in Norway from around 1900. The custom of having Christmas trees is originally from Germany.
Before the presents are opened, many families dances in a ring around the Christmas tree while singing traditional Norwegian Christmas carols.
Christmas Tree Decorations
It is a tradition in Norway to gather the family and make baskets of colorful paper to hang on the Christmas tree.
A Typical Norwegian Christmas Dinner
The most common Christmas dinners in Norway are "Pinnekjøtt" (steamed lamb ribs that have been salted and dried and sometimes smoked as well) and "Ribbe" (roasted pork ribs). Some people have fish in the form of cooked Cod or "Lutefisk" (stockfish in lye!). Turkey is catching on, but is more often served at New Years. Here is a recipe for a Pinnekjøtt dinner:
Pinnekjøtt has a good deal of bone fat, so it is best to allow about 500 g per person if it is served on its own; if it is served together with sausages, allow 350 g per person.
Separate the salted ribs from each other with a sharp knife and leave them in cold water overnight.
Go out in the woods and find enough fresh branches from a birch tree (finger thick) to cover the bottom of your pot. Remove the bark. Put the branches in your pot and and fill it with enough water to cover the branches. Place the ribs over the branches and cook until the meat loosens from the bone (apprx. 2 hours). Be careful so the pot doesn't cook dry - refill water as necessary.
Before serving, give the ribs a few minutes under the grill of your oven.
"Pinnekjøtt" is normally served with mashed kohlrabi (turnip) or rutabaga, boiled potatoes and mustard. Don't forget the aquavit and cold Christmas beer.
You will need approx. 1 kg rutabaga, water, pepper, salt, cooking juices from the "pinnekjøtt".
Peel and slice the rutabaga and cook it until tender in lightly salted water. Drain off the excess water. Pour 1/4 cup of cooking juice from the "pinnekjøtt", add salt and pepper and mash the rutabaga. You can use milk instead of cooking juices, then you should add a tablespoon of butter, too.
Rice Cream (creamy rice pudding/porridge)
3/4 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups rice porridge
Serve with red fruit sauce on top. Rice Cream is often served with an almond hidden in it. The person who finds the almond gets a prize - usually a marzipan pig or a delicious Norwegian chocolate. Serves 4.
The Norwegian "Nisse"
The Norwegian "Nisse" is not like his American relative Santa Claus. The Norwegian "Nisse" differs from both Santa Claus and St. Nicholas. In modern Norway we have really two types of "nisser".
The name "Nisse" probably derives from St. Nicholas. But "nisser" - which are elves (or gnomes) are old figures which existed long before the birth of Christ. There are several types of "nisser" in Norway. The most known is the "Fjøsnisse" which is a "nisse" who takes care of the animals on the farms. The "Fjøsnisse" is very short and often bearded and lives in a barn or a stable. He wears clothes of wool and often has a red knitted hat. The "Fjøsnisse" often plays tricks on people. Sometimes he will scare people by blowing out the lights in the barn or he will scare the farm dog at night. You can hear the dogs bark! He can become very friendly with the people that live on the farm, but one should never forget to give him a large portion of porridge on Christmas Eve - or else he will play tricks for example move the animals around in the barn, braid the horses' mane and tail, and other tricks like that.........
Of course we also have a Christmas nisse (julenissen) which in most homes is more or less identical to Santa Claus. The "Julenisse" brings presents to all the nice children on Christmas Eve. He is not as shy as Santa though, since the "julenisse" delivers the presents himself. He does not come down the chimney in the middle of the night.