Holiday Traditions around the World: Christmas in Norway
Land of the Midnight Sun is the perfect backdrop for the Christmas season! Luciadagen or St. Lucia Day starts the Christmas season in Norway on December 13th. Sicilian martyred Saint Lucia was visited by an angel and vowed to devote her life to Christianity. Lucia is honored as a day of light at the darkest time of the year. Children form a procession dressed in white with a crown of lighted evergreens on their heads while singing the traditional St. Lucia song. Lussekatter are the traditional St. Lucia Day treats handed out during the processional. Lussekatter is translated to “Lucia cats” and they are sweet buns decorated with raisins baked into a winding tail design.
Christmas trees play a big part in the Norwegian holiday season. Spruce or pine trees are sparsely decorated to showcase their natural beauty. Clear white lights have replaced candles and the ornaments are Julekurver which are small paper baskets in the shape of a heart. The most famous custom is the traditional Norwegian Christmas tree that Norway gifts to the United Kingdom each year as a thank you for the help during World War II. The tree is proudly displayed in Trafalgar Square in the heart of London.
Christmas Eve is the main event in Norway. After church service, presents are exchanged. Julenissen brings gifts to the children. This gnome originates from the legend of Nisse. Nisse are gnomes who would watch over farms and care for the animals. Children leave out a bowl of risengrynsgrøt (rice porridge with butter, cinnamon and sugar or cream) for Julenissen. The gnome wears a red cap, but comes through the front door instead of down the chimney. It is believed that homes who do not leave porridge for Julenissen will have a trick played on them. It is also customary for this delicious porridge to be served as Christmas Eve dessert. The traditional meal is pork or mutton served with cabbage and potatoes. The Musevisa (The Mouse Song) is the Norwegian Christmas folk song sung during the holidays. It is the story of mice preparing for Christmas and the Mom and Dad warn the children mice to stay away from mouse traps.
Christmas Day is spent feasting with family and friends. Children spend the day playing in the snow with their new toys. The following week from Boxing Day to New Year’s Eve is called Romjul or Christmas Space. This week is a quiet time for spending with family. A candle is lit each day. Stores have limited hours and families can be found sledding and having barbeques in the snow.