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Christmas movies – angels and calendars!

Santa in Christmas movie on a TVI went away with a friend and our children over the long weekend. Once the kids were all settled in bed, we watched a Christmas movie each night which was fun.

 

Angels in the snow

A 2015 movie from George Erschbamer, Angels in the snow is classed as a children and family movie and a drama, and goes for about one and a half hours. It stars Kirsty Swanson, Chris Potter and Colin Lawrence.

The story is based on a book by Rexanne Becnal, also called Angels in the Snow, although the names are different and the book blurb doesn’t hint at the same twist as seen in the movie.

Rich businessman Charles has built a ‘cabin’ in the woods to surprise his wife and children. Their first trip to the cabin is for a Christmas holiday together, but a blizzard quickly turns things cold. A knock at the door overnight, welcomes the stranded Tucker family into the ‘cabin’ (actually a luxurious two story house) and thus the two families spend Christmas together.

Charles continues to work during their holiday – alienating his teens by insisting they go tech free when he can’t manage it himself – and his wife is obviously unhappy with the state of things. On the other hand, the Tuckers are a loving family and set a very different example for impressionable (and precocious) eight year old Emily. Slowly, the Tuckers influence the Montgomerys and both families make a tight bond – but there are some strange comments and looks from the Tuckers that hint not all is as expected.

The movie has the message of communicating and spending time with the people you love, which is a valid message, although it was perhaps a bit heavy handed in this case.

collage of children making Christmas crafts

Kids making Christmas crafts is a highlight of this movie

Some of the scenery is this movie was spectacular, and there are some nice scenes like where the kids all work together to make decorations for the Christmas tree. And there is certainly a feel good element of the Montgomery family finding their way back to each other.

But… the ending is not fun. The twist, although we saw it coming, was unbelievable and shallow, and the follow up scenes to explain it were painful to watch. I can’t say I liked most of the Montgomery family (mum was self absorbed and weepy, the son was arrogant, Emily too Pollyanna-ish to fit her family and the teen daughter was superficial) although Charles was somewhat redeemed by his connection to Bella, and the Tuckers were all lovely.

And it was a bit harsh to send the Tuckers out after the blizzard, without blankets, on a two hour walk back to their damaged car! Charles perhaps didn’t learn as much as we thought we had!

It is rated ‘family’ but kids will be bored by all the talking and may be upset or challenged by the twist at the end, so I’d leave it as an adult movie. Then again, I think I’d just leave it altogether as there are just too many weaknesses in it.

If you have seen it, what did you think? Would you recommend it to anyone?

 

The holiday calendar

Released on 2 November (the day before we watched it so this is a very new movie!), The Holiday Calendar is a Netflix movie starring Kat Graham, Ethan Peck, Quincy Brown and Ron Cephas Jones.

Abby (played by Kat Graham) lives in a small town and works for Mr Singh as a photographer rather than as the artistic photographer she wishes to be. Her best friend, Josh, is also a photographer and just returned from far places as a successful travel blogger.

Abby receives an antique advent calendar from her Gramps. The calendar is beautiful and doors only open as each new day starts, showing a little toy. Along with Abby, we learn that the calendar is magical and perhaps predicts the future with the toy produced each day.

Wooden Santa advent calendar

A simpler advent calendar than in the movie, but I like it!

The movie has Christmas, romance, magic, family and self-realisations about dreams. It has some pretty scenes and the advent calendar itself is lovely. I do like that there was a diverse range of people and that some characters were more than stereotypes (for example, Mr Singh is a bit of the grumpy old boss out for a buck but also actually cares about the kids enjoying a visit with Santa).

I would have liked to have seen more of the advent calendar items – the first few days are shown but after that we only saw a couple of them. Sure, doing a day by day recap may get a bit boring in a movie, but a few shots with all the toys in front of the calendar or something would have been a nice touch.

The outcome was somewhat predictable but what do you expect in a feel-good Christmas movie, lol! It is comfortable and cosy, with no fake threat to Christmas, the town or Abby’s family, so it adds up to a nice movie – unlikely I’d watch it again but we had fun watching it.

Christmas movies…

So there are Christmas movies for families and romantic Christmas movies.

Generally speaking, you don’t expect a Christmas movie to be up amongst the great movies – and these two are certainly not amongst the best movies I’ve ever seen.  They are not even amongst the best Christmas movies I have seen, unfortunately.

I guess I will just have to watch some other Christmas movies to find better ones I can enjoy!

A Christmas Movie With a Message

    watching TV at Christmas time with bowls of foodWith all the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, sometimes it’s hard to find a moment or two to sit down, let alone time to relax. Watching anything on tv sometimes needs to be scheduled into our holiday to do list, much less the time for a favorite holiday show or movie. Frosty, Charlie Brown, Rudolph just to name a few, all filled our children with magic, delight and reinforced that Santa would be coming to town soon. They all had their favorite and if you were lucky they would not air at the same time, because everyone wanted to see their favorite Christmas show.

As a child I also had a favourite, but I also remember one particular movie that aired time and time again. No matter the channel or time you were sure to see it airing. I remembering thinking to myself, a Christmas movie with old people, in black and white and with no Santa or reindeer in sight. How could this be a Christmas movie? Never giving it a second thought or chance, I turned the channel on to what I called a Christmas show, one with lights that flash, one with Santas and elves and one with snowmen being decorated.

Seeing the ultimate Christmas move for the first time

That all changed when I met my husband. Our first Christmas together was magic, and with one small suggestion a new Christmas memory and tradition was born.

Christmas was just a few days away, and my husband and I were out running last minute errands. We stopped at the local video store, being tired I decided to wait as he choose the latest release – or at least I thought he was. We get home put away our packages and got comfy to settle down to watch the movie.  

I was surprised by the black and white picture that panned into view; ‘maybe it’s one of those movies that start black and white and flash forward turning into color,’ I thought. Then suddenly there it was, the movie I never paid attention to, the movie with old people and the movie with no Santa , It’s A  Wonderful Life  flashed before my eyes. Complaining a little , but finally caving in, I gave it a try.
             
             What a truly wonderful movie. Life not always being fair, pulling together when times are tough, giving, loving and being a family. The message is priceless.

people helping eahc other, elves making gifts and Santa giving a present

Helping and giving are the real Christmas message

I honestly sat completely involved in every twist and turn George Bailey had to endure to find the true meaning of not only Christmas but life. As the credits rolled up on the tv screen I thanked my husband, for not only choosing this movie  but for urging me to watch it.

The Christmas message

 Since that first Christmas, every Christmas no matter what we have on our to do list, a few days before Christmas we get all comfy, settle down and snuggle up to watch It’s A Wonderful Life. Now, I’m the first person to say yes, a movie with old people, yes a black and white movie, yes a movie without Santas and reindeer is absolutely a Christmas movie, it isn’t about the images that represents Christmas , it’s all about the message.

8 December, Christmas elf and advent calendar catch up

We did of course have our usual search for Tinkle this morning, just to find her in the lounge room trying to sneak a peek at tonight’s advent calendar items! I just didn’t get it posted this morning because, well, it’s Sunday and a bit of variety is a good thing, right?

Not only is her hand instead the Harry Potter Lego advent calendar, but we can see the flap for day 8 in the City Lego advent calendar has also been pushed in a bit – cheeky elf tried peeking at both calendars!

Lego advent calendars for 2019

Although I haven’t done daily posts this year, we do have two Lego advent calendars on the go – my daughter has the Harry Potter one this year (the Friends one seems to be hit and miss so we may as try something exciting!) while my son has the City calendar (which he is happy with but also a little jealous to not get the Harry Potter version!)

Lego Harry Potter advent calendar, set 75964

This set is exciting as it’s new and different, and because it is a character and book/movie series my kids enjoy (as far as they have got anyway – we limit them to those we feel they are old enough for so they only know the first three books/movies).

The scene is obviously the great hall at Hogwarts.

Day one was a harry mini fig, followed by Professor McGonagall on day 6. Hogwarts Express (the train) was behind flap two, and I even got to make that one.

My daughter was thrilled to get two Christmas trees on day 3 and then a fancier Christmas tree on day 4 as well! This advent calendar is making her much happier than the Friends calendars so it was a good choice for this year.

The Gryffindor flag pole is nice and I love the bench as it truly invokes images of the students gathering in the Hogwarts great hall. Harry and the Professor sitting there with goblets in hand also reminded me of drinking butter beer in the  Three Broomsticks Inn!

Note the Slytherian flags are actually from day 9 as Tinkles was in the way to my daughter getting out the day 8 item! We just swapped for today!

Lego City advent calendar, set 60235

Like most years, the City calendar has a winter and snow theme – it would be nice to see that changed up a bit next year but I’m not holing my breath!

This calendar has also had two mini figs so far – a boy wearing a propeller cap and a man in a parka with a broom for clearing away snow. The first day revealed a snow plough and the second day was a catapult.

On day four, we discovered a structure that the catapult can, if aimed well, can throw a snow ball – as per previous years, this may be something that makes more sense to those living in snowy climates than it does to us! My son thought he got a strange Christmas tree on day five, but it was more of a log with an axe and chopping stump.

The Christmas tree was on day six and today he made some presents to go under the tree.

 

Advent calendars are more than chocolates & Lego!

Are advent calendars just for the kids in your house or are you expanding into adult advent calendars, too?

24 gifts in a grid, each numbered to form an advent calendar

Of course, Lego Harry Potter, Star Wars and City advent calendars and some of the other ones marketed at kids are perfectly fine for teens and adults, but not all adults will appreciate them!

Like for kids, you can obviously make your own advent calendar to suit any age or personality, but here are some ideas if you are thinking of purchasing advent calendars for your teens or adults.

Lego ornaments on a flat Christmas tree!

Lego ornaments form an advent calendar hanging on a tinsel tree adding Christmas cheer to the kitchen!

Pretty ideas…

  1. building a set of ornaments is a lovely Christmas advent calendar, I think. We reviewed a paper based one last year, and there are 2019 paper versions as well, or you can try the Unique Style calendar with wooden ornaments.
  2. enjoy some culture with an art calendar – this Normal Rockwell Pop-up advent calendar shows a different artwork each day while the National Gallery advent calendar shows something from their art collection each day.
  3. mix art and beauty! The Morris & Co Blue Forrest Peacock Print advent calendar includes beautiful Morris & Co prints and some lovely scented hand creams, bath salts and the like – a treat for eyes, noses and skin!
  4. why not try a  reusable advent calendar that is a decorative feature in itself – like a Christmas housetrain or tree. Or go all out for a Kurt Adler musical Santa’s workshop calendar – this is beautiful!
  5. music lovers may enjoy a musical advent calendar
  6. an advent calendar created with crystals adds some sparkle to the December days and builds a lovely piece of jewellery as well. Or build a Pandora braclet or a charm bracelet
  7. If you like ‘nice’ stickers, you may like to consider the Edwardian Lady or Ivory cats advent calendars
  8. make your home smell lovely with a Heart & Home fragrance calendar to find a different scented tealight candle each day.

Practical ideas…

Cath Kidston Christmas Beauty Advent Calendar Gift with Bath and Body Items, 1.11 kg

  1. beauty products – I came across this great blog reviewing the best beauty advent calendars in Australia if you’re wondering which one to get, or you can try the Cath Kidston bath and body advent calendar (pictured)
  2. tools – for someone liking DIY but without a lot of tools, this could be a useful calendar
  3. car goods – these include things like car wash, a chamois, wax, windscreen cleaner and air fresheners
  4. or car lovers may love a Porsche Advent calendar where they get to make a Porsche car and diorama over December!
  5. hardware bits – as distinct from tools (which let’s face it are not particularly cheap and many people this appeals to would already have most of what they need), this can be a calendar containing sets of screws, nails, bolts, washers, etc

Yummy ideas… wooden box with numbered chocolates

  1. chocolates – rather than the cheap supermarket ones, look for some quality chocolate versions, yum!
  2. alcohol – there are a range of these, from different types of beer each day, to different gins or wines, or a sample set of many spirits
  3. there is even a vegan friendly advent calendar which includes protein balls and other vegan products
  4. other foods – I’ve seen popcorn, cheese, nuts and ‘bar snacks’ suggested as fillings for advent calendars to go alongside movie or social occasions!
  5. enjoy a cup of tea? Why not try a tea advent calendar then!

 

And if you’re making your own, don’t forget that adults need to hear positive messages, too.

So what type of advent calendar would you like to experience this December? Are you going to get one for yourself, or just dream fondly of it?

* As always, some links in this post are affiliate links which means we may get a small payment for promoting it without you paying anything extra!

Christmas at Grandad’s Farm ~ Christmas book review

Cover of Christmas at Grandad's farm

Christmas at Grandad’s farm

by Claire Saxby
Illustrated by Janine Dawson
Five Mile Press, Scoresby, 2013

Age group: early primary school

Format: 32 page hardcover

This book I spotted in an op shop during the year and have finally got around to reading and reviewing it! I recognised Saxby’s name from the ‘meet…’ series about famous and worth Australians.

The story

The children arrive at Grandad’s farm on Christmas Eve in preparation for the full family celebration on Christmas Day.

My review

The story starts with (and repeats occasionally as a chorus) “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way” and is written in stanzas, so I found it impossible not to sing this book – I bet you have already sung some of it yourself having reading this sentence!

I loved the traditional Australian references – swimming in the creek, cramping into Grandad’s old ute, playing cricket on Christmas Day, scoffing lunch, and everyone collapsing in a stupor on the couch afterwards!

Inside pages of Christmas at Grandad's farm

As I’ve written before, it is important for children to relate to others through books and movies etc so finding a story and song that is about sunshine and BBQs rather than snow and sleds is great for those of us in the southern hemisphere! Let’s face it, it may be good for kids but I enjoy finding things that I can relate to sometimes too!

The illustrations are detailed so there is some fun finding interesting images (eg the old tyre swing).

We got this without the CD but did not miss it, especially as the Jingle Bells tune is so well known. However, hearing the entire song sung by Rusty Berther may be a fun element to add to the book – or any time you are listening to  Christmas music of course!

Would I recommend it?’ This is a lovely book, fun and fair dinkum, and although it was new to me, it felt familiar and ‘right – rhyming and fitting the Jingle Bells tune along with the Australian references, it feels like the Christmases I grew up with.

Inside pages of Christmas at Grandad's farm

Holly’s Christmas

Tonight I watched a movie called Holly’s Christmas.

It was on general commercial Australia TV – I was checking what was on TV tonight and was surprised to find at least 4 Christmas shows in a row on a standard channel.

So this is a Hallmark movie, known as Christmas with Holly in the USA and based on a novel by Lisa Kleypas called “Christmas Eve at Friday Harbour. Christmas Eve At Friday Harbour: Number 1 in series (Friday Harbor)

The movie…

In short, a young man (Mark, played by Sean Faris) has become guardian of his six-year-old niece after his sister’s death. A selective mute, the  girl is being returned to an earlier school year so Mark takes her back to the island he grew up on and was living up to three month ago.

As they caught the ferry, a young woman (Maggie, played by Eloise Mumford) is heading to the island to start her dram toy shop. Instantly, we knew she would become the love interest and probably help Holly (played by Josie Gallina) talk again. Our children, on the other hand, followed the story and didn’t see it coming!

The movie does end at Christmas and has some special Christmas elements (beautiful lights on boats and the harbour, a special Christmas gift for Holly and Holly asking about her mum). However, it otherwise is mostly just a feel good story about a young girl and her uncle’s romance.

For me, it was a nice light movie to watch on a Sunday evening and we enjoyed it.

The movie has some nice water views, a lovely side story of fairies watching a toy store, lovely people, nothing nasty, and a happy ending.

A Christmas homecoming – Christmas book review

A Christmas homecoming Front cover a A Christmas Homecoming

by Anne Perry
Headline Publishing Group, UK, 2011

Age group: teen to adult
Format: 224 page paperback

Following on from A Christmas Message, I was intrigued about one author having 13 Christmas books, so I grabbed another from the library to see how she does it!

The story

A theatre group preparing to perform Dracula in 1897 is interrupted by a murder…

My review

After finishing A Christmas Message, I was very unsure about how this book would be. I’m very glad to say it was more like my expectations of A Christmas Message and I enjoyed reading this book.

One thing that I had wondered about Perry writing 13 stories (based on the same characters was my initial incorrect thought) was how she managed that over time – surely there can’t be multiple mysteries solved around any particular Christmas by a single character! As it turns out, Perry’s festive series covers many years – one goes back as far as 1847 and A Christmas Message is set in 1900 – so that makes it more feasible!

I really enjoyed this book and the charterers, and it was interesting to think of Dracula as a ‘new craze’ and of dubious value and longevity! There are many reminders in this book of how things have changed, too – no phone to call for help, wood fires as the only source of warmth, no movies/TVs , less exposure to ‘scary’ effects so more sensitive to fear settings, and less general knowledge of investigations and forensics.

The key character, Caroline Fielding was also interesting. An older women (in her late 50s to 60s is my guess) who has been widowed and now remarried to a man 20 years younger and of a lower station, she has depth and experience that I liked. She is depicted as intelligent, resourceful and strong, but also a bit lonely at times so not overly perfect! Caroline’s son-in-law (present in many Perry books I gather) is policeman so she was able to preserve evidence and work on the case.

Much of the book revolves around the development of the play to be performed on Boxing Day – the murder doesn’t occur until over half way through the book! So it seems that Perry’s style is to have a story and work a mystery into it, rather than have the mystery as the key focus – different to what is common but not in a bad way.

I hadn’t realised that Bram Stoker’s Dracula centres around Dracula washing ashore near Whitby in York, but this book is set there which was an appropriate setting for their play, obviously.

Would I recommend it? Yes, I do both as an easy-to-read mystery and as an interesting reminder of how things used to be.

 

Advent count down reaches day twenty!

Wow, we’ve made it to day twenty now.

What has happened on the 20th December? Well, in 1699 Peter the Great changed New Year from 1 September to 1 January, Grimm’s Rumpelstiltskin was first published in 1812, It’s a wonderful Life (a classic movie played every Christmas) premiered in 1946, and Rosa Parks sat in a ‘white seat’ on a bus in 1956.

Ornament calendar

Our ornament calendar today produced a sack for Santa – the image clearly shows it is full as the elves are struggling to move it!

Santa's sack pressed out ornament hanging on a tree hear a sleigh

Lego City

My son likes this mini digging machine, but I’m not sure it will fit in with his mining Lego very well as it is so small!

Lego digging machine

Lego Friends

Tonight’s Lego ornament is pretty – a white snowflake with blue ‘waterdrops’ on the end to give it colour and interest – and fits in with the white Christmas model.

Lego snowflake ornament

Christmas book

And tonight’s Christmas book is Santa is coming to Australia! – and he is coming soon! It is a cute book and my kids love spotting places they can recognise – maybe we can get a map out tonight and they can trace Santa’s journey across Australia, too.

Myer window – Alice in Wonderland

This year’s Myer windows show the story of Alice in Wonderland, based on Rebecca Dautreme’s illustrations from her 2015 book (published to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carrol’s story originally being published in 1865). This is the second time Alice has featured in the Melbourne windows at Christmas.

collage of children watching ALice in Wonderland at Myer 2018 windows

Alice in Wonderland captivating children

The story starts with Alice trying food and drink that makes her grow and shrink – there is no sign of the white rabbit nor falling down the whole.

Alice eat and drinks, grows and shrinks

Alice is then shown as particularly large again as she appears trapped inside a house that is now too small for her.

Alice poking her head out of a too small house

A purple caterpillar then appears in a field of mushrooms.

purple caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland at Myer windows 2018

I love the ants crawling around under the mushrooms, too…

Following windows include the croquet game with the Queen of Hearts and her cards, and the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. I liked the table under a hills hoist and the details of food and tea bags in this scene, but was a bit thrown by a large white cat – the original Sir John Tenniel (illustrator) and Edward Dalziel (engraver) artwork had a stripy cat and Alice describes him as having lovely green eyes, and most of us are used to images from movies and books where he is purple or orange. White and fluffy just isn’t what to comes mind for the Cheshire cat!

Alice at the Mad Hatter's tea party

The croquet window was fun with moving hedgehogs and such tall, expressive flamingos!

Alice playing croquet with flamingo bats and hedgehog balls

The Queen of Hearts watching Alice play croquet

And Alice’s final adventure in the windows was visiting the drawing room with an array of characters.

The rabbit, the queen and others in the drawing room with Alice

Have you see Alice in the Myer windows?

It is exciting and fun to visit the Myer windows and my kids and I enjoyed seeing Alice. I have to admit that basing it on Dautreme’s illustrations made it less special for me as it moves away from my imagined Alice in a blue dress and an orange Cheshire cat, and I have heard others say the same thing. But the creation of the windows, the movement of Alice and others, and the attention to detail in the settings still made this a wonderful outing and a beautiful display.

TV time for Tinkles the Elf last night…

Even Tinkles seems to say Thank Goodness Its Friday as she sits on the couch to relax with some TV – wonder if she sneaked in some Christmas movies while we were asleep?

Christmas elf relaxing on couch with a remote control

The Nutcracker (book & puzzle) – review

The NutcrackerSmiling boy holding the Nutcracker book

by E T A Hoffman, retold by Rachel Elliot
illustrated by Valeria Docampo
Paragon, Bath, 2017

Age group: around 4 or 5 and older
Format: 24 page book ad 36 piece puzzle

A classic Christmas story (one even done in the Myer windows!), this version of The Nutcracker includes a jigsaw puzzle for young children with the book.

The story

A girl, Marie Stahlbaum, is given a wooden nutcracker on Christmas Eve. The nutcracker comes to life and fights an army of mice then takes Marie to the Land of Sweets where they meet the Sugar Plum Fairy and other dolls.

Some history of the Nutcracker

Hoffman originally released The Nutcracker and the Mouse King in 1816, and the full story takes longer than one night.

The story has been retold and presented in many ways in the last 202 years. Alexandre Dumas retold it as The Nutcracker which became the basis of Tchaikovsky’s ballet by the same name in 1892. It has been made into a few movies and telemovies, including Mickey Mouse, Tom and Jerry and Care Bare versions.

Parts of the music from the ballet are also well known and used in movies such as Disney’s Fantasia, the 1950’s marionette TV film The Spirit of Christmas, and the 1954 Little Match Girl movie. There have also been recordings, video games and TV shows made with parts of the story and/or music of The Nutcracker

Some versions are only loosely connected to the original story, and there are variations in the character names – Marie Stahlbaum has had different surnames and also been called Clara (the name of Marie’s doll in the original book).

A 1996 musical, The Nutcracker Musical, goes further into why Franz became a nutcracker and how Clara could help change him back – note that Franz was her brother in the original story. A light opera, this musical includes the full 12 days of Christmas as well!

My review

So, onto this book version of The Nutcracker!

I love the illustrations – they are beautiful and a combination of real and whimsical. The colours are muted to give atmosphere rather than standing out as a child’s counting or colour book.

collection of pages from The Nutcracker book

The story is about Clara, starting when she received the nutcracker on Christmas Eve from her godfather, the best toy maker in town. Her brother fights her over the nutcracker, and the nutcracker’s leg is broken. The toy maker repairs him and she promises to always keep him safe. After the Christmas Eve ball she remembers she left him under the tree.

Clara goes downstairs to get him and when she approaches the tree the magic occurs and she shrinks. She sees the mouse king, then the nutcracker and toy soldiers come to life to battle the mouse king. When the nutcracker is surrounded she throws her shoe at the mouse king to save the nutcracker. The nutcracker wins and then takes Clara to his kingdom which is the land of sweets. As she watches the sugar plum fairy dance, she gets sleepy and wakes up back home under the tree on Christmas morning.

While it is a long story and a reasonable bit of text, our three year old friend was enchanted by it – and now is desperate to see the ballet!

The puzzle was challenging for a three year old, but he achieved it… The pieces were a good size for his little hands and easily fit together. Overall it was a good activity for a pre-schooler, especially as the book gave context to the image on the jigsaw.

Young boy putting together the Nutcracker puzzle

Would we recommend it? I would recommend it – the illustrations were beautiful and captivating just as The Nutcracker should be, blending dreams into reality.

And our three year old friend still wants to dance with a Nutcracker so it obviously impressed him!

 

Christmas in Norway

After reading about Doctor Proctor, Nilly, Lisa and Santa, I looked into some Norwegian Christmas traditions.

Christmas obviously has similarities and connections, but the celebrations in Australia and Norway are unsurprisingly different.

Two images - Norway covered in snow and a Christmas table in a sunny park

Christmas in Norway

Being in the northern hemisphere and so close to the North Pole, December in Norway is often snowy and Christmas is in the middle of darkness thus is celebrated with lights to welcome the coming of spring and summer. From pagan beginnings about seasons and harvests, Christmas was slowly Christianised in Norway and surrounding countries – it remained Jul but focused on the birth of Jesus.

In Norway, to say God Jul or Gledelig Jul is like us saying Merry Christmas. In parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia, they speak North-Sami and they say Buorit Juovllat.

But I have yet to find anything about children writing to Santa or receiving letters from Santa

Christmas dates  24 gifts in a grid, each numbered to form an advent calendar

  • celebrations and present sharing are held on Christmas Eve, leaving Christmas Day as a quiet day for brunch and to read books and enjoy gifts (and I’m guessing they recover from the food of the day before if they are like us!) This includes most families going to church – even if they are not Christian or church goers
  • the 23rd of December is called Little Christmas Eve (or lillejulaften)
  • Christmas starts on the 13th of December with the Saint Lucia ceremony which represents thanksgiving for the return of the sun. It involves the youngest daughter of the family dressing in a white robe with an evergreen crown, then all the children serve their parents coffee and lussekatter (Lucia buns). I must say it is a nice tradition to start Christmas with children doing something for their parents
  • some families give a small gift each day or December, with or without a chocolate advent calendar! This is called Adventsgave or Kalendergave
  • there is a Christmas advent calendar on TV, with a new episode shown each day of December. Called Jul I Balfjell, it has been going since 1999 and is based on a fairy tale of pixies in blue hats
  • families light a candle each day from Christmas Eve to New Years Day

Norwegian Christmas traditions

So, here are some Norwegian traditions and activities…

  • Santa is known as Julenisse and wears a red stocking cap with his long white beard – he is more gnome than person though. He knocks on the door in the evening of Christmas Eve (Juleaften) and hands out presents after asking “Are there any good children here?”
  • Nisse – a little gnome who guards farm animals. Children leave out some rice porridge (risengrynsgrot) for him or else he plays tricks on them!A Nisse toy (Scandanvian gnome associated with Christmas)
  • a goat like gnome or elf known as Julebukk delivers gifts – there are have been a few variants of this since the Vikings worshipped Thor and his goat, but the current one is fairly tame and friendly
  • the juletre (Christmas tree) is usually a spruce or pine tree and is decorated with candles, red harts, apples, straw ornaments, cornets, tinsel and glass baubles, according to individual taste
  • the same Christmas movies are played on Christmas Eve morning and evening – apparently, people got very upset a few years ago when the station suggested changing the movies that Christmas!
  • Flaklypa Grand Prix is an animated Christmas movie made in 1975 that most Norwegians love to watch each year. I will have to find it and watch it, but so far all I know is that an inventor, a penguin and a hedgehog build a race car for an oil sheikh and the soundtrack is by Bent Fabricicus-Bjerre
  • a sheaf of wheat may be left out to feed the birds – being winter and snow, this is more relevant in Norway than in Australia where food is generally available for wild life
  • skiing is a hugely popular, and skiing events are on TV throughout Christmas – their biggest finale is in Oslo on 1 January
  • they gift a huge Christmas tree to the UK every year in recognition of help provided during World War II – it stands in Trafalgar Square in London
  • often children dress up as characters of the Christmas story, usually shepherds or wise men, and go house to house singing Christmas carols
  • many people sing a traditional folk tune with the words of Musevisa (the Mouse Song)
  • O Jul Med Din Glede (Oh Christmas with your Joy) is a children’s song with actions that any adults also participate in for Christmas!
  • home made decorations are the tradition for houses – toilet roll pixies are quite common, along with star lights in windows. Keeping things home made ensures a focus on children is the belief, and it makes sense.

Norwegian Christmas food and drink

A Christmas feast, or Julebord, is held many times in Norway – it is a gathering or people with a table full of food, and can be celebrated as a work or school party through to the family and friends gathering on Christmas Eve.

  • there are specific Christmas delicacies, but these vary between towns – even the special bread called Julekake can vary in ingredients across Norway. Parties can therefore include an array of different dishes when people come together from a bigger area  Mulled wine on Christmas eve
  • Sand kager is a traditional Christmas biscuit, as is Krumkaker which are thin waffle-like biscuits curled into a cone
  • gingerbread or pepperkake, is very popular in Norway for Christmas, often shaped as people or stars and a thicker gingerbread is used to make gingerbread houses as well – pepperkakebyen is a gingerbread city in Bergen!
  • rice porridge is a common treat, eaten with butter, sugar and cinnamon for lunch on Christmas Eve or with whipped cream as a dessert. If you find the almond in your serve, you get a prize (bit like finding coins in the Christmas pudding we used to do) – the prize often being a marzipan pig
  • some rice porridge is often is left out for the birds at Christmas, too
  • Glogg is a traditional drink with red wine, almonds, raisins and spices. Many breweries also release special Christmas beers, too, known as juleol, and a soft drink called julebrus – everyone has their favourite version though!
  • the main Christmas meal is usually pork or lamb or mutton sticks (Pinnekjott), potatoes and surkal (cabbage cooked with caraway seeds and vinegar). Lye-treated codfish is also popular around Christmas time.

Have you been to Norway for Christmas, or perhaps have Norwegian family and experienced some of these traditions yourself? We’d love to hear about your Norwegian Christmas in the comments below!

* Images courtesy of Love Santa, Max PixelSmarias and Oleksandr Prokopenko

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