summer

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

Christmas lights in Melbourne, 2015

I love walking around on a summer evening looking at Christmas lights!

This year, we walked around our local area with a group of friends which was a lot of fun. The biggest hassle is juggling going out when it’s dark enough to appreciate the lights with getting the kids to bed at a reasonable hour (given how tired they were for the end of school year anyway).

Anyway, I didn’t get my photos edited in time to share them before Christmas. So here are some of them now…

collage of Christmas lights

 

front yards and fences with CHristmas lights

 

 

Passionfruit Christmas biscuits ~ recipe

Passionfruit Christmas biscuits on a plate with tinsel

Passionfruit Christmas biscuits

While these biscuits don’t look or sound very Christmassy (other than by adding colouring to them or icing with Christmas colours like I have), they feel like a Christmas treat to me!

I think it is because the passionfruit flavour is a hint of summer and the texture is like shortbread (which I associate with Christmas).

These are fairly easy to make so are suitable for young children to help with – and I bet Santa would enjoy a few of these on Christmas Eve!

 

Passionfruit Christmas biscuits

  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs castor sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 Tbs passionfruit pulp (1 – 2 passionfruit)
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1 Tbs cornflour

{Makes about 40 biscuits}

Mix the butter (softened butter makes this easier!) with the sugars and vanilla essence.

Mix in the passionfruit pulp then add in the flours.

Christmas passionfruit biscuit ingredients mixed together in a bowl

The mix is browner than most biscuits because of the brown sugar.

It forms a stiff mix, not quite like a pastry dough – and it looks a bit sticky.

Put a little plain flour on your hands then roll small bits of the mixture into balls (the flour is enough to stop them sticking to you).

Floured ahdn holding a ball of passionfruit Christmas biscuit dough

Turn a sticky blob into a ball…

Put the balls on a greased tray or tray lined with baking paper (I’ve tried both and neither seems superior to the other).

baked passionfruit Christmas biscuits on a greased tray and a baking paper lined tray

Greased tray or baking paper – the choice is yours!

Push down on each ball lightly with the back of a spoon to make them flatter. Note these biscuits don’t spread very much so you don’t need a lot of space between biscuits.

Bake at 160°C for 13 – 15 minutes.

Cool on the tray before serving, icing or storing.

Passionfruit Christmas biscuits on a white plate for serving

Passionfruit Christmas biscuits – they look simple but taste divine!

Some additional notes…

Why use the different flours? Well, corn flour and coconut flour are gluten free so these biscuits are lower gluten than most biscuits. The coconut flour also adds protein and fibre so these biscuits are lower carbohydrate than you’d expect. It also gives a slight hint of coconut to add to the summery effect.

Why brown sugar? It is less processed so healthier than white sugar of any type.

I melted some white chocolate and added colouring to cover some of my biscuits. I love the crunch of the set chocolate but I found it did overwhelm the passionfruit flavour a bit – they still were yummy and melted on the tongue though!

A child's ahnd reaching for the last passionfruit biscuit on the plate!

What my children and friends thought of the biscuits…

I am thinking of making batches of these with my kids this year for them to give to kinder/school teachers as Christmas gifts.

What will you do with the biscuits you make?

And I’m curious, if you are from the northern hemisphere, would these feel Christmassy or would you prefer them in summer?

December and summer have arrived!

The first of December – that means summer is here and Christmas is not too far away now (unless you’re an excited three year old anyway!)

What do you do to celebrate the start of December?

We put our tree up as a family, while listening to carols of course. And being such a beautiful evening today in Melbourne, we went outside and looked at Christmas lights in our street before the kids went to bed (a bit late!)

Christmas lights on an Ashwood house

Some local Christmas lights that we enjoy watching each year

Christmas jelly – not just for babies and toddlers…

Continuing on with the request for some Christmas recipes the very young can enjoy, here is another one that’s pretty easy to make. It is well suited to an Australian Christmas, but I think it can be eaten alongside a hot Christmas pudding and apple pie, too!

Christmas jelly

200 ml hot water
4 teaspoons gelatine
100ml red fruit juice
100ml green fruit juice
1 – 2 tablespoons chopped cherries or strawberries
1-2 tablespoons sliced grapes or kiwi fruit pieces

Dissolve 2 teaspoons of gelatine in 100ml hot water.

Stir into the red fruit juice.

Pour into a small bow or jelly mould. Add the grapes or kiwi fruit.

Put into the fridge to set.

Dissolve 2 teaspoons of gelatine in 100ml hot water.

Stir into the green fruit juice.

Pour into a small bow or jelly mould. Add the cherries/strawberries.

Put into the fridge to set.

Serve together, tipped onto a plate or straight into bowls.

In total, this makes about one metric cup of jelly which is a side serve for about two people or a few days’ supply for a baby or young toddler.

Notes:

  1. juicing the fruit yourself is a much healthier option, but bottled juice works. Red juice can be cranberry or mix apple with raspberries, cherries and strawberries. Green juice can be made from kiwi fruit, apple and celery together, green grapes or a combination.
  2. you can of course use packets of jelly instead of gelatine and fruit juice but it has a lot more sugar and less satisfaction!
  3. stand your jelly bowl in a hot water for 30 – 60 seconds to make it easier to tip out once it’s set

 

Have you ever made your own jelly?

Surprised to find it is this easy? I know I was when I made it for my first baby – it’s such as easy thing to feed them but I didn’t want the sugar and additives of the commercial jelly.

Have you ever left a bowl of jelly out for Santa? I haven’t but it’s not a bad idea, especially if it’s hot on Christmas Eve!

Seasonal Christmas gifts

Summer ends tomorrow. Of course we may well get a lot of hot weather yet but there’s no denying that colder weather is on its way.

With the colder weather are there Christmas gifts you received that will now get used?

Aside from the fact that shops are full of summer things in November and December, most people seem to think of gifts with immediate use. So I see t-shirts, bathers and shorts given for Christmas much more often than jumpers and jackets for example.

Sometimes I do manage to think ahead and give a gift that is not related to December/January – especially if someone has a major life event later in the year – and often buy a general present (i.e. something that can be used at any time). I admit I rarely buy a winter-related item as a Christmas gift though.

Are all your Christmas gifts relating to summer (or winter if you’re in the Northern hemisphere obviously) or do you plan ahead?

Would you prefer to get some gifts ready for another season?

Warm Christmas images

Decorating a gum tree for Christmas in Australia

A young boy stretching to decorate a gum tree is part of an Australian summer – not a cold Christmas!

From Christmas cards to movies to wrapping paper, we see images of Christmas that have snow-covered trees, snowmen, Santa in a sleigh, reindeer, open fires and icicles.

Occasionally, and increasingly so, we see images of a warmer Christmas although most are cartoon-like – have you ever seen a Christmas card showing a tree in sunshine or with summer-clothed people around it?

Let’s face it – the entire Southern Hemisphere is in summer for Christmas – it’s not just Australia and New Zealand having warm Decembers – so why should our imagery be limited to half the world’s experience of Christmas?

Do you look for more relevant images when choosing Christmas cards and wrappings? Maybe the lack of snow in Love Santa letters is important to you?

What do you use as backgrounds in Christmas photos or scrapbooking pages?

Being green at Christmas

Christmas is a time of celebrations, family and fun. It’s easy in these times to forget about water and energy conservation, but conserving our resources is a year round activity.

Some easy ways to save energy of the summer holiday period are:

– Use curtains to keep out the sun and a fan to move the air rather than turning on an air conditioner or evaporative cooler
– Serve directly onto plates instead of serving platters so there are fewer dishes to wash
– Have a container ready for plates to be scraped into rather than rinsing them
– Consider dry flower or fruit arrangements instead of filling large vases with water for fresh flowers
– Use wine glass charms or another method to distinguish glasses so people can use the same one instead of washing glasses all day

And it doesn’t have to stop there! You can use alternative wrappings for presents instead of using so much paper, perhaps a nice tea towel, table cloth, hanky or scarf. You could even give some water saving gifts such as a tap timer or an efficient shower head. We have a few more ideas listed in our article on saving water at Christmas, too.

Christmas is only 12 weeks away, so now is the time to sit down and plan out your Christmas and make it practical and environment friendly. 🙂

The truth about Santa’s reindeer

I’m not 100% sure of the accuracy of this but it certainly sounds plausible. Perhaps Santa could confirm this?

According to the Alaskan Dept. of Fish and Game, while both male and female reindeer grow antlers in the summer each year, the male antlers drop their antlers at the beginning of winter, usually late November to mid-December. Female reindeer retain their antlers until after they give birth in the spring.

Therefore, according to EVERY historical rendition depicting Santa’s reindeer, EVERY single one of them from Rudolph to Blitzen, had to be a girl.

We should have known… only women would be able to drag a (ahem – sorry Santa) rather largish man in a red velvet suit all around the world in one night and not get lost!

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