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

Boxing Day traditions

What do you do on Boxing Day?

Piles of Christmas gifts and toys

Piles of presents often means piles of toys to play with on Boxing Day!

Between the cricket text at the MCG, Boxing Day Sales and extended family celebrations, many people have a set activity each year while others have a quiet day resting from the excitement of Christmas Day.

Does Boxing Day have any special meaning or memories for you?

Santa has to cope with international rules…

Santa has a long way to travel on Christmas Eve, and he has to cope with different climates and rules along the way.

How often do you check under your car for sleeping children? Do you dress well to keep your license? Do you bother buying sprouts for Christmas dinner?

These and other interesting questions arise from the following infographic kindly shared by case luggage.

An inforgraphic about Santa's Christmas Eve Journey




And as for me – I never check under my car or sleigh for sleeping children (I don’t think that makes me negligent!), I don’t dress nicely for the sake of my license and I don’t buy sprouts very often at all, and certainly not for Christmas!

A Holiday Soup Bowl Party

The women in my family would get together every year before the Christmas holiday to discuss and plan the festivities of the seasons. I’m a planner from way back and I love to have everything planned out, with the holiday school pageants, driving around to see the light displays, making crafts and planning the holiday dinner, time needed to be scheduled to ensure we didn’t miss a moment of holiday cheer.

When we first started this holiday meeting it was all eight of us picking and choosing dates that worked for us, a task that seemed to take hours.

We never gave any thought into having dinner that night, who had the time, there was Christmas planning under foot. There we were with our calendars, schedules and appointment books waiting for the local pizza shop to deliver a few supreme pies, a quick answer to our hunger pangs. Pizza was always a snack to me, not a meal and, as my girls will tell you, I always have a meal.

Squabbling one night over the pizza toppings, I mentioned it would be easier to open a can of soup.

Then it hit me. Soups for our yearly planning ritual. Something quick and easy we could throw together, even after a hard day of work. And me being me of course wrote it down, so I wouldn’t forget.

Four different bowls with different soups

A variety of soups is tasty!

The following year I made cute little soup can invitations for our planning date and mailed them off. Assigning each person a different item to bring. One brought assorted bread, one brought drinks, one brought the desserts and the remaining 5 each brought 2-3 quarts of any soup of their choosing.

It was a hit, not only did we get to sample a variety of soups and spend time together, the entire atmosphere changed. Our scheduling was completed in record time and occasionally we would have time left over to enjoy a holiday movie.

That was several years ago, and we all look forward to it every year. A yearly chore that seemed to be stressful and a bit unnerving, now is an evening the ladies of our family can’t wait to arrive. I can’t help but wonder if it was the holiday cheer that found its way into our date making or was it the power of a warm bowl of soup.

Multicultural Christmas activity

MUlticultral Christmas & Santa images

Santa, Sinteklaus or St Nick, Zwarte Piet, boomers – different Christmas traditions

As a cub leader, we’re always looking for ideas for un nights that help the kids develop income way. Throwing around ideas this term we thought of doing a Christmas night where kids’ families come along and share their culture/traditions.

The idea is for a parent/grandparent to talk for 10 or so minutes about the Xmas traditions of their home country/region, showing any costumes or props, then answering questions.

It’s a nice way to celebrate Christmas without just being about gifts or decorations and it’s a fun way to teach them about different cultures and countries (must remember to have a world globe handy!)



* Collage made form images from, free digital vintage stamps and private sources

Christmas preparation traditions…

I don’t know if you’d call it a Christmas tradition really but every November I spend the third weekend preparing for Christmas – that’s this weekend for 2011.

I don’t do other things that weekend and get the kids out of the house as much as possible (my parents take them on the Saturday every year) so I can concentrate on my to do list:

  1. sort all the loose socks – pairs get put away and most others go in the rag bag or a charity bag

    Putting away books

    There’s a certain satisfaction having books lined up neatly 🙂

  2. empty the kitchen pantry and put things back neatly, noting what things can be used in the next week or so to clear more space. Anything not likely to be used gets put into a charity bag (often there’s a box at school around now to collect them)
  3. empty the fridge and freezer. Again, things go back in neatly after I review what’s there and plan the next week’s menu accordingly
  4. tidy the cupboards and shelves in the lounge room – putting people’s stuff back in their room and other things into the rubbish or charity bags. What’s left is put in neatly
  5. I sort my kids' books then toys, too. Pulling aside things they’ve grown out of (usually that means moving on to the next child) and removing broken things (to repair where feasible, throw out otherwise)
  6. If I have any time left (which I never do!), my plan is to sort through clothes drawers to remove anything to small or too worn.
Cleaning the house in November gives me mental and physical space to enjoy (and survive!) December!Click To Tweet
image of Santa, baubles and red stockings on a dark background

Even Santa has to deal with lost socks!

This really is about Christmas, not just a spring cleaning, as it gives me space for Christmas things (stocking up on food stuffs for Christmas events and places for new gifts to be stored after Christmas) and also gives me some mental space and energy to cope with December and the whirlwind it always becomes in our house. Of course, it also makes tidying the house easier during December when we have more visitors so that helps, too.


I don’t do normal housework for the weekend and only give the emptied cupboards and fridge a cursory clean as I go – I focus on the stuff rather than cleaning and find I can get through a lot.

I’m not a clean freak (at no other time of the year do I do housework stuff for more than an hour at a time!) but I find this really sets us up nicely for Christmas so thought I’d share the idea for others to use. And now I am psyched up, my glass of wine is finished so I’m off to find all loose socks in the house…


Images courtesy of

International traditions

Hi, I have some homework where I have to find about some different ways people celebrate Christmas around the world. Can anyone please give me any answers?

I live in Australia.

Christmas Memories and stories…

Christmas brings many images to mind – rushing around getting gifts organised, preparing food, visiting family and friends, decorations everywhere, end of year projects/assignments being finished, cricket season, and so on.

There are so many different ways to celebrate Christmas, too. Especially when you consider the variety of family size and structures now, and how many people don’t live close to family.

This section of our blog is for sharing those traditions, ideas and stories that have made our Christmases what they are. Hopefully, reliving the memory will bring a smile to your face and the face of others. And it may just start a family tradition for others, too.

To add your story, please register on the site by clicking register under the meta heading on the left, and then log in using your password. Go to the write page and type in your story – simple! Stories are all moderated before they go live (just to ensure it stays family friendly) but your story should be live not long after you post it.

So please let us know some of the things that make your Christmas special.

Love Santa’s Elf

Favourite Santa stories and memories

From the time we’re one or two years old until we’re about 10, we get a special visit from Santa on Christmas Eve. We also see Santa at special events, shops, parks and in books and movies.

Some families have special traditions for Santa – like leaving the same snack every year, hanging up stockings, finding presents under the tree or on the bed. We love hearing about these traditions, so pelase share them in this category of our blog.

Your special stories can go in here, too – those one off things that happened that hold a special place in your heart.

To add your story, please register on the site by clicking ‘register’ under the meta heading on the left, and then log in using your password. Go to the ‘write’ page and type in your story – simple! Stories are all moderated before they go live (just to ensure it stays family friendly) but your story should be live not long after you post it.

We hope that sharing these ideas will bring a smile to your face and give others’ inspriation for creating their own special memories and family traditions.

Love Santa’s Elf


Santa and Christmas provide magic and happiness to many children and adults around the world.

I am proud to have been asked by Santa to help him keep up with his letter writing each Christmas, but I still want to do more to keep the magic alive. So I have started this blog to share Christmas memories, traditions and ideas.

Everyone is welcome to share their special Christmas and Santa memories in this blog. Remember that if it is a precious memory to you, it can be included no matter how simple or insignifcant it may seem.

Love Santa’s Elf

Share your Christmas story