Culture

It’s All Jul: Norwegian Christmas Traditions

Christmas in Norway is a joy to celebrate. While some Norwegian Christmas traditions are reminiscent of the Danish celebration, there are so many that are unique to the country and culture. Not to mention the landscape; it’s pure magic to be surrounded by mountains and guaranteed snow.

Here’s how to celebrate Christmas in Norway:

Norwegian Christmas traditions

Flåklypa Grand Prix

This animated movie from 1975 (called Pinchcliffe Grand Prix in English) has a mythic status in Norway. Kids as well as grown-ups love to watch it during the Christmas holiday on Norwegian television. It’s considered a must-watch, and I understand why!

The plot: an inventor and his friends, a penguin and a hedgehog, build a race car for an oil sheik. A little weird? Yes! But this movie is amazing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5R73l6LthU

The music, written by the Danish composer Bent Fabricius-Bjerre, is great. More than one band has been inspired; you might recognise the title melody in the Norwegian hip-hop duo Multicyde’s “Not for the Dough” from 1999 or Blue’s “All Rise” from 2001.

 
 

Skihopp

Norwegians love skiing and ski jumping like no one else in the world. Winter is the high season for skiing and you can watch it on television all Christmas, if you want. The grand finale is the Ski Jumping World Cup in Oslo’s Holmenkollen on the 1st of January. Even if you don’t know the rules or any of the competitors, you can feel Norway’s enthusiasm for this nationally-beloved sporting event (and those jumps are AMAZING!).

Here are last year’s women’s and men’s winners:

 
 

“O Jul med din Glede”

“O Jul med din Glede” (“Oh Christmas with your Joy”) is one of my favorite Norwegian Christmas carols. It’s considered a kids’ song, but the joy of it makes grown-ups sing along too. And singing is not enough: you must do the moves! As the lyrics say: clap your hands, sing and laugh, and curtsey and bow.

 
 

Go to church

On Christmas Eve (24th of December), Norwegians flocks to church. In my experience, almost all Norwegians, Christian or not, go to church to meet with other locals and to sing Christmas carols before the big Christmas dinner in the evening.

 
 

Jul I Blåfjell

This Norwegian Christmas TV-show has been extremely popular with children since its premiere in 1999. Kids have the joy of watching one episode per day from the 1st to the 24th of December. Jul I Blåfjell (Christmas in the Blue Mountain) is a wonderful Christmas fairytale that, in true Norwegian style, includes pixies wearing blue Christmas hats.

 
 

Norwegian Christmas Decorations

It’s typical to DIY your own Christmas decorations around the home – it’s a very personal and creative thing. Pixies made out of toilet paper rolls are proudly on display. This homemade aspect really showcases how kids are the focus of Christmas. The adventsstake is very common, as well as hanging stars lights in the window.

What to eat for Christmas in Norway

 
 

Julebord

Julebord (Christmas party) is one of the great Christmas traditions in Norway. You gather together with friends, colleagues or family to eat all day and night. It seems that the main goal for the evening is to get so drunk that you (almost) can’t find your way home. This is a similar tradition to the Danish Julefrokost.

 
 

Pinnekjøtt and rømmegrøt

Pinnekjøtt (stick meat) and the rømmegrøt (sour cream porridge) are the two most Norwegian Christmas foods available. Pinnekjøtt is lamb or mutton and the preparation can be a really long process. Curing, drying and sometimes smoking is done before the meat is soaked in water and steamed on birch sticks over water in a large saucepan. The rømmegrøt is similar to Danish risengrød or Ris a l’Amande. It’s a sweetened porridge topped with a knob of butter and cinnamon, and is eaten hot. Norwegians love it, and with ingredients like that it’s easy to see why!

Is December a good time to visit Norway?

Well, that depends on what you want to do! But if you’d like to experience the cosiness and magic of Christmas in Norway, you’ll love visiting in December. Skiing – both alpine and cross country – are popular in Norway, so this is a great time for skiiers to visit.

If you’re more interested in hiking, kayaking, or checking out the Norwegian fjords, the summer months are an easier time to visit.

Can you see the Northern Lights in Norway in December?

Yes, it is possible to see the Northern Lights (aurora borealis) in Norway in December. If you’re in southern Norway such as Oslo or Bergen, you aren’t likely to see them. Head to the Arctic Circle for the best chance to see the Northern Lights. What an incredible Christmas memory that would be!

Is it cold in December in Norway?

Yes! It’s very cold and usually snowy too. It isn’t, however, the coldest month – that honor falls to January and February.

Average temperatures in December for the whole country are 0 – 5 degrees Celsius, but of course it is colder the further north you get. Average rainfall for the month is 265 mm, making it one of the rainiest months in Norway.

Keen to learn about other Scandinavian Christmas traditions? Find out about Danish and Swedish ones too!