Christmas in Norway is based on Christian traditions, with elements of old pagan traditions and Jewish Hannukah. And new traditions are added every year.
In the end of November, Oslo is decorated and prepared for Christmas, and the city is buzzing with people doing their Christmas shopping. Christmas trees are lit and streets decorated in the city center during the first weekend of Advent. During these weeks you have plenty of opportunities to catch a Christmas concert or Christmas market.
During Advent, it is common for companies, organizations, and groups of friends to have pre-Christmas parties, in Norwegian called Julebord. The Julebord crowd fills up the city’s restaurants and clubs, making the weekend nightlife quite busy in this period.
“Little Christmas Eve”, 23 December
Many families have their own traditions this evening, such as decorating the Christmas tree or making a gingerbread house, and many families eat risengrynsgrøt – a hot rice pudding served with sugar, cinnamon, and butter. An almond is hidden in the pudding, and if the almond turns up in your portion, you win a marzipan pig!
Christmas Eve, 24 December
Christmas Eve is the main event in Norwegian Christmas celebration. The first part of the day is often spent rushing around for the last Christmas presents, or in church for Christmas service. At five the bells ring out for Christmas, and most people have Christmas dinner at home or with relatives. The Christmas presents have been placed under the tree, and are opened after dinner.
Of course, not everyone in Norway celebrates Christmas, but most people celebrate more or less according to these traditions. Many immigrants also celebrate Christmas, using elements of the traditional Norwegian Christmas. As this is a “stay-at-home evening”, most restaurants and pubs are closed on Christmas Eve, and the streets are empty and quiet.
The days between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve are typically spent going to brunches and dinners with family and friends. Many people go out in the evening, so there is more life in the city center. From 27 December the shops are open and people rush around exchanging presents that weren’t quite what they wanted.
Christmas food, drinks, and snacks
The most popular Christmas Eve dinner is the ribbe (pork ribs or pork belly, bone in), but lutefisk (cod cured in lye), pinnekjøtt (dry-cured ribs of a lamb), boiled cod, ham roast and turkey are also common dishes. Most fish restaurants and restaurants with Norwegian food have Christmas specialties on the menu in November and December. Many Norwegians like to have a Christmas beer with the food – a malty beer that is available from November.
Decorating for Christmas
Before Christmas, we decorate the house with wreaths, angels, gnomes, hearts, stars, and maybe a nativity scene or a gingerbread house. More and more people also decorate their houses on the outside with lights and wreaths. Most families have a Christmas tree in the living room. It has a star at the top and is decorated with garlands, tinsel, and ornaments. Take a trip to one of Oslo’s Christmas markets if you want to buy traditional Norwegian Christmas decorations.