Many traditions and customs form a part of Christmas celebrations in Norway, ranging from the ordinary to the unusual. From 1947 onwards, the Norwegians have been gifting a Christmas tree to Britain each year and it adorns the Trafalgar Square in London. This marks the close ties between the two countries and recognizes the support provided by Britain to Norway during World War II. A large number of Christmas magazines and comics are published in Norway in December and are popular among the young and old alike.
People get together and light candles on the four Sundays leading up to Christmas Eve, starting from the beginning of the Advent season. One candle is lit the first Sunday with one additional candle being added each passing week. All work comes to a standstill at around 4pm on Christmas Eve in Norway and people get ready to participate in the celebrations with their friends and family wearing new clothes. Feeding the birds is another popular tradition in Norway. A sheaf of grains is hung out on a pole or put on the roof for the birds to eat and promotes the concept of sharing your good fortune with all.
Christmas preparations and the mischievous barn gnome:
Rice pudding or a special type of porridge is a main part of the Norwegian Christmas food preparations. An almond is hidden inside it and whoever finds it is said to be lucky. He is also given a present in some families, usually a marzipan pig. According to tradition, seven different kinds of homemade biscuits should grace the table on Christmas day.
A big bowl of porridge with butter, sugar and cinnamon is also set out for the little barn gnome Nisse, so that he guards the farm animals without playing any tricks. The main items in the Christmas dinner may consist of steamed lamb ribs or fish, along with some pork dishes. Christmas beer brewed at home, an aquavit for the adults and a red fizzy drink for the children are the other specialties at dinner.
Hiding the brooms:
All the women in the house hide the brooms and mops on Christmas Eve because it is believed that evil spirits and witches come out on this day and ride away on their brooms. As a part of this unusual Christmas tradition, the men of Norway also fire shotguns outside the house to drive the evil spirits away.
The Yule log and Julebukk:
The Yule log also has its origins in Norway, though the Christmas tree has become more popular now. White lights, tinsel and Norwegian flags find their place in the Christmas tree decorations. It is also a tradition for the family to dance around the tree in a circle, holding hands and singing carols.
Children walk house-to-house singing carols at the doorsteps of friends and neighbours wearing masks to conceal their identity and are given gifts. This unusual Christmas tradition called Julebukk is very similar to that of Halloween. The figure of the Julebukk or the Yule goat is also used as a Christmas ornament and is made out of straw with a red ribbon around its neck. People sometimes play pranks on each other by smuggling it into a neighbour’s house to surprise them. Once they find it, they should do the same to another family and so on.