Christmas in Norway

Christmas Eve is the time when presents are exchanged. The gifts are sometimes brought by Santa Claus (called 'Julenissen' in Norway). Present are also brought by the small gnomes called 'Nisse'. There are also hobgoblins (Nisse) decorations. Children pick up the presents from under the Christmas Tree and read the cards on the presents out loud.

As in Finland, a sheaf of wheat is often left out for the birds to eat over Christmas. Also a type of rice porridge is sometimes left for the 'Nisse' who is believed to guard the farm animals.

In some parts of Norway, children like to go carol singing and most children do! Often children will dress up as characters from the Christmas Story, such as the Shepherds and Wise Men, and go singing from house to house in their local neighbourhood. Sometimes they carry with paper stars on them.

Another tradition in parts of Norway is that families light a candle every night from Christmas Eve to New Year's Day.

Christmas wasn't celebrated in Norway until about 1000 or 1100, when Christianity first came to the area. Before this people celebrated jul or jòl in the middle of winter. It was a celebration of the harvest gone and a way of looking forward to the spring. Lots of beer (juleol) was brewed and drunk in honour of the old pagan scandinavian gods.

Maybe the most famous custom about Christmas in Norway is the big Christmas Tree that Norway gives to the UK every year. The tree is given as a present to say 'thank you' for the help that the people of the UK gave to Norway during World War II. The tree stands in Trafalgar Square in the middle of London and often hundreds of people come to watch when the lights are turned on.

A traditional Norwegian Christmas Tree decoration are small paper baskets called 'Julekurver' which made in the shape of a heart. It's said that the writer Hans Christian Andersen might have invented them in the 1860s! Instructions on how to make Julekurver are on this site: http://www.stavanger-web.com/baskets.php

In Norwegian Happy/Merry Christmas is 'God Jul' or 'Glædelig Jul'. Happy/Merry Christmas in lots more languages.

Many different types of cakes and biscuits are eaten over the Christmas period in Norway. One of the most popular is a special bread called 'Julekake' that has raisins, candied peel and cardamom in it. Here's a recipe for Norwegian Hole Cake. Rice Porridge is eaten on Christmas Eve either as a meal at lunchtime (served with butter, sugar and cinnamon) or as a dessert to the main evening email (with whipped cream mixed in!). If you find an almond in your portion you're traditionally given a pink or white marzipan pig.

The main meal is normally pork or mutton ribs served with 'surkal' (white or red cabbage, finely chopped and cooked with caraway seeds and vinegar) and potatoes.

Musevisa - The Mouse Song

A very popular song at Christmas time in Norway is the Musevisa (The Mouse Song). The words were written in 1946 by Alf Prøysen. The tune is a traditional Norwegian folk tune. It tells the story of some mice getting ready for Christmas and the Mother and Father mice warning their children to stay away from mouse traps! It became popular very quickly and is now as popular as ever in Norway.

In 2008 an extra verse was thought to have been discovered (that involved a cat!). However this was a hoax by a Norwegian photographer called Ivar Kalleberg. Most people thought this was quite fun and that Alf Prøysen would have liked the joke!

Here are the words of the Musevisa in an English translation, by Ivar Kalleberg and Kenneth Tillson and used with the kind permission of Elin Prøysen, the daughter of Alf Prøysen. There's also a video of some people singing it (in Norwegian) at a Christmas event, so you can try singing along!

Musevisa (The Mouse Song) English Translation

When nights are getting longer, and lakes will freeze to ice;
Father Mouse warns strongly about a foul device:
"If we avoid the mouse trap, we will have naught to fear.
We'll all be celebrating, at Christmas time this year."
Heyday and howdy and toodeladdeloo.
A Merry Christmas season is good for me and you. (x2)

Mother Mouse is cleaning, each ceiling and each wall.
She wants a home that's cosy, when Yuletide snowflakes will fall.
A grubby home at Christmas, would be a great disgrace.
So young ones dance a Polka, their tails sweep out the place.
Heyday and howdy and toodeladdeloo.
A Merry Christmas season is good for me and you. (x2)

And finally the evening, the youngsters all await.
They know they'll have permission to stay up very late.
A toe-less boot is spruced up with nails that they have found.
And then some flimsy cobwebs which they can drape around.
Heyday and howdy and toodeladdeloo.
A Merry Christmas season is good for me and you. (x2)

Father Mouse now tells them that they should form a ring.
"Let's dance around this old boot and hear our Granny sing.
Each mouse should use its right paw, to take its neighbour's tail.
Then listen as Old Granny sings a lovely Fairy tale."
Heyday and howdy and toodeladdeloo.
A Merry Christmas season is good for me and you. (x2)

They have for Christmas dinner, grilled Arctic halibut
And then an old tradition, they share a hazel nut.
There's sticky candy paper. A spicy Yuletide Ham.
They all can savour its bouquet and taste some apple jam.
Heyday and howdy and toodeladdeloo.
A Merry Christmas season is good for me and you. (x2)

Old Granny's Christmas Present is a brand-new rocking chair.
A hollowed-out potato which her kin have gnawed with flair.
Now Granny starts her singing, the youngsters sing along.
They always love to join her in their favourite Christmas song.
Heyday and howdy and toodeladdeloo.
A Merry Christmas season is good for me and you. (x2)

Old Granny's getting tired, soon comes the early dawn.
As morning is approaching she cannot help but yawn:
"Christmas is a lot of fun for each and every mouse.
Be careful of the mouse-traps in this trap infested house!"
Heyday and howdy and toodeladdeloo.
A Merry Christmas season is good for me and you. (x2)

The Father Mouse says, gravely, "It's time to take a nap.
Just dream about the Yuletide and not that awful trap."
While Father Mouse is keeping watch, the children try to sleep.
They hum some Christmas carol instead of counting sheep.
Heyday and howdy and toodeladdeloo.
A Merry Christmas season is good for me and you. (x2)

 

Here are two 'extra verses' written by Ivar Kalleberg. The top one is his 'hoax verse' and the second on is one more in the spirit of Christmas!

When everyone was sleeping, then came a hungry cat.
He ate up all the small mice and a chubby passing rat!
But no one has to worry, no one needs to cry
They all soared up to heaven to the mansion in the sky!
Heyday and howdy and toodeladdeloo.
A Merry Christmas season is good for me and you. (x2)

Before the mice were sound asleep, there came the dreaded cat.
"I have not come here to harm you, let's have a friendly chat.
In this sweet Christmas season, I would not touch a mouse.
Let Love and Peace prevail. We've Christmas in our house!"
Heyday and howdy and toodeladdeloo.
A Merry Christmas season is good for me and you. (x2)

 

Christmas Around the World