IN Norway, Christmas starts with the first Sunday in advent. Most families have four purple candles that they light – one on the first Sunday, two on the second, and so on. In addition, for every candle they light, there’s a small verse that they can sing from a song about lighting candles for a better world.

To get more of the Christmas spirit, a lot of Norwegians gather around a big Christmas tree in the town center to watch the candle lights start to glow. While there, they sing traditional Christmas songs, such as “Glade Jul”, which is the Norwegian version of “Silent Night”.

On December 23rd, families gather up to decorate the Christmas tree with its ornaments, listen to Christmas music and eat rice porridge. The rice porridge is usually made in a big pot with an almond in it. The person who finds the almond gets a price – normally a marzipan pig or chocolate. Around nine o’clock in the evening, a small sketch called “Grevinnen og hovmesteren” starts playing. This has been a TV-tradition since 1980, and not once have they decided not to play it. The sketch originates from Germany in 1963, and is about an old woman celebrating her birthday with her friends – only her friends are not there, so her butler has to drink all their drinks for them. You can see where this is going.

Christmas day (December 24th) is the most joyful day of them all. Many wake up early to watch a Czechoslovakian movie from 1973 called “Three Wishes for Cinderella”. This movie has been playing on Norwegian television every Christmas since 1996. After the movie, or when the children wake up, some families let them choose a small present from under the Christmas tree to open. The day is spent waiting for Christmas Eve to come. Some have breakfast together as a family, where they eat smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. Anchovies and other fish are also very common.

Christmas food takes a lot of time to prepare, and often you have to start making it the day before. In Norway the two most common foods are lamb ribs and pork flanc. This is served with a side of different sauces, turnip mash and other meats such as sausages and pork patties, but the side dishes vary by which family you’re in. The family traditions stem from the old times and where your ancestors are from. Other Christmas foods are lutefisk (direct translation: lye fish) and cod.

marie