TOVE I. S. GERHARDSE
Do you know where Santa Claus really comes from? No, it is not the North Pole or Finland, and certainly not Sweden, but rather a country that lies as close to the North Pole as you can get: Norway.
Norway is an old country with so many Christmas traditions that they celebrate Christmas for almost two months, so it’s a good place for Santa Claus to live.
Where else do they have a Santa Claus post office that is open year around?
Santa Claus, who is called “julenisse” in Norwegian, lives in the barn. Especially during advent, which starts Dec. 1., the julenisse is sneaking around the houses to check on whether the children are behaving well.
Because of all this walking around, and also because of the cold weather at Christmastime, the julenisse gets very hungry. He loves “risengrynsgraut,” which is a rice pudding made of rice and milk. The families give him a whole bowl of it, which he eats with a big wooden ladle.
The most daring of the children always goes to the barn to check whether the julenisse has been there or not, and there is never any doubt — all the food is gone.
But it is not only the julenisse who likes this “graut” with butter, sugar, cinnamon and raisins on top. Throughout December people have “graut fests.” At these parties you eat as much graut as you can because there is an almond somewhere inside, and the person who gets it wins a marzipan pig.
Despite all the parties, December is the longest month of the year for the children in Norway. Mom is busy baking seven different sorts of Christmas cookies, Dad is busy with the “list of things that need to be ready for Christmas” that he got from Mom, and worst of all, Santa Claus is around so they have to be nice all the time.
However, advent makes the time go by faster. Every Sunday before Christmas one of the four purple advent candles is lit, followed by a song. The children also have an advent calendar that is opened every day. This can be anything from an orange with 24 marks to 24 match boxes with candy inside.
The advent calendar is usually opened around 6 p.m. when the children’s TV show starts. During advent there are different TV shows for the families that runs every night.
Then finally, the 24th of December is there. The Christmas tree is brought in and decorated the night before on the “small Christmas Eve” after the kids have gone to bed. It even has Norwegian flags on it, a tradition that started right after the second world war.
The hours go by slowly. The shops are open until noon, and all the fathers are out there at the last minute, buying Christmas presents for their wives, who did their shopping in July.
In the afternoon people go to church, and the church bells make even the housewives sit down and relax; Christmas is here.
When you come home from church, it smells like Christmas dinner in the house.
“Depending on where in Norway you live, you eat different food for Christmas. The food is very important,” said Wenche Jacobsen of Norway, who will spend Christmas together with her family at Wymount Terrace this year.
People eat “lutefisk” (a jellylike fish), sheep meat or ribs.
After your father has eaten forever, and they have done all the dishes (usually the dishwasher is not good enough), it is finally time for the presents.
In Norway the julenisse actually shows up with the presents, Jacobsen said.
The first and the second day of Christmas are holy days. People relax and eat as much as they can of all the good Christmas food. However, between eating the Norwegians are good at going outside for walks or cross country skiing to make sure they get hungry for the next meal.
But even though they do a good job when it comes to eating, there are always a lot of leftovers, and this was the origin of the tradition of the “julebukk” at the 13th day of Christmas.
At this day the children dress up and go “trick or treating.” Coming back, they usually have some smashed Christmas cookies and oranges at the bottom of the bag, but most of it is candy.
This marks the end of the Norwegian Christmas. By this time, the magazines have diet programs on the front page, and the Christmas tree has lost all its green needles; it is time for the everyday life to start again.