Is ‘Little Christmas Eve’ dying out in Norway?

December 23rd, or 'Little Christmas Eve', is the day when Norwegians put up their Christmas trees but the custom of waiting until the last day before bringing the juletre inside is in danger of disappearing.

Is 'Little Christmas Eve' dying out in Norway?
Photo: foolfillment/Flickr

The tradition of bringing trees into homes and decorating them, which originated in Germany and came to Norway at the beginning of the 19th century, has originally been carried out on December 23rd – the day before Christmas Eve, the day on which Christmas is celebrated in the Scandinavian country.

But the custom has become more relaxed as the generations have come and gone.

“These days, people make their own Christmas traditions. Some people even put trees up in November,” Kirsti Krekling, a former curator at Oslo’s Maihaugen open-air museum, told NRK.

The Christmas tree ritual, initially confined to teachers, evolved over the years, according to Krekling.

“Year by year the tradition spread. They were transported around the country in trucks and ferries. Eventually, most people began to have Christmas trees in their front rooms,” she said.

But until recently, decorating Christmas trees was not high on the list of priorities until ‘Little Christmas Eve’ or Christmas Eve itself, said Krekling.

“Now, people decorate their tree whenever they want to, or in whatever way makes them happy. So Christmas trees have become more of an individual than an old-fashioned Christmas tradition.”

In addition to living rooms from Kristiansand to Tromsø, a Norwegian Christmas tree can also be seen every year in London’s Trafalgar Square.

The city of Oslo has famously donated a Christmas tree to the British capital every year since 1947, when it received a tree as a gesture of thanks for the UK’s support for the Norwegian resistance movement during World War II.

The Trafalgar Square tree is, of course, installed and decorated some time before Little Christmas Eve – even though the Brits don’t celebrate Christmas until the 25th, a day after Norwegians finish unwrapping their gifts.




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Could Christmas in Norway be affected by new Covid-19 measures?

Norway’s government has in the last two days announced tightened rules relating to Covid-19 isolation and face masks. Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre sought to reassure the public over plans for the Christmas holidays.

Norway's PM Jonas Gahr Støre expects the country's residents to be able to celebrate Christmas normally but cannot rule out new Covid-19 measures before December 24th.
Norway's PM Jonas Gahr Støre expects the country's residents to be able to celebrate Christmas normally but cannot rule out new Covid-19 measures before December 24th. Photo by Chad Madden on Unsplash

The government on Tuesday announced new measures relating to quarantine rules for confirmed Covid-19 cases and face mask guidelines.

The measures, which are being introduced in response to increasing infection numbers, include more stringent isolation rules, face mask recommendations and a push to vaccinate over 65s with booster jabs as soon as possible.

“On one side, we must avoid full hospitals and strain on the health system. On the other side we must live as normally as possible. We must keep finding the right balance in the measures,” Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said in a statement.

Tighter quarantine rules for suspected cases with the new Omicron variant were meanwhile launched on Monday. People who test positive for or are believed to be infected with the Omicron variant will need to isolate for longer than others with the virus.


In comments during a briefing to press on Tuesday, Støre sought to reassure the public over plans to spend Christmas with loved ones.

“The measures we have introduced are settings that make it possible to celebrate a good Christmas while keeping in mind what you can do with your loved ones,” the PM said in comments reported by newspaper VG.

“We can plan to be with our families at Christmas,” he added.

Last year saw Christmas in Norway significantly impacted by restrictions on the number of people who could meet and mixing between households.

Such far-reaching restrictions are not expected in 2021. Støre did not however rule out additional measures being introduced before December 24th.

“What we have presented today is based on the knowledge we already have,” he said.

“It is the total restrictions that count. If we are in the same situation (as now) when we get to December 24th, you can celebrate Christmas normally,” Støre said, but noted the virus would be present throughout the winter.

The aim of any measures is to keep the pandemic under control throughout the winter, he added.