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CHRISTMAS

Which of these Norwegian Christmas traditions is the strangest?

A Norwegian Christmas is a lot more than gingerbread, gløgg and tasteful decor.

Which of these Norwegian Christmas traditions is the strangest?
Yes, that's weird. Photo: Garaasen, Haakon / Anno Trysil Engerdal museum
From dressing up as a goat-like devil when you go out 'julebukking' to leaving porridge for your ill-tempered house spirit, Norway has certainly kept more pagan jul traditions than many other Christmas-celebrating countries. 
 
Here are some of the country's weirder traditions. 
 
Marzipan pigs
 

Photo: Depositphotos
 
There's something gloriously bizarre about the prize traditionally given to whoever finds the almond Norwegian parents drop in the special Christmas porridge. And speaking of bizarre, last year two Norwegian artists took the tradition one step further by making a world-record marzipan pig, complete with a giant pile of marzipan poo.
 
Watching ancient Disney cartoons
 
 
It's only in the Nordic countries that anyone knows who Ferdinand the Bull is. But that's because everyone has watched the exact same ten cartoons every Christmas Eve since 1953. Disney's 'Donald Duck og vennene hans', or 'Donald Duck and his Friends', goes out this Christmas on NRK at 3pm, as it has done every year for as long as anyone remembers. To those who aren't in on the joke, this is very odd indeed.
 
Trick-or-treating at Christmas
 
There's little difference between what Norwegians do when they går julebukk, and what the rest of the world does at Halloween. Children travel in costume from house to house, singing in exchange for sweets. If adults go too, they are ideally so well disguised as to be unrecognisable. They then drink a glass of akvavit at every house, ideally until they are incomprehensible.
 
By the way, if you think the adults who går julebukk today seem eery, it's nothing to what they looked like back in the day:
 
 
Eating ribs instead of roasts
 

Photo: AnneCN
 
When Norwegians sit down for their Christmas meal, it's either pork (julribbe) or lamb (pinnekjøtt) ribs for the main course. Not a turkey in sight.
 
Dancing around the Christmas tree
 

Photo: Depositphotos
 
Foreigners who marry into Norwegian families can be disconcerted when asked to join hands and dance around the tree. The strangeness is only increased when accompanied by songs from God Jul, the 1967 album by Norwegian show band Dizzie Tunes.
 
Watching Tre Nøtter til Askepott
 
 

Norwegians would feel their Christmas was incomplete without watching Tre Nøtter til Askepott, or Three Hazelnuts for Cinderella, an East German-Czechoslovak adventure film from the early 1970s. If anything this is even weirder than the cartoons.
 
Making terrible attempts to play Santa
 
 
At Norwegian Christmas celebrations, Santa Claus, or julenissen, actually turns up. How can Norwegian children believe in Father Christmas when they get to meet him face-to-face? After popping out “to get the paper”, a parent or other relative returns with a fake beard and some kind of heavy coat and hat. Few children are deceived.
 
Going overboard on julekjeks
 
Photo: wizzer2801/Creative Commons
 
According to some traditions, Norwegians are supposed to bake no fewer than seven varieties of biscuit in the weeks leading up to Christmas Eve. Indeed, so important is the pre-Christmas bake, that Norwegians have even spurred butter shortages from their hoarding.
 

Leaving porridge out for the nisse

 

Photo: Depositphotos
 
If the nisse, a sort of gnome-like guardian spirit who lives in Norwegian barns, doesn't get porridge left out for him with big dollop of butter on top, Norwegians believe he will wreak vengeance by playing mean tricks such as tying cows' tails together. It's a much more serious matter than leaving a glass of sherry for Father Christmas.
 

CHRISTMAS

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.

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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.

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