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‘Tre nøtter til Askepott’: Explaining Norway’s peculiar Christmas tradition

'Tre nøtter til Askepott': Explaining Norway's peculiar Christmas tradition
Schloss Moritzburg, the German castle featured in 'Tre nøtter til Askepott'. Photo: Polybert49/Flickr
Every year since 1996, Norwegians have gathered on Christmas morning (in Norway that’s the 24th) and switched on their televisions to watch 'Tre nøtter til Askepott'.

Originally a Czech film,  Tre nøtter til Askepott (or “Three Nuts for Cinderella'') is a story about Cinderella going to the ball after she receives three magic nuts that each contain a special outfit.

The storyline has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas, but according to statistics from NRK, in 2015 over 1,2 million Norwegians tuned in to watch on Christmas morning.

Adding magic nuts is a fun spin on this classic fairy-tale. But the quirky part is rooted in the voices. Unlike a lot of countries in Europe, Norway doesn’t typically dub foreign films. They are viewed in the foreign language with subtitles.

Tre nøtter til Askepott is not only dubbed, but all the characters' voices are dubbed by one Norwegian man: Knut Risan, currently known for being the most popular voice of Christmas.

This dubbed Czech film is arguably one of the oddest cultural traditions in Norway, yet still, no single Norwegian person seems to question why it exists. Originally produced in 1973, Tre nøtter til Askepott  was not intended to be viewed as a Christmas film on NRK but as a children’s movie to be watched during other times of the year. But eventually, its airing time was moved closer to the holidays and Norwegians began associating it as a Christmas custom.

The film has also nestled its way into holiday season traditions in several other countries, including Switzerland, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia.

Perhaps another reason Norwegians are so connected to this obscure foreign movie is because of the traditions associated with it.

The most perfect pairing to any Christmas film is sweets. And Norwegians may have an extra 'sweet spot' for this tradition at Christmas because it is common to indulge on the delicious candy that was gifted to them in their stockings earlier that morning, while watching the film.

Since a large part of the Norwegian diet is centred around healthy proteins and grains, devouring sweets that were delivered in a stocking right after waking up would even make Ebenezer Scrooge smile. 

Nostalgia and sweets are understandably two powerful forces in trying to figure out why this tradition lives on. But a poorly dubbed foreign film becoming one of the most popular Christmas traditions in all of Norway leaves many of those newly exposed to this custom scratching their heads with bewilderment.

Tre nøtter til Askepott  airs at 11am on December 24th.


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