Christmas For Members

These are the words you need to understand Norway at Christmas

Agnes Erickson
Agnes Erickson - [email protected]
These are the words you need to understand Norway at Christmas
Photo: Chad Madden on Unsplash

Ho ho ho and a marsipan gris? These Norwegian words will help you to understand the Nordic country's Christmas traditions.


God jul

God jul means Merry Christmas. It is a phrase thrown around by friends, family, shop workers, and the stranger you accidentally bump into on the metro. It is widely used but be careful about using it too early in December -- over-enthusiasm on the first of the month could earn you an odd glance. Norwegian commonly don’t start saying god jul to each other until a week or so before Christmas. 


Directly translates to Christmas table, but julebord is a word used to describe a holiday-themed party Norwegians have with friends, family, or colleagues.

Unlike in other countries, it is not common for an employee's partner to be invited to the company's Christmas party. It is a popular cultural reference that the party tends to be largely fuelled by alcohol, and the most popular julebord stories are ones about the guests who somehow embarrassed themselves. 


Unfortunately, 2020 has seen julebord across the country generally facing cancellation. Here's to a strong return of the tradition in 2021.


Perhaps not the most important term to memorise, but it may be the one that surprises you the most.

marsipan gris, or marzipan pig, is just that: a pig figurine made out of marzipan. The confectionary animal is popularly used as a prize given to the winner of Christmas games at holiday gatherings. You will also find marzipan pigs popping up in various sizes in many shops throughout Norway during the holiday season. 


A compound word combining jul (Christmas), and mat (food). Julemat, or Christmas food, encompasses all types of food Norwegians associate with Christmas. Foods like ribbe (pork belly), pinnekjøtt (salted lamb ribs), and syltet rødkål (pickled red cabbage) are fall under the category of julemat.


If you have young children, it’s almost a guarantee they are baking with pepperkakedeig, or gingerbread dough, around this time of year.

Gingerbread dough can be found in almost every grocery store during the winter months, and adults love it almost as much as the children. It is a popular family activity to cut out the pre-made dough into figurines, bake them, and decorate them with icing. Norwegians love to eat their gingerbread creations as well as use them as holiday decorations around their home. This impressive Bergen gingerbread town is Norway's largest.

More useful festive vocabulary 

Julenissen - Santa Claus

Kirketjeneste - Church Service 

Juletre - Christmas tree 

Gaver - presents 

Julebrus- Christmas soda 

READ ALSO: Why Norwegians love to watch a dubbed film about Cinderella at Christmas


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