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These are the words you need to understand Norway at Christmas

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

These are the words you need to understand Norway at Christmas
Photo: Chad Madden on Unsplash

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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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.