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NORWAY EXPLAINED

Autumn in Norway: The traditions to keep you active as the days get darker

As the days get shorter and the darkness rolls in, you can find many locals in Norway stacking firewood and foraging for chanterelles.

Autumn in Norway: The traditions to keep you active as the days get darker
Russenes, Troms og Finnmark, Norway. Photo by Datingjungle on Unsplash

Popular Autumn activities

Hiking – Blazing sun or frigid ice, Norwegians are always down for a hike. But the sport of exploring nature tends to take off during the Autumn months. Popular hiking trails surrounding the major cities will likely be packed on the weekends. So if you like to explore nature in solitude, you may have to travel a few hours outside of the city. 

If you would like to socialise while exploring nature, many cities and towns have organised hiking trips for those who prefer group activities. Here are groups for those who live in or around Oslo, Trondheim, and Bergen

The Norwegian Trekking Association (or DNT) is the biggest outdoors activities organisation in all of Norway. You can sign up to be a member here to join guided hikes. You can download DNT’s app  that has plenty of practical information that you can use when planning your next solo hike.

Autumn is a great time for a hike, but be sure to wrap up. Photo by Martin Klausen on Unsplash

Foraging – Autumn is synonymous with foraging. Many like to combine their hikes in nature by searching for some edible treasures along the way. This is the time of year picking blueberries, mushrooms, and cloudberries becomes the highlight of one’s week.

A few tips – an area ripe with cloudberries is considered a lucky find. If you ask a Norwegian where they had their best luck finding these cloudy yellow berries, you’re likely to see them react with a sly smile and give a cryptic response. You don’t have to share your discovery either. It’s an accepted secret in this country.

Many Norwegians enjoy foraging in the autumn months. Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Hunting for mushrooms in a colourful forest may feel like you’re in a fairytale, but this whimsy activity should be taken seriously. There are many variants of mushrooms found in the forest that can be poisonous if ingested. So either take an expert along with you, or find an area that has volunteers set up at the base of the forest who will look through your mushrooms to help you identify what you have picked

Binging series – Sure, you can watch Netflix and binge on series any time of the year. But many Norwegians feel guilt over being inside when the sun is out. In fact, a lot of locals will refrain from starting a new season or show until the weather turns colder.

Autumn is a time when Nordic Noir series tend to make their series or season debut. Nordic Noir is a TV genre that consists of a dark crime that unfolds in desolate Scandinavian settings. These shows have gained a huge international interest. And they are especially popular to watch in Norway as the days get darker. 

Indoor hobbies – Same with indoor hobbies. Knitting, sewing, or squash. All hobbies that are traditionally done indoors see a boost in popularity between September and November.

Spending more time indoors doesn’t mean you have to be less social. There are plenty of specialty groups in Norway that allow you to meet up with others who enjoy doing the same activities as you.

Here you’ll find contact information for knitting cafes set up in many municipalities. And if you’re interested in a sport like squash or climbing  that requires a partner or haven’t found anyone, don’t stress. Many clubs have sign-up sheets that will pair you with others who are also keen on finding a partner. 

Autumn foods

If you’ve started hearing chatter about the notorious fårikål, then you know Autumn has arrived. Fårikål has been crowned Norway’s national dish since 1972. The cozy warm meal has a very distinct smell that will warm up any household. And while it may look complex, it is surprisingly easy to prepare. Fårikål is largely made up of  diced lamb meat, whole peppercorns, and layers of green cabbage. Paper thin flat bread is normally served on the side. 

In addition to the season of the national dish, traditional Autumn foods Norwegians enjoy dining on are lapskaus, or “stew”, baked root vegetables, mushroom soups, and blueberry muffins.  

What is Høstferie?

Høstferie is a school holiday that depending on where you live in the country, happens during week 40 or week 41.  You can look here to find out when your municipality takes this Autumn holiday. 

Historically, the free week was based around the time potato crops were ready for harvest. Now, it is a time where many Norwegians escape to their cabins for a week to explore nature and unwind. 

Prepping for the winter

For many locals, the sight of the leaves changing colour is a ringing alarm that the freezing winter months are just around the corner. Autumn is a time to bring out your winter gear from storage. Take an afternoon to gently unpack your wool and gather your gloves and scarves. 

In addition to having your extra warm clothing ready to throw on at a moment’s notice, Autumn is also a time to either chop or purchase enough firewood for negative temperatures. Yes, it’s manual labor, but there is nothing better than stacking logs and knowing you have enough to keep you warm through the long winter. 

The darker days are also a time to start lighting telys or “tea lights”. Norwegians love decorating their breakfast, dinner, and living room  tables with tiny candles to make the whole atmosphere a little extra koselig

What about Halloween?

Many newcomers ask, ‘what’s the deal with Halloween in Norway?’ It’s understandably difficult to give a concrete answer. Traditionally, Halloween and trick-or-treating were hardly acknowledged in Norway. It is only in the last few decades that October 31st became a day to dress up in costumes and celebrate. That being said, not everyone is on board. The residents living in and around the bigger cities in Norway are more likely to acknowledge the day and it’s traditions. If you’re living in a smaller, more remote town, don’t bet on anything special happening. 

Useful Vocabulary

høstAutumn

blåbær – blueberries

sopp – mushroom 

potetferien –  or “potato holiday”. The former name of høstferie

ull – wool 

fyringsved – firewood. Many locals simply refer to it as just, ved.

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CHRISTMAS

Why does Norway gift the UK a Christmas tree every year? 

Every year since 1947, the people of Norway have gifted the UK a Christmas tree displayed in Trafalgar Square during the festive period. 

Pictured is the 2019 Christmas tree.
Norway gifts the Christmas tree as a symbol of its appreciation for the UK's support during World War Two. Pictured is 2019's offering. Photo by Daniel Leal/ AFP.

One of the first things you’ll notice if you are near or around Trafalgar Square in London at Christmas is a 20-meter-high Christmas tree on display for everyone to enjoy. 

The tree is displayed every year and is a gift from Norway to the UK. The lights are normally switched on at the beginning of December to mark the countdown to Christmas. 

This year the tree will be lit up on Thursday, December 2nd at 7pm CET. 

The tree has been met with a slightly lukewarm reception on social media this year due to its sparse branches and less than healthy-looking appearance. 

One Twitter user joked, “Are we at war with Norway now?” while another questioned whether this year’s tree was a sign that “Norway has not taken the sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjær well”. 

A social media account for the tree, run by Westminster City Council, explained in jest that the branches of the tree weren’t missing and “social distancing” instead.

The tradition of Norway gifting the UK a tree goes back over 74 years to a couple of years after the Second World War. 

The yearly event see’s the people of Norway gift the UK a roughly 20-metre tall Norwegian Spruce, often selected months or sometimes years in advance, as a sign of their gratitude for Britain’s support for Norway during World War Two. 

READ ALSO: What you should know if you’re invited to a Norwegian ‘julebord’

The tree, typically 50-60 years old when ready to be cut down, is felled during a ceremony attended by the British Ambassador to Norway, the Mayor of Oslo and Lord Mayor of Westminster during November. At the base of the tree, there is a plaque that reads, “This tree is given by the City of Oslo as a token of Norwegian gratitude to the people of London for their assistance during the years 1940-45.” 

It is then brought to the UK by sea, before making its way to London by lorry. The tree is then adorned with typical Norwegian decorative lights before being displayed to the public until the 12th day of Christmas. 

While the annual tradition dates back seven decades, the first Christmas tree was actually gifted to the UK in 1942. 

During a raid on Hisøy Island between Bergen and Haugesund, west Norway, resistance fighter Mons Urangsvåg cut down a Norwegian pine and shipped it back to England as a gift for the exiled King Haakon. 

King Haakon decided to pass the gift onto the UK, and so it was erected in Trafalgar Square, although with no lights due to the blackouts caused by the Blitz. 

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