Christmas For Members

'Julebord': Norway's Christmas party culture explained

Agnes Erickson
Agnes Erickson - [email protected]
'Julebord': Norway's Christmas party culture explained
What to expect if you are invited to a Norwegian julebord. Photo by Inga Seliverstova from Pexels

'Julebord' season is well underway in Norway. Here's what you need to know about the annual Christmas party in Norway.


The tradition of julebord

julebord, or "Christmas table", is a traditional Norwegian gathering with your co-workers. The event typically includes dinner, drinks (lots of them), speeches, and dancing. 

The festive gathering is not just hosted by employers. Clubs and organized sporting events will also hold a julebord for their members. Therefore, if you're signed up for lots of clubs, activities, and hobbies, you can expect a packed social calendar over Christmas. 

Before the rise of vegetarianism and foreign cuisine in Norway, the food at a julebord was traditionally Norwegian Christmas food. Platters of salted lamb, pinnekjøt (cured lamb ribs), Christmas sausages, and pork belly crackling fill buffet tables, along with the traditional cranberry sauce and sauerkraut.

Norwegian Christmas food is still popular on the julebord menu. But so are most other cuisines from around the world.

The tradition of the Christmas party may have wholesome roots, but in the modern day, the julebord's reputation has become more coloured. Seeing as the Aquavit and spiked gløgg (mulled wine) typically flow like water during the festive event, embarrassing oneself at a Christmas table is something many locals have shared reddened cheeks over. 

When and where does julebord take place?

Don't be surprised if your company's Christmas table happens at the beginning of November or the end of January. Employers know how busy people are around the holidays. So they will often try to find and pick a date where the most people can attend. And oftentimes, this date happens outside the few festive weeks leading up to Christmas in December.

A Christmas table can take place at your work, at a restaurant, at an employee's home, in an event space, or even abroad. It really depends on the company's budget for this traditional social gathering. Typically, though, a bar or restaurant is to be expected. 


Do all companies have a julebord?

Most decent-sized companies will host a julebord for their staff. Even if the company is struggling financially, it may opt to continue the Christmas party tradition to keep morale up. 

Some employers choose to host a julelunsj or "Christmas lunch" instead of a full-fledged dinner with drinks and a party afterwards. The Christmas lunch usually takes place during normal work hours and is a less formal event. You've likely already heard if your office and colleagues will be celebrating with a julebord or julelunsj this year. If you haven't, feel free to ask! Inquiring about a julebord is a completely normal question to ask. 

Do I have to pay for the Christmas table?

This depends. If you work in one of the public sectors in Norway, you should expect to pay for your meal. Or at least a percentage of it. Companies in the private sector tend to be a little bit more generous and foot the bill. Drinks are more likely to be paid for by employees. If you aren't sure, invitations to the event will state what's covered. 

What should I wear?

Julebord attire is the exception to the Norwegian rule of casual dress. You may wear jeans and a T-shirt at the office. But don't expect to show up in that casual office wear at a Christmas table and not get a few stares. This, of course, depends on where the event is hosted. Typically, men wear shirts or a nice suit jacket. Women usually go glam and go for glitter, sparkles and jewellery. 


The speeches

And speaking of more formality, it is quite common for the julebord to kick off with a more formal vibe. Before the booze starts to flow, there are typically a few speeches held during and right after the dinner portion of the evening. Traditional addresses include the herrenes tale, or "the mens speech", when the men give a toast to the women. And damenes tale, or "the ladies speech", when the women give a toast to the men.

In addition, there is also the takk for maten tale, or "thanks for the food speech". This is done by a previously elected member of the company. They usually keep the speech short and sweet by talking a little bit about the food. And finish by giving a heartfelt thanks to the staff and whoever prepared the meal. 


When should I leave?

Leave when you would like! However, you might want to stay until after dessert is finished and the speeches are done to avoid being rude to the party's planners. And remember, if you have enjoyed the sparkly cocktails and champagne at the party, make sure you have arranged for a safe way to get home.

Norway has a zero-tolerance policy for drinking and driving. And getting pulled over for a DUI is one embarrassing julebord story that likely won't get many laughs when shared at the office after the holidays. 


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