Norwegian word of the day: Marsipan gris

Agnes Erickson
Agnes Erickson - [email protected]
Norwegian word of the day: Marsipan gris
Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Read on to find out why a pig that tastes of almonds is often found on Christmas tables in Norway.


Why do I need to know this word? 

Norwegian traditions and celebrations around this time of year are packed with both charm, fatty meat, and confusing words for foreigners. Case in point – marsipan gris.

What does it mean? 

A 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. 

Perhaps the most popular Christmas game this almondy tasting pig is linked to is the Riskrem challenge. Riskrem or “rice porridge” is a creamy dessert served cold with a fruit-based coulis drizzled on top. A shaved almond is often hidden in the serving bowl filled with riskrem. And whoever discovers the almond in their bowl receives a traditional pig made out of marzipan as their prize.  


Wanting to purchase a marispan gris for yourself or as a gift? No problem. They shouldn’t be too hard to find. Marzipan pigs pop up in various sizes in many food, confectionery, and specialty shops throughout Norway during the holiday season. 

The history behind the pig

Marzipan is a paste made of almond, milk, and sugar and is a very popular sweet to consume around Christmas time. In Norway, more than 10 million marzipan pigs are consumed annually. In fact, the taste of marzipan may evoke even more holiday nostalgia than pepperkake, or “gingerbread” for many Norwegians. It is traditional to make figurines – including the famous pig – at home out of marzipan. Or you can choose to purchase one. But why a pig? Back in the medieval times, farmers who had a lot of pigs were considered lucky. Today, if you are given a marzipan pig, it means you are lucky. 


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