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Norwegian word of the day: Marsipan gris

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

Norwegian word of the day: Marsipan gris
Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

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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Norwegian expression of the day: Knute på tråden

When there’s an issue between two people, there may be a “knot on the rope”. 

Norwegian expression of the day: Knute på tråden

What does it mean? 

Knute på tråden means a ‘knot on the rope’. The expression is an idiom which describes a problem between two people. 

It’s used to say that two people share a strained relationship or aren’t on speaking terms rather than referring to a specific issue. 

For example, you’d use it to notice that two people aren’t getting on rather than to specify exactly what is happening between the pair. 

The term isn’t just used for romantic relationships but also between family members and friends too. 

If you are at a function and know two people not speaking or trying to avoid one another, then you would be able to describe them as having a not between them. 

This isn’t the only term involving knots in Norway. There is also hogge knuten over, which means to deal with an issue in an efficient or ruthless (sometimes reckless manner). It means to cut the knot off, eliminating it entirely. 

A similar saying in English may be “to pull the bandaid right off”. 

Use it like this:

Linde nekter å reise hjem til jul, det er en knute i tråden mellom henne og hennes lillesøster

(Linde refuses to travel home for Christmas. There is a knot in the thread between her and her little sister.)

 La du merke til at det er en knute i tråden mellom Jonas og faren hans?

(Did you notice that there is a knot in the thread between Jonas and his father?).