Why Norwegians can't get enough of rice porridge on Christmas Eve

Robin-Ivan Capar
Robin-Ivan Capar - [email protected]
Why Norwegians can't get enough of rice porridge on Christmas Eve
Photo by Rasmus Gundorff Sæderup / Unsplash

Rice porridge is a treasured Christmas Eve staple in Norway, but in recent years, more and more Norwegians have started eating porridge throughout the festive period.


Traditionally, Norwegians elevate "plain" rice porridge (risgrøt) by adding sugar, butter, and cinnamon to it on a special occasion – Christmas Eve.

Having rice porridge on Christmas Eve is such an institution of Norwegian culture that the porridge served on December 24th has a special name, julegrøt (Christmas porridge).

First introduced in the country sometime in the 14th century, the status of rice porridge changed substantially over the centuries.

Initially, it was eaten on Saturdays, but it evolved into a Christmas Eve dish symbolizing status and enjoyed by the well-off in society.

Rice porridge became more available to the broader masses in Norway in the 19th century, and the tradition of having it on Saturday and, especially, December 24th (Christmas Eve) has persisted to this day.


Finding the almond and what to do with leftover porridge

There is a special custom related to eating rice porridge on Christmas Eve enjoyed by children (and, let's be honest, not-so-young Norwegians too).

It involves a hidden almond and a marzipan piglet.

Here's how it works. You take an almond and place it in one of the bowls in which you plan to serve the porridge. Then you fill up all the bowls with porridge (make sure that the almond is not visible).

After that, everyone who got the bowl digs in, hoping to find the treasured almond in their bowl. The person with the lucky bowl wins a small pig made of marzipan!

After you're done with the meal, the leftover porridge is used as the base ingredient of another December classic – riskrem, that is, a rice porridge mixed with whipped cream (and, occasionally, chopped almonds).

Riskrem is eaten as a dessert (it's fine if you let the leftover porridge wait for a day before transforming it into riskrem), often with a berry-based sauce.


A change in tradition?

While julegrøt is here to stay as a Christmas Eve favourite, a recent survey on Christmas habits in Norway shows that more and more people are starting to eat rice porridge throughout Advent.

In a December survey carried out by Norstat on behalf of the Information Office for Dairy Products (, it appears that as many as 8 out of 10 Norwegians eat Christmas rice porridge during December.

Among families with children, over 40 percent responded that they start eating porridge during the Advent period. While it seems that porridge is not as closely associated with Christmas Eve anymore, it is still largely a family affair – in the survey, 90 percent of respondents said they eat Christmas porridge with family and relatives.

Furthermore, rice porridge is becoming increasingly popular among young people.


A nutrition advisor at points out that part of the reason why more young people are indulging in porridge that is traditionally eaten on Christmas Eve during Advent is that there are many upsides to it.

"The beauty of the Christmas porridge is that it suits adults as well as children, it is easy and cheap to prepare, and not least, the rice porridge tastes extra good with sugar, cinnamon, and good butter.

"Make the porridge with whole, skimmed, or lactose-free milk - whatever suits you best. And then you mustn't forget the almond game and the excitement related to who will find it," Terese Glemminge Arnesen at pointed out.

"Compared to many other Christmas foods, Christmas porridge suits the vast majority of people, regardless of our preferences and differences," Glemminge Arnesen concluded.


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