It’s that time of year again – when Norway is at its darkest, but also its most magical! I love Christmas in Norway, and I love how perfectly Norwegian Christmas here is. Even before I moved to Norway my family usually spent most of our Christmases in Norway, because my mother’s family lives here.
In fact whenever we did spend Christmas in the US I would always be sad, because Christmas never felt truly like Christmas if I wasn’t in Norway! I missed all of my Norwegian Christmas traditions so much.
Norwegian Christmas is so reliable – there are some things that are guaranteed to happen here every holiday season.
The mountains are covered in sparkly snow
Christmas isn’t always snowy in the cities, but the mountains in Norway are pretty much guaranteed a white Christmas. So if you’re longing for a white Christmas, you know where to head! Living up in Rauland I enjoyed one of the most beautiful Christmases in the world.
Though if you really want to learn about Norwegian culture, my previous home of Mosjøen is one of the best places in the country to experience a Norwegian Christmas. And I’m not just saying that! Mosjøen has claimed the title of Northern Norway’s “Christmas town,” and if you visit during Christmastime you’ll see why. There’s even a song about it.
It’s particularly worth visiting at the start of December when they celebrate with the world’s longest porridge table.
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On Monday morning I got up early to join a few thousand of my neighbors for the world’s longest porridge table here in Mosjøen. Mosjøen calls itself Norway’s “Christmas town,” and it seriously is the most magical place to experience Christmas in Norway.🎄🎅And I love how involved the community is here, organizing such a beautiful way to celebrate the Christmas season. Does your hometown do anything special for the holidays? ☃️🎁✨
Or if you want to experience Christmas in the Arctic with reindeer and northern lights, head up to my former home of Tromsø! Christmas in Tromsø is also magical, and there are so many activities on offer like whale watching, dog sledding, reindeer sledding, and chasing the northern lights.
Another great place to spend Christmas in Norway is Røros, which is a cute town very inland, so it gets lots of snow in December. You can get the train here from Oslo or Trondheim. I’ve written more about Røros here.
There’s an entire section in the supermarket dedicated to Christmas marzipan
Christmas marzipan is serious business here! Personally I’m not a fan, but there’s almost no avoiding it.
I’m sure you’ve heard of our tradition of hiding an almond in the Christmas rice porridge that we eat on Christmas Eve – and whoever finds the almond wins a marzipan pig. I have no idea why, but it’s a very big deal. I’ve shared more about the tradition along with my Norwegian rice porridge recipe here.
The sweet smell of lutefisk is in the air
Maybe sweet isn’t the word I was looking for there…
Actually, I’m a huge fan of lutefisk. It might sound gross – it’s essentially fish “cooked” in lye – but it’s very tasty. I guess it does get most of its flavor from the bacon bits added on top, but I also really enjoy the texture of lutefisk. I would say it’s at least worth trying if you’re spending Christmas in Norway.
All your friends are stressing over buying outfits for their julebord, or “Christmas table” dinner parties
You’ll have one with your work colleagues, you’ll have one with your friends, you’ll have a special girls one with those same friends, and you’ll even have one with the people you watch football with.
All the Christmas parties make for a very busy few weekends leading up to Christmas, but I love how festive it is, essentially extending the Norwegian Christmas celebrations into the entire month of December. And of course I love all the opportunities to dress in sequins.
Your fingers are swollen from rolling so many piping hot krumkaker
Ugh seriously though, they’re so beautiful and so tasty, but so painful to make. Krumkaker are one of the most traditional Norwegian Christmas cookies that I make, though I’ve started to make my own modern versions of Christmas cookies as well (these Sarah Bernhardt cookies with yellow cream are my current favorite).
Traditionally Norwegians make seven kinds of Christmas cookies each year (7 slag til jul), many of which they give away to their friends and neighbors.
The insides of houses are so brightly lit you’re a tiny bit worried they’ve caught on fire
Norwegians always use a lot of lights, but during Christmas the love of lighting goes to an extreme – and good thing too, since this is also the darkest time of the year. However foreigners might be surprised to find that not many people here decorate the outside of their homes with lights – it’s all about the cozy interiors!
Everyone has deserted the cities for cabins in the mountains
As someone who used to live in one of those mountain cabins year-round, Christmastime in the mountains is crazy – there are so many people.
And even though a lot of Norwegian cabins are quite simple, with outhouses instead of indoor toilets, and sometimes no showers, we still love to spend Christmas up there. There’s just something so special about Christmas in the mountains, especially when it’s super snowy.
Your cross-country skis are waxed and ready for a busy week in the snow
My family goes skiing at least once a day during Christmas week. We usually stick to cross-country skiing, but downhill skiing is also very popular where I live, and around Christmas the slopes will be covered in people. So festive!
Plus it’s good to have an excuse to get outside during the darkest time of the year, because it can be seriously tempting to stay inside with all the Christmas treats all day. Norwegians are so good at continuing to make the most of the beautiful outdoors, regardless of weather, and I swear that’s why elderly people here seem so healthy and energetic for the most part.
Everyone is buying tubs of a mysterious pink goop called medisterfarse
This one is still a mystery to me – I’m not even sure if it’s meant to be eaten or if people are using it to glue Christmas decorations together.
Update: I’ve figured it out! Medisterfarse is used to make medisterkaker, which taste a lot like Swedish meatballs.
You’re drinking bright red julebrus, or “Christmas soda,” with every meal
And you’re probably enjoying that julebrus with a nice Christmas sausage, or a Christmas apple if you’re trying to be healthy.
Seriously, it seems like every kind of food suddenly becomes Christmas food in December. You can buy Christmas potatoes, Christmas liverwurst, Christmas juice, and even Christmas milk. Like, what?
But somehow I swear Christmas milk tastes better than normal milk.
Everything is red
The color of pretty much every Norwegian Christmas ornament ever made.
All your neighbors have tied bundles of Christmas wheat outside their homes for the birdies to snack on
Edit: A reader just informed me that it’s actually oats!
Edit #2: A reader just informed me that sometimes it is wheat!
Milk cartons are suddenly covered with little Christmas elves
Remember what I said about Christmas milk in Norway? I get excited each year to see what the new Christmas designs will be on the milk cartons.
All that ever seems to be on TV these days is those Christmas calendar talk shows
Seriously, how do they manage to be on every single channel all the time?! They usually feature Norwegian celebrities doing random Christmas activities, like making Christmas ornaments or talking about their favorite Norwegian Christmas story.
In fact, if you’re interested in Norwegian pop culture these Christmas calendar shows are the best way to catch up on what’s going on with Norwegian celebrities. Try and see if you can find them to watch online!
Norwegian cities have set up their Christmas markets
No, Norwegian Christmas markets can’t rival those in Germany and France. My parents live in Strasbourg and wow their Christmas markets (yes, plural) are incredible. But I still think our Norwegian Christmas markets are awfully charming!
I’ve written about visiting the Oslo Christmas markets here, Christmas in Trondheim here, and Christmas in Tromsø here. And I suppose now that I’m living in Bergen I should write about Christmas in Bergen as well. Maybe I’ll go downtown and get some photos this week, because the Bergen Christmas market might be the most beautiful in all of Norway.