Updated November 2019
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 all of my mother’s family lives here. So all of my childhood memories from Christmas are of Christmas in Norway.
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 just missed all of my Norwegian Christmas traditions so much.
Norwegian Christmas is just so reliable – there are some things that are guaranteed to happen here every holiday season.
The mountains are covered in sparkly snow
It’s not 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, don’t you think?
Though if you really want to learn about Norwegian culture, my new 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 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 we 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? ☃️🎁✨
There’s an entire section in the supermarket dedicated to Christmas marzipan
Christmas marzipan is serious business here! Personally I hate it, but there’s almost no avoiding it.
I’m sure you’ve heard of our tradition to hide an almond in the Christmas rice porridge that we eat on Christmas morning – and whoever finds the almond wins a marzipan pig. I have no idea why, but it’s a very big deal.
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.
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.
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. Norwegians love to bring their neighbors and friends boxes of Christmas cookies, so I always end up making so many!
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
I think my family usually 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.
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! I made medisterkaker for the first time here:
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!
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 some 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!
Norwegians are adding the word “Christmas” before every noun
Christmas soda, Christmas table, Christmas wheat, Chrismas marzipan, Christmas calendar, Christmas sausage, Christmas elves, Christmas cookies, Christmas apples…
What do you think – have I missed anything?