Norway

Norwegian Christmas customs and traditions. The Christmas season starts early in Norway and November sees the beginning of the party season both for adults and children alike. At the end of November in the cities, there are the City ceremonies of the lights complete with parades. Four weeks before Christmas Norwegians make their advent wreaths with the four candles, one to be lit each week until all four are lit on Christmas Day. Children start to open their Christmas calendars, containing small sweets or chocolates. Advent is also the start of the Christmas concerts. On the 23rd December – Little Christmas Eve – the family get together to decorate the house and the Christmas tree with white lights and often hand-made decorations made out of paper or straw. Fruits, nuts, home-baked ginger biscuits and sweets are also used as tree ornaments. Small paper bowls filled with sweets are placed around. At around 4pm the church bells will ring out on Christmas Eve signalling the start of Christmas, shops and Businesses close and the first church service of Christmas begins. Christmas Eve Dinner is a rich meal consisting of Ribs, Ham, Lutefisk (dried Cod), sausage, a variety of vegetables and cranberry sauce all accompanied by a warming glass of Glogg. After dinner Julenisse comes to the house to hand out the presents to the children but not until they have sung a carol to him. The family then exchange gifts and spend the evening singing carols and playing games. Christmas Day is the first day of Christmas in Norway, and there follows the 20 days of Juletid. The day is spent going to mass and then visiting family. The extended family come together for a festive meal later on in the day. 26th December or Andre Juledag is also a public holiday and from now until New Year is spent quietly relaxing. New Years Eve sees parties, barbaques and fireworks as people come together to see in the New Year. The 20th day of Christmas, and the last, is 13th January and this is the day when all the decorations and Christmas trees are taken done put away and the trees chopped up for firewood

Glade jul!

Sweden

Swedish Christmas Customs and Traditions. As the Christmas season begins in Sweden it is dark, cold and blanketed in snow which makes it all the more cosy inside. Children begin to open their Advent calendars from the first of December, behind the windows they are rewarded with small sweets and chocolates. Advent wreaths are made with four candles one for each of the four Sundays of Advent. The first Sunday of Advent is the day most Swedes go to church and is a start to the celebrations. On the 13th December, St.Lucia’s Day, the eldest daughter of the household gets up before dawn and dresses in a long white dress and wears a crown with candles (nowadays battery operated lights for safety reasons!) she will bring coffee and buns to her parents and the rest of the household in bed., often a younger sister or brother will lend a hand. The Christmas tree is normally only brought into the house a day of two before Christmas and often the whole family will go out together to choose it. The tree is decorated with traditional decorations, shiny red paper-mache apples, small straw goats (Julbokar), white tree lights, small Swedish flags, pine cones, glass ornaments, wrapped sweets and little gnomes wearing long pointed red hats. The Christmas Eve dinner is a wonderful smorgesbord of food including Lutefisk, Hams, sausages, potato and beetroot salads, herring salad, Jellied pig’s feet, pumpernickel bread, and a variety of sweets including rice pudding which contains one almond, it is said that whoever finds the almond will marry in the coming year. After dinner the Christmas tree lights are lit in readiness for the Jultomten or Tomte, the Christmas gnome, who arrives on his sleigh pulled by the Julbokar, Christmas Goat, who will bring the presents. After the opening of the presents, the family hold hands and dance around the tree singing a special song, this is also a custom that is observed in Norway. Attending mass on Christmas day is done very early in the morning and all the windows have candles shining out. Tradition has it that the first one to reach the church will have the best harvest the following year. The spirit of Christmas continues until 14th January, St.Knut’s Day, on this day the trees and decorations are taken down and the children are allowed to eat all the goodies that have survived on the tree. The day is often turned into a great occasion with the youngsters dressing up as “old Knut” and playing practical jokes.

god jul!

Finland

Finnish Christmas Customs and Traditions. Finland is, of course, the home of Father Christmas, all children know that he lives in Rovaniemi, Finland which is very close to Lapland . Lapland is full of Reindeers so Father Christmas has no trouble finding some to pull his sleigh. The children of Finland are very lucky as they are first on the list for getting their presents on Christmas Eve. As in the other Scandinavian countries, the 13th December, St.Lucia’s Day is celebrated. For days before Christmas houses are cleaned in readiness for the celebrations and Christmas Eve breakfast is hot creamy rice pudding to keep out the cold. After breakfast the children will go with their father to pick a tree while their mother finishes off any shopping still needing to be done. All the shops close at midday. Often families will go to the sauna and then put on clean clothes ready for dinner which is served in the evening. Joulupukki, Father Christmas, calls by either just before or just after dinner with his elves and distributes his presents, children sing songs to him before he leaves to see to the other children around the world. Sadly Father is normally missing as he has his Christmas chores to do around this time!. Dinner will include Luskfish (cod soaked in Lye), hams, mashed potatoes, vegetables, plum tarts and berry puddings. Families also visit the cemetery during the evening to leave a lighted candle for those who are no longer able to join them. Christmas Day starts early with Christmas church services often starting at around 6am. The rest of the day is spent at home with the immediate family. On the 26th Visits are made to relatives and friends. Star boys will travel around the towns singing carols.

Hyvaa Joulua!

Denmark

Danish Christmas Customs and Traditions. Preparing for Christmas in Denmark begins with the arrival of Advent. First there is the Advent Wreath made traditionally from spruce twigs and decorated with berries and ribbons and the four candles . One candle is lit the first Sunday of Advent, two the second and so on. Children start to open their advent calendars and the advent candle, which is marked into 24 sections down its length, is lit at the breakfast table each morning. Outdoor Christmas trees are lit up with strings of white lights and the interiors of the houses are slowly decorated through December, many of the decorations will be hand-made by the family getting together for a day set aside for exactly this task. One of the main features of the decorations are the ‘Nisser’, these are mischievous little elves who, through the year live in the lofts of barns and help out on farms but at this time of the year they like to play practical jokes not just in Sweden but all over Scandinavia. The Nisse wears A red hat and socks, grey clothes and white shoes and to stop his pranks must be fed bowls of rice pudding, so many bowls are left outside to appease them around Denmark. Birds. too, are not forgotten at this time and wheat sheaths and seeds are left in the gardens for them. Windows are lit up with candles giving off a welcoming glow to passers-by. Baking is a family affair and although Mother may already have the dough ready in the fridge everyone has to help out with rolling, cutting, shaping and of course the all important tasting! Heaps of biscuits must be made, butter cookies, gingerbread, vanilla biscuits and peppernoder no-one must go without and guests always leave with a plate full of these delicious biscuits. Children will also help out with the making of sweets made from marzipan, nuts and fruits, these will be used to decorated the tree as well. Outside the Town Hall in Copenhagen a tree is erected and adorned with lights each year, this is the biggest Christmas tree in the world and is cut and brought from Gribskov outside Hillerød in Northern Zealand. The Christmas trees inside the homes, although a little smaller, are nonetheless just as beautiful but are not put up until Christmas Eve, Juleaften. The night before Christmas Eve, known as little Christmas Eve, lille Juleaften, is spent doing all the last minute things that need doing and is the busiest day. All the baking and preparations for the Christmas Eve dinner are done today. At four O’Clock on Christmas Eve the church bells ring out signalling the start of Christmas. The family attend the candlelit mass before the evening meal which is traditionally roast goose or duck, stuffed with apples, served with red cabbage and roast potatoes. Steaming, hot rice pudding, with the one almond ( whoever finds this will marry next year), and red fruit sauce are served for dessert. After dinner the Julemand, Father Christmas, arrives with the presents. The family sing carols and dance around the Christmas tree holding hands and when this is finished the children are at long last allowed to open their presents. Christmas Day is quieter, only the children will get up early to play with their presents. The day is spent as a family at home. The 26th is often spent visiting relatives and friends.

glædelig jul!