Christmas Around The World: Norway

As we move into December this week, the marketing machine cranks up to yet another level with endless advertising. There’s social media ‘sponsored posts’, texts, leaflets through the letterbox and banners at the supermarket. And, of course, there’s the battle for the ‘best festive TV advert’.

It can be hard to resist feeling like the odd-one-out if you’re not in a frenzy of anxiety yet. And if the only date in your calendar is the holiday bin collection service, it can feel as though everyone else is out partying every night, except you.

But here’s the thing, Christmas is a personal choice. There are no rules. Push the boat out or spend the day in bed, you decide.

This week we visit Bergen for the fifth in the series where I invite Instagram pals from around the globe to share their stories on how they spend Christmas.

Bård Gram Økland, Bergen, Norway

Bård Gram Økland is an archaeologist and museum curator at Bergen Maritime Museum, with a focus on Nordic Archaeology. Bard’s Instagram focus @bardgramokland is full of tales of adventure from the past and gorgeous images of scenery taken on hikes.

So early riser or late lie-in on the big day? In Norway we celebrate Christmas Eve on the 24th December so we start the celebration ahead of some other places.

Decorations up from 1st December, complete with flashing reindeer on the roof, or a last minute discreet sprig of holly? We start decorating the house outdoors in December. During the last 10 to 20 years, it has become very popular here to decorate the garden and so on with lights. But indoors we wait until a few days before the 24th.

L to R: the Christmas tree; the Christmas sweater! Photos courtesy Bård Gram Økland.

Do you have your own Christmas traditions that make the season particularly special for you and yours? My wife and our two grown-up children (23 and 25 years old) spend the holiday together. On Christmas Eve I start early – many Norwegians watch TV during the morning – a tradition since I was a child in the 1970s.

After opening the presents “it is time for coffee and different Christmas cakes!”

Favourite festive film or TV special? There are some family programs that everyone likes to watch. Maybe some classic Disney cartoons and an East European film production of “Cinderella” for instance.

Dressing up. A glittery outfit – it’s Christmas after all – or your favourite Santa jumper? Like most people I don’t go to church on Christmas Eve. But officially the celebrations start during the ‘church time’ at around 5pm when we dress up. I like to wear a suit. We have smoked lamb for dinner in the evening around 6pm to 7pm  (“Pinnekjøtt”). This is really the taste of Christmas for me Pinnekjøtt is also a very strong tradition in western Norway.

A festive lunch with all the family or a late romantic supper for two? For lunch we have a traditional porridge with an almond hidden in the porridge. There is a prize for the person who finds the almond. In the past some people had fish for dinner and in Eastern Norway they often eat pork steak for dinner. Generally, it is smoked lamb or pork throughout Norway.

Christmas in Norway. Festive meals and the Økland family opening presents. Photos courtesy Bård Gram Økland.

Gift giving, ‘it’s the thought that counts’ or ‘any excuse to splurge’? After the meal and the dessert, it is time for presents which is the highlight of the day for the children. So, we have time for presents late in the evening. It can be rather exhausting because it will take a lot of time to open them all, especially when the children were very young. And then it is time for coffee and different Christmas cakes!

“In Norway we celebrate Christmas Eve on the 24th December so we start the celebration ahead of some other places.”

Bård Gram Økland @bardgramokland.

Has the pandemic changed how you will be celebrating the festive season, and if so, how? No, the pandemic has not changed the Christmas traditions or the holiday itself here in Norway.

Photos courtesy Visit Norway and Visit Bergen.

Follow Bård Gram Økland on Instagram @bardgramokland.

Next week we’re in the UK talking to two expats: firstly an Italian living and working in London, and second, a Yorkshireman living in Spain who hopes to be home for Christmas. Catch up with more festive interviews using the link below. Share your own traditions and festive photos on Twitter and Instagram #christmasaroundtheworld and link up with a tag @hashtagtravelin. And if you enjoyed this blog feature please ‘Like’ below so I know you’re out there!

However you choose to spend the Holiday Season, I wish you peace and joy.

The Ancestral Nomad genealogy

Discover more in the Christmas Around the World series… read on

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