The roots of Northern Norway's Christmas: Jul
The term used for the holiday season in December in Norway is «jul». This term has roots in the Old Norse word «jól», which was used to describe the midwinter celebration and the winter solstice in Norse culture. This time-honored tradition has been passed down through generations, with a rich array of rituals and customs that have become an integral part of Christmas celebrations today.
The Christian influence
As Christianity spread through Northern Europe, the old Norse customs gradually merged with Christian Christmas celebrations. However, many of the ancient traditions and symbols have endured and can still be seen in modern Norwegian Christmas celebrations.
The Advent period
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, the Advent period is marked by a series of pre-Christmas parties known as julebord. These dinner gatherings and parties are organized by companies, organizations, and groups of friends, filling up the city’s restaurants and clubs, and adding to the festive atmosphere.
The Advent calendar is also another popular tradition in Norway. Starting from December 1st until the 24th, children, families, couples, or friends open a small door on their advent calendar each day to reveal a small gift or treat. This builds up the anticipation for Christmas.
Advent lights are also a significant part of the Christmas season. Norwegians light a candle every Sunday for the four weeks leading up to Christmas. This is known as Advent, and it’s a time of preparation and anticipation for the coming celebration.
Christmas markets: A Nordic tradition
In early December, Christmas markets spring up across Norway, transforming city squares into festive hubs. These markets offer a unique opportunity to experience Norwegian holiday traditions, with stalls selling local crafts, food, and traditional Norwegian Christmas decorations.
The traditional Christmas Eve dinner in Northern Norway varies regionally, with dishes ranging from ribbe (pork ribs or pork belly, bone in), lutefisk (cod cured in lye), pinnekjøtt (dry-cured ribs of lamb), boiled cod, ham roast, to turkey.
Desserts often include risengrynsgrøt, a hot rice pudding served with sugar, cinnamon, and butter, with an almond hidden in the pudding for someone lucky to find.
The joys of Christmas drinks
The holiday season also brings with it a variety of festive drinks. Breweries release batches of juleøl, a Christmas version of their beers that are darker and spicier than their regular brews. For those who do not consume alcohol, there’s julebrus, a sweet soda that’s a much-loved alternative.
You can also make or order Gløgg, a traditional Norwegian Christmas drink, similar to mulled wine. It is usually made with red wine, spices, and sometimes with a dash of spirits. It’s often served hot with raisins and almonds.
Gingerbread houses and Christmas cookies
One of the most popular sweet treats during the Christmas season in Norway is pepperkake, a crispy gingerbread cookie. Families often bake these at home and create gingerbread houses, decorated with icing and other sweets.
Decorating for Christmas in Northern Norway
When it comes to decorating their houses for Christmas, Norwegians typically begin the first Sunday of Advent, which is four Sundays before Christmas.
Norway's gift to the world
Norway’s Christmas spirit extends beyond its borders. Every year, Norway sends a Christmas tree to London to stand proudly in Trafalgar Square. This tree is a token of gratitude for British support during World War II and is just one of several trees that Norway gifts to the UK during this time of year.
Christmas in Tromsø – December 2023
Christmas in Tromsø during 2023, promises to be a magical time. As a tourist, you have a plethora of activities to choose from. You could visit the Tromsø Christmas markets, which offer a variety of handcrafted delicacies and unique gifts.
If you’re interested in seeing Arctic reindeer, visiting a reindeer farm could provide a unique Christmas experience.
You can also find a Ferris wheel from which you can take in stunning views of the city. Other attractions include whale watching and dog sledding, offering opportunities to explore the mesmerizing polar night.
For traditional Christmas dinners, some of the restaurants that are generally open include Charley’s at Radisson Blu, Full Steam, Scandic Grand Restaurant, Nyt Tromsø, and Roast. It’s advisable to book your table in advance to avoid disappointment during the busy holiday season.
If you want to read further information about the opening and closing times of shopping centers, supermarkets, and alcohol sales in Tromsø, we advise you to check this website
Dress warmly and prepare for an exotic and cozy Christmas vacation.
The magic of Christmas in Norway is in its unique blend of ancient customs and modern traditions. From the ancient Norse Jul to the Christian-influenced julaften, from the festive Christmas markets to the traditional julebord, the region offers a unique take on Christmas that is steeped in history and culture. So, if you find yourself in Tromsø or anywhere else in Northern Norway during the holiday season, embrace the local customs, indulge in the festive food and drinks, and let the magic of a Norwegian Christmas sweep you off your feet.