Christmas does not start nearly as early as it does back home in Canada, where sometimes the Halloween decorations come down as the Christmas ones go up. Usually, people start decorating the first Sunday in Advent with advent lights and Christmas stars in the windows. And people often decorate with purple in the Advent season, which I assume, has to do with Norwegian culture being strongly tied with the (once) State Church (Lutheran). Most people have Advent candles at home and they light a new one each Sunday before Christmas.
Norway's Santa Claus is called Julenissen. A "nisse" is a figure of Scandinavian folklore. A small person/elf like creature that usually hid in the woods/barns of farmers. They helped out the farmers but could also do mischief as well, especially if they were offended. Julenissen brings presents to children on Christmas Eve. Julenissen really likes his "grøt" (rice porridge) so tradition dictates that a hot, steaming bowl of grøt with a big pat of butter and generously sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon, is left outside for julenissen. I suspect there are a lot of happy kitties with full tummies on Christmas Eve. As commercialism has taken over Christmas, julenisse has become to look more and more like the Santa Claus of American culture. But here is a somewhat more traditional picture of Norway's julenisse.
The main Christmas celebration happens on Christmas Eve evening. Everyone dresses in their finest and the men wear suits. The Christmas meal is very traditional depending on where you live in Norway. You can not mess with the traditional Christmas meal!! If you were to suggest having, say... lasagne, on Christmas Eve, Norwegians would be horrified. In our family, the traditional Christmas Eve meal is pork ribs with crackling, sausages and meat cakes, warmed sour kraut, potatoes and veggies with gravy and lingen berry sauce. It's delicious.
Often dessert is rice cream, made from the left over rice porridge and mixed with whipped cream and served with strawberry or raspberry sauce. Delicious! Other traditional meals are cod, dried, salted lamb called pinnekjøtt (blech), or lutefisk (double blech).
My 3 girls anxiously waiting as the evening is about to begin!
After the meal come the presents! Yup, the kids have to wait all day to get to the highlight. We have a big family and there's usually a huge mountain of presents to get through. After the presents comes the coffee and cake and general "stuffing of one's face" the rest of the evening. Ahhh.
I love Christmas in Norway. It's very elegant. I still miss getting up at the crack of dawn and opening up presents in my jammies but I do love the celebrations here and it's absolutely become Christmas for me. Even the traditional Norwegian Christmas carols which were completely foreign to me before, are really Christmas for me now. Like this lovely Christmas melody called "Mitt hjerte alltid vanker" (My Heart Always Wanders) sung in the style of Norwegian folk music.
I would love to go home to Canada for Christmas one year though. There's nothing like the Christmas of your childhood....