Friday, December 28, 2012

A Norwegian Christmas...

I did a blog post about how Norway celebrates their national day. So I thought I would share how Norway celebrates Christmas. Or at least how my family celebrates Christmas here in Norway. I'm sure every family has their own personal traditions, as does ours.

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....

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Settling in for the Holidays

It's Christmas time again! My days have been busy with all the preparations, Christmas concerts, and a sick kid. And a sick me. But, thank goodness, we're all healthy now, we're all on vacation, and we're enjoying putting the last Christmas details in place. Today we gave the house a good cleaning, Sindre worked at the house while I did some baking, and this evening we got the last of the shopping and groceries bought, and we got our Christmas tree. And I was by the house to take a few pictures. 

Everytime I'm there, I'm surprised at how far things have come along. But, I'm also struck, every time, at how much there's still left to do. But as far as the exterior goes, we're getting very close to being done. The east wall is still covered in a tarp but the carpenters are finishing that as soon as the Christmas holiday is over. But the rest of the house is looking really good! 

This is what the back looked like after we had torn off the old porch and the basement had been dug out but the concrete not poured yet. 

This is what it looks like today!

I think it looks so good and so much bigger! The trim around the windows didn't get a coat of white paint yet, but that's coming this spring. The green door is the one that was in the house but it's just there temporarily until the new door comes in 5-6 weeks. We chose this one from Swedoor:

It will be a medium/light grey on the outside and white on the inside. We also ordered a side window to go with it. 

This was the west wall:

Now it looks like this:

Pretty, no?

This is the addition looking from the green door and in. I can't get back far enough to get a good picture but this will be our entrance, a small bathroom, and tiny laundry room. Directly to the left and not in the picture, is a whole in the floor where we'll have the staircase down to the basement. 

This is what it used to look like looking down the hallway on the 2nd floor from the top of the stairs.

We've now ripped out the wall to make way to the addition.

And this is the upstairs addition looking through the hole in the wall. The left side will be Rebecca's room and the right side will be our main bath.

And we've finally decided what to do with the ceilings upstairs. We're removing the ceilings in both the end bedrooms, so our's and Emilie's, and opening it right up to the attic rafters. It's going to be so gorgeous!! Our's will just be a vaulted ceiling. But in Emilie's room it will be a vaulted ceiling with a loft. The girls will have a ladder to take them up to the loft where they'll have an "overnight" room where they can invite their girlfriends to spend the night and watch movies. The back wall of the loft will have a door leading to extra storage. And the loft will be for all the girls even though it's in Emilie's room. I'm really excited about this! I think it will look wonderful! I tried to take a picture from our bedroom but it's hard to get a feeling of how high the ceiling is. 

Tomorrow will be the last day Sindre will have to work at the house for quite a while. Dec 26th he leaves for the coast of Poland for 4 weeks. So after tomorrow, we're settling in for Christmas, for family, for food and for togetherness. Merry Christmas everyone!