Christmas in Norway is a magical time, but it’s the night before Christmas that brings family and friends together. The holiday is steeped in delightful rituals. On Christmas Eve – Julaften – the church bells ring at 5 p.m. After the services, Norwegians gather for a traditional Christmas dinner, but first they put out a bowl of julegrøt, which is porridge with butter, sugar and cinnamon for Julesnisse, a beloved elfinesque creature of Scandinavian folklore and the bearer of gifts.
The Julaften menu varies by region. In the North and the coastal districts, dinner features lye-treated lutefisk or codfish, while in the East, it’s pork ribs, Christmas sausage and spiced cabbage. Western Norwegians dine on mutton and salted lambs’ ribs. Desserts include cherry mousse, caramel pudding and cloudberry cream, a marvelous concoction made of an edible orange fruit that grows on Norwegian mountains, often served with lavender and vanilla.
Of course, no Norwegian holiday meal is complete without Akevitt – from the Latin “aqua vitae” meaning “water of life.” A potent distillation of potatoes and fragrant spices, particularly caraway, this amber liquor is 40 percent alcohol. It’s served in tulip-shaped glasses, in addition to Juleøl – a dark, malty beer exclusively available at Christmastime. Skål!
Then, Julesnisse arrives with Christmas presents. He doesn’t come down the chimney, but through the front door, sometimes accompanied by Julbocken, the Yule goat. Nisse (pronounced Nisser) have been living in Scandanavia since the beginning of time. These wee Viking gnomes are known for their red pointy hats and their love of animals and practical jokes.
Traditional holiday goodies also include figs, dates, nuts and sweets such as julekake, which is “Yule Bread” made with yellow raisins and candied citron. Baking it fills the house with the aroma of cardamom, the smell of Christmas in Norway. Julekake is served during Christmas breakfast with brunost, Norwegian brown cheese made from the whey of goat’s milk.
On Christmas Day, there’s brunch or an afternoon dinner that can last for hours.
If you can’t get to Norway for the holidays, put a bowl of julegrøt and a glass of glogg (mulled wine) beside your Stressless Recliner, so as not to offend visiting Norse elves that might show up on your doorstep. Although kind to animals, nisse are notoriously temperamental and mischievous if not well treated.
Then, throw a Yule log on the fire, put up your feet and pamper your own inner nisse, while visions of sugar plums dance in your head. Oh, joy! Or, as they say in Norway, O Jul med din Glede.
From all of us at Stressless, cheers to a very Stressless Christmas!