Norwegians just don’t get Halloween

My blog is mainly about Norway, our culture and tradition. Taking part of Lifecruiser‘s Halloween Blog Party – which I really enjoy – is a bit of a challenge when it comes to telling about the phenomena here, as we have no Halloween tradition. So please don’t think I’m trying to spoil the fun – I just love Cyber Parties – but as always I want to do it may way:

I know the trick and treat traditions of Halloween are steadily spreading around the world. But while neighbors Sweden enjoy the holiday, some Norwegians even want it banned. Living with Americans, I’ve heard them and other US friends trying to explain the point: “The celebration of Halloween in Norway is so misunderstood. It is more and more about the frightening and less about the cute and strange”. They also say we despair a bit about how wrong the focus on Halloween has become. The “trick or treat” tradition, going from door to door and “threatening” pranks if you don’t get candy, is really cute and charming. It has nothing to do with frightening people out of their wits or vandalism! The problem here is that some children really do play tricks on people who don’t understand the trick or treat concept, while in most places in the US if a neighbor doesn’t have candy the children just move on to the next house.

The first time I experienced Halloween was when my oldest boy was in the 7th grade. One of his friend’s came back from four years in the US and they wanted to share the tradition. As very responsible they invited all parents to a meeting to explain what would be going on and how important it was for the parents to participate to see to the children’s safety (see my point above). Costumes were made of bed sheets and their mother’s makeup and to make it short: we had the loveliest evening:


Click to see the pics at Photobucket

After the trick and treat tour, we ended up in this families house for a children and parents gathering where they served witch bowl with bobbling green soda water and ice cream.

Since there is little tradition for trick or treating here, my wife always threw a Halloween party when her kids were small so they wouldnt miss out on the tradition and the Norwegian boys could join in the fun :-)


Click to see the pics at Photobucket

The Yule Goat
What this actually reminds me the most of this tradition is one of the oldest Scandinavian and Northern European Yule and Christmas symbols. Its origins might go as far back as to pre-Christian days, where goats where connected to the god Thor, who rode the sky in a wagon drawn by a pair of goats. The function of the Yule Goat has differed throughout the ages. As far as until the 19th century, youths would go from house to house during Christmas time to perform small plays or sing Yule Goat songs, with one of the in the group dressed up as the Yule Goat. During the 19th century its role shifted towards becoming the giver of Christmas gifts with one of the men in the family dressing up as the Yule Goat. This tradition would have the goat replaced with the Julenisse (Santa Claus) at the end of the century, and the tradition of the man-sized goat disappeared.

Writing about this Yule Gost traditions, really takes me down the memory lane. We did it the days after Christmas Eve and wooooowwwww; did I have butterflies in my stomach! The anticipation – how important it was to dress up so that the neighbors did not recognize you and to change your voice so that they could not hear it was you – and what treat would we get? Yes we got treats, but not sweets bought from a candy store. All houses where full of Christmas cakes and biscuits (I’ll tell you about the necessary at least seven sorts they had to bake later) so they where actually glad that someone could come and eat them :-)

So by this, according to my blogs theme, I wanted to tell you about Halloween from a Norwegian’s perspective. Doing it otherwise would be a fraud. But times have changes, the world is smaller and even a Norwegian can come along and play (picking the best part of the tradition) you know. So let’s go on along with Lifecruiser’s Halloween Party for bloggers! This weekend I’ve been invited to my great colleague and blog friend Tor and his wife Anna‘s house and we are celebrating together. You just have to visit him too to get into the right mood! This party is to be updated on Tor’s blog, during this hilarious Halloween Weekend – so stay tuned!!

42 Comments

  1. Hi Renny,
    you tell the Norwegians relations to Halloween as no one else could do it. And the comparison to “Yolebukk” is fantastic.

    My first knowledge to Halloween – ha ha – keep cool – Donald Duck and The Peanuts.

    RennyBA
    Thanks for the compliments Tor – I just had to do it my way you know. I know you’ve gone ‘Julebukk’ too :-)
    Thanks for inviting me to this party tonight at your home – we’re soon about to eat dinner and the smell from the kitchen is delicious!

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  4. The world is getting smaller but we shouldn’t forget who we are and where we are from. Well said, my friend. I intend to post about the Spanish tradition, which doesn’t involve pumpkins but roasted chestnuts. The Halloween trend has reached the young adults with costume parties here , but it is something new, something acquired and it is fine as long as each of us doesn’t forget our own long traditions. They are worth it to be kept and to be continued for future generations. Each country has its own profile and like the French say: vive la difference!! I know it was in another context but I think this is a universal phrase.
    Nevertheless: happy Halloween! you will all have a great time, I know you know how to party :)

    RennyBA
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, experience and opinion from Span – I like that since it enriches the posts theme – I’m so agree with you.
    The party at Tor and Anna’s house is great, funny and exciting – go check his post for further updates!

  5. I don’t like the evil and monster side of Halloween. We celebrate only the good things to do with Halloween, such as the harvest and treats, not tricks at all.
    Enjoy your Halloween cybercruise, Renny.
    Hugs,
    Diane

    RennyBA
    Not that I did not know, but it’s nice to hear about who select the best part of the tradition.
    We all enjoy the party – go check Tor’s updated post!

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  7. Well, there are some voices against Halloween here too and especially when some people celebrate it around the 1st of November at the same time as the All Saints day.

    Interesting facts around your traditions. A good start before beginning to party!!!!

    RennyBA
    I know there are critical voices riced in Sweden too, but I thought it was more adapted than in Norway.
    I had to give some facts as it is my style. Tor and I have decided that the rest of the party tonight is going on at his blog – Check it out!!!!

  8. Hi, Renny, Happy Samhain!!

    RennyBA
    Thanks – in Norway we call it ‘Harvest Thanksgiving’.

  9. Ir is interesting how the Halloween “tradition” is becoming a more world wide Holiday….I don’t like that it is more about the scary stuff that the Candy…And that is very interesting about the Christmas tradition that started off as a Goat and became St. Nick….!

    BTW: Eva Gabor was Hungarian…And Greta Garbo was NOT at Sea Cliff, I just mentioned her in connection with the Actor, MELVYN DOUGLAS who WAS at Sea Cliff, because one of the many things he did in his very long career as an actor was to be Greta Garbo’s Co-Star in her very last film, “Two Faced Woman”. But I don’t doubt if SHE HAD BEENat Sea Cliff, she too, might have called me Gertrude! (lol)

    RennyBA
    The world is getting smaller and smaller you know:-)
    So sorry I mixed it all up Naomi and thank for sorting this out for me!

  10. It must be a weird tradition for you.
    It was fun when I was a kid … going out and getting all that candy!!!
    As an adult, I avoid it and am mean. Hee hee hee! Gord and I bought theater tickets for that night so we won’t be home for the trick or treaters!

    RennyBA
    Yes weird, but we are open minded people you know:-)
    I do understand the way you solve it as adults – Thanks for sharing a good idea!

  11. have a great Halloween weekend Renny……..
    try not to eat too much candy :)

    RennyBA
    Thanks Kim….
    Can’t promise anything:)

  12. When I was 8 my older sister was bringing me around for Halloween and some mean boys threw a bottle of flaming gasoline at our feet. My sister caught on fire and I had to knock her down and roll the flames out. After that I never went out. I was too afraid.
    However, my ex-husband brought our children out, and I always have candy for the children.
    But somehow, those terrible boys ruined the holiday for me.

    RennyBA
    So sorry to hear you had bad experiences like that Maribeth – and example of how it could go wrong and how it can effect a person for the rest of the life. I really hope they learned a lesson!
    Good to know your children had some good once after all:-)

  13. We saw goats at the pumpkin patch today! I took some pics, so I’ll have to post them later. The kids were feeding them. I find that very fascinating about the Yule Goat. I’m off to Tor’s now… :-)

    RennyBA
    What a coincidence – please keep me posted when your post is up!
    Hope you’ll like Tor’s crazy party post LoL

  14. We did have some great Halloween parties though! Sad to hear experiences like Maribeth where ‘childish’ pranks ruin peoples enjoyment of the fun. Our neighbor is a rather old woman and she often got eggs smashed in her mailbox. I loved the trick or treating as a kid, But I never remember anyone in our area being destructive. The only thing “we” did which was annoying but kind of funny, was every year someone would steal the “R” out of our neighborhood sign….”BIRCH MEADOWS” which made it “bich meadows” misspelled but funny nonetheless when you are 13!!

    RennyBA
    Thanks for sharing some good experience from where you where living in US my dear and also that you brought the best of this tradition when you came over to live with me in Norway!
    The one I appreciate the most is Thanksgiving! I know you have a good time with your Mum now and that she needs you back home, but glad you will be back to us to celebrate Thanksgiving.

  15. A man sized Yule Goat. That’s something new I’ve learnt. How interesting and thank you for posting about it. Halloween is starting to catch on in Australia, especially amongst the younger generation. I just hope parents are careful about letting their children go trick or treating and supervise them well. There are a lot of perverts out and about these days.

    RennyBA
    Thanks for saying so – I always want my readers to learn something you know!
    I do hope the same as you – parents have to take care of this and be role models!

  16. Here, for most, it is mostly about the fun of dressing up and then the thrill of free candy! Not many do mean tricks and most don’t even think of it as non-Christian and devils etc. Pure fun!
    My dad used to dress up too and take us door to door!

    RennyBA
    Good to hear Ruth. I was smiling when red about your Dad – I think I would have done the same – childish as I am :-)

  17. As an American, I am one of the few that isn’t really into Halloween. I’m not against it, per se, but it’s not my big thing. My son did trick-or-treat several times when he was small, but he never enjoyed it much either. I’m a bigger fan of Christmas!

    RennyBA
    Thanks for sharing your experience Lisa – it enriches the subject!

  18. We Chinese have our very own Halloween but it lasts for one whole month every year! We call it the Lunar 7th Month Ghost Festival. On the first day of the festival, the gates of Hell opened and all the ghosts are allowed to return to Earth to see their beloved. The ghosts’ one month vacation. hahaha….

    Like human beings, there are good ghosts and bad ghosts. There are ghosts who died horribly either murdered or in an accident, they would create havoc on Earth. They looked for substitutes so they could be reincarnated. And so the stories of more people die during the Ghost Festival are told every year…..

    In Singapore, Halloween is a very commercialized affair. It’s only a handful of young who have fun on this day. People still go about their mundane lives. hahaha….

    RennyBA
    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and traditions at your part of the world – very interesting to read and compare with other traditions around autumn time. Like I said to Lisa; it enriches the subject and thats what blogging is about; sharing and learning!

  19. Then it’s like in Belgium. But I will write about that tomorrow. In Waterloo the city council found a wonderful solution. Just pop in tomorrow.
    I first heard about Halloween when my son lived in London. The first time for me was in 1992 children came and asked for treats. I know that Halloween is very much celebrated in Ireland, its origin and was brought to the States by Irish immigrants. The Irish or Celts started the whole thing in 835 !! It was only brought to North America in the 19th century.

    RennyBA
    Like I said to Lisa and ECL, thank you so much for your contribution to enriches this subject Gattina. I did not know this and it was very interesting to learn!
    I’ll pop in tomorrow to read more on your blog:-)

  20. I don’t think we have Halloween in the Philippines either. We have All Souls day right around that time. We go to cemetery, and my mother would tell frightening stories which would keep us up all night.

    I think these days, they try Halloween. I know my sister and some of her neighbors are putting together some Trick or Treat neighborhood party.

    RennyBA
    Thank you so very much for sharing your experience too Midas!! I did some research and found what I think might be a bit similar to your All Souls day: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_Saints

  21. Thanks for sharing your custom of the Yule Goat, and great that you played it ‘your way’. I learned something new because of it :-)

    For us, it’s more the fun of dressing in costume in celebration, and kids coming to the door in theirs for their treats.

    RennyBA
    Thanks for your compliments – that’s what I want with my blog you know :-)

  22. Great blog !
    I don’t know much about Nordic countries… I’m French, studied Chinese and now live in Canada. Not the same part of the world !
    However, I like cultural blogs, so I’ll be back to check yours !

    Halloween is celebrated here in Canada… mostly for kids actually. Back in France, we didn’t care about it, it was “an American thing” although it’s also Celtic. Ironically, I’m from Britannia…

    Keep up the good work !

    RennyBA
    Thanks Zhu – its always great to welcome new readers and to share with world wide experienced people like you. I’ve visit yours too of course and it is very readable.
    Thanks for adding your experiences too – I’ve never learned so much about Halloween since this post and all the interesting comments!
    Thats why I promise to Keep Up :-)

  23. ah i am glad you stayed true to the Norwegian way. that way i get to learn something. the yulebukk tradition is very interesting. and i would not have learned about it if you had stuck to a strictly American Halloween interpretation.

    RennyBA
    Thanks for saying so – it’s encouraging as I like readers to learn from my posts.

  24. What an interesting post Renny! As always you do investigations so that we can have a better vision of the traditions and how they developed. Here it was perhaps too commercial and if during several years french have try to fest it now fast nobody speak about it! So I will have to question my imagination to fest halloween on my blog! but i will attentivelly look at your halloween party with Tor and Anna!!!

    RennyBA
    Thanks Claudie – like I’ve replied to the others: I’m glad to hear that people learn something from my posts.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts too and for participating on the party at Tor and Anna last night:-)

  25. I’m giving you a Halloween treat! Come over to my blog to get it! :)

    RennyBA
    Thanks so very much Teena – so very sweet of you – actually my first Halloween treat ever :D

  26. Theres no halloween in Norway,too?well same here in Japan,Renny :)

    ewwww,i might have butterflies in my stomach,too seeing yule goats murder`,LOL!
    my halloween post:
    CLICK HERE!!
    Happy Halloween!!
    regards!!
    ghee

    RennyBA
    I thought so about Japan too :-)
    Your Halloween post is HOT – everyone should go and visit!
    Happy Halloween to you too Ghee!

  27. I think people in the U.S. celebrate Halloween just to have an excuse to dress up. It’s fun to see young kids out trick-or-treating in their costumes. It brings back fun memories from when I was a kid. As for me now, I celebrate by watching the Charlie Brown “Great Pumpkin” cartoon on TV if I happen to catch it. :)

    I love those 2 pictures you posted, by the way ~ too cute! :)

    RennyBA
    Well, I think the most important is that the kids are having fun in an harmless way – your way of celebrating sounds fun too :)
    Thanks for your compliment!

  28. Thanks for visiting ! I fixed the “about me” etc, tabs in case you’re still curious. Lesson learned : do not mess up with a WordPress template before sleeping… :lol:

    RennyBA
    Your welcome and I thought it was fair to tell you – have been back and good to see its working now.

  29. Interesting post! Halloween is not celebrated in India; my first exposure to this annual ritual was when I lived in the US. Rather fun, though!

    RennyBA
    Thanks and also for sharing your experience!

  30. Yeah it is kindof boring that we dont have Halloween in Norway but surprising in the Philippines they have this trick or treat thingy but usually done inside those big malls. Instead of going to house children just go around different restos, bars, or boutiques to get goodies

  31. Happy Halloween Renny… nice to learn about Yule Goat tradition, sounds fun! things have changed in US over the years, just like any other aspect of life! Its most fun for the kids though, with harvest and treats of all kinds….. tricks keep getting trickier and sometimes evil and that is bothersome….. but the spirit of the holiday stays!

    RennyBA
    Thanks and glad you learned something new too.
    The most important is that the kids have harmless fun I think.

  32. halloween is getting too commercialized even here in the philippines. i don’t like it also

    RennyBA
    I do agree; lots of the good old traditions like Halloween, Fathers/Mothers day, Valentines day and such are getting far to commercialized – its a pity since money roles and not the genuine idea.

  33. I really enjoyed your post Renny. I’ve always loved Halloween and have passed on those feelings to my children. Though it’s not the same as it was when I was growing up….it has gotten much more commercialized. Still, I love seeing the kids all dressed up and excited. I’m ready for this year. I hope I get a lot of trick or treaters at my door. Happy Halloween Renny.

    RennyBA
    Glad you liked it and good to know you pass on your traditions in a good way for your children – I like that!
    Sorry to hear about it commercialized, but glad you are prepared and wish you a Wonderful Halloween too Joy!

  34. I am planning tomorrow’s Halloween with my 11 years old daughter tonight. Yes, you are right, Norwegian doesn’t celebrate like Americans. But we do something. We are baking “boller” tonight and will eat them in front of the hearth tomorrow night, drinking hot chocolate and waiting for the trick and treaters to come :-)

    RennyBA
    Sound like a great way of celebrating – a great example of how it can be done in Norway too – thanks for sharing and Happy Halloween :-)

  35. Hello Renny
    Please, take your costume and come at the VIP party by Dracula!!! We are waiting for you!

    RennyBA
    Thanks for the invite – how great to meet Dracula’s cousin – and champagne and everything – I’ll be over and party with you!

  36. as for my experience back in the Philippines we don’t really celebrate Halloween instead we are busy preparing for the All Souls day. But years come we already join other to celebrate Halloween for the sake of our children. We notice that children enjoy having a treats of candies and its so nice to see them wearing costumes :) Happy Halloween Renny!

    RennyBA
    Thanks for sharing from your part of the world too. Yours and everyone else’s comments has been a great and educating read.
    Happy Halloween to you and your family too – I really do hope your kids will have fun tomorrow.

  37. That’s really interesting Halloween tradition renny!Thanks for sharing.We have quiet family Halloween tradition.I just bought candies for the kids that will come for treat. I really hope they’ll come!

    cute halloween outfit,btw:)

    RennyBA
    Glad you liked it too and do hope you’ll have a nice and quiet Halloween and can give a lot of nice treats!

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  40. HI I am American We celebrate this Irish invention called Halloween :) My Favorite Holiday! Let’s see its Fall leaves Orchards Pumpkins Cider donuts hayrides. Haunted houses! Dressing up being anything you wanted for one night a year… Magic , scary factor, going thouse to house at night taking candy from strangers We usualy have police officers present, eating candy to you puke, my parents order a pizza we watch scary movies. Ancestors coming back to vist and say hi. Carving pumpkins gorgeous The warm glow of lit pumpkins and our parents driving us to the good neighborhoods Halloween displays and awesome candy. .. Parties costume contests. Seeing who can get the best candy……. Whats not to love.
    I admit it beats Xmas anytime! I admit it some people take it to extremes ruin it for everybody….. We use to pull pranks but the worst thing we did was soap windows. Fora joke once…. You don’t go to houses that don’t have lights on. Use protective clothing and always go in well it houses and groups.
    Common sense should be used.
    Doesn’t have to be American holiday it can be a global holiday light new years eve. Have your own special twist on it.
    Best way to get idea of Halloween or any holiday is to type in Holidays name and got to websites….. Older kids can participate keeps trhem out of trouble. Most people i know older kids usally go ot events for them. Adults usally go to events……

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