17th of May, Norway’s National and Constitution Day (signed in 1814), is celebrated as the most Norwegian there is. Nationalism, patriotism and childlike enthusiasm are shown, as we celebrate our freedom (after the occupation during World War 2 and 100 years of union with Sweden) and of course the signing of our Constitution.
Adding to that, for a nation located at The Arctic Circle – after a long, dark and cold winter – we are celebrating spring! Special also, and we are damn proud of it: The children are in the center of the activities and the parades are free of military presence of any sort.
I’ve posted about this big event in Norway a lot of time. I mean – this blog is after all a place to find interesting stuff about our culture, traditions and habits – and what’s more Norwegian than 17th of May? Here are some examples:
May 17 in Norway celebrating National and Constitutional Day
17th of May – Norway’s National Day in Oslo
17th of May Parade in Norway
17th of May Norway’s Constitution Day in Oslo
17th of May Constitution or National day in Norway
I wonder: How do you celbrate the constitutional day in you’re country – or have you been in Norway at the 17th of May – for a comparison? Please share in comments!
February 10, 2013 marks the beginning of the Chinese Year of the Snake. I’ve decided to get off to a fortunate start this year by sending out Chinese New Year post to all Asian and Chinese friends. So “恭喜發財” (gung hay fat choy) or “恭喜发财” (gong xi fa cai) to you all! I do it since my blog is about cultures, traditions and habits – mostly Norwegians of course – and over the years I’ve got plenty of friends all over the world and learned a lot about others. By sharing mine, the comments to my posts and links to others in Blogsphere have been an example to me as a network enthusiast: A Givers Gain! These years of blogging have increased my social awareness and also curiosity to listen and learn as I have had the chance to experience some Chinese culture adventures in Norway too. It’s summed up in a collage I’ve made tonight:
Frank Woo inspires Norway with Chinese Art:
We were invited to the opening of the Chinese painting exhibition by Frank Woo in Lillestrøm (1/2 hour drive north east of Oslo). Frank is my wife Diane’s best friend’s brother. Impressed by his personality and fabulous work, I gladly shared this art adventure with you (and repeat it in this post):
Born in Hong Kong, Frank Woo’s artwork shows an inspirational blending of traditional Chinese colours and textures mingled with modern art and raw emotion. He is a self-taught painter, trained in print-making in Hong Kong. His travels and burning desire for inspiration brought him to Japan, to Tokyo’s Bunka Fashion College to complete his Degree in Illustration.
Chinese Food Song and Dance in Oslo:
We’ve had special visitors from Xinjang, China in 2007 as part of the Chinese Cultural week giving a breath taking performance in Oslo Concert Hall. Before the show a Chinese friend of mine, Cong, invited my wife and I, plus four others to dinner. I love Chinese food as it is very different and very tasty, although a bit spicier than Norwegian food. The restaurant has a nice Chinese ambiance and the setting puts us into the right mood for the evening.
Talking about my friend Cong and what I have achieved by sharing experiences and culture: Among a lot she is a lecturer and writer on Chinese Culture and Thinking teach Chinese Language at the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Click and take a look at some of her Chinese Wisdoms interpretation!
To me these are example of how much you can learn from blogging, sharing and being curious about others – just like one of my sayings: Blogging and other Social Media break down cultural, religious and other barriers. That’s way I by this want to say: Happy New Year of the Snake from Norway!
Christmas or Yuletide and New Year are connected to very old traditions and important celebrations in Norway. Keep in mind we are on top of the northern hemisphere. After a long period of darkness and cold, no wonder people needed a break and celebrated “the return of the sun” – with wild feasts that lasted for days. These traditions are all based on folklore and myths since the return of the sun has an important influence on our daily life and calls for special celebrations. Imagine: In our capital Oslo (latitude of 60° North) right now has 6 hours of daylight with the sun really low on the horizon at midday, compared to 19 hours and hardly no dark at all at summer solstice.
In this post I`ll share some of the typical Norwegian Christmas and New Year traditions – the happiest season of the year – and I have made some photo collages to illustrate which I hope you like (click to bigify and enjoy!):
Christmas trees became common in Norway from around 1900 and I guess you know it’s originally from Germany. Before presents are opened, we “go around the Christmas tree”; all the family holds hands to form a ring around the tree, and walk around the tree singing Yuletide carols. It was fun but hard when I was a child, only to see all the presents – however the adults knew we would be far too busy after opening them – so walking around and singing first, then the presents : -)
Most everyone has either a spruce or a pine tree in their living room – decorated with white lights, tinsel, Norwegian flags and other ornaments for Christmas. As a child and with my children of course, we made paper baskets of shiny, colored paper. The baskets can be filled with candy or nuts. Chains made of colored paper are also very popular.
To see a tree decorated outdoors is a new thing, but also more and more common. To the right in the pic, you see my parents tree on their balcony. Notice the bowl with Christmas porridge at the bottom and beside it: The Yule Log painted as a Nisse (more details below!).
Christmas food traditions – the Smorgasbord:
For thousands of years we have developed our food preservation traditions and our folk tales have over time become mixed with other European folklore, like for example Santa Claus (Nisse). All of this comes to mind when visiting my parent’s home for the Christmas Day smorgasbord. The house is filled with Yuletide spirit, decorations and food traditions which have been in our family for generations. Counting about 15 people, there is always a lot of food left, so join us, sit in and enjoy my childhood’s food feast memories in the photo. There will be served e.g. Ham, Pork Ribs, Tongue, Roast Beef, Lam Roll & Lever Pate and of course Salmon & Herring.
Remember all these are homemade with fresh meat coming directly from the butcher – made with love and care, based on recipes past on for generations! Just by thinking of it, especially when I enter my parents’ house this special day, I am literary taken down the memory lane – just by closing my eyes. I remember mom and grandma in the kitchen almost the entire month of December; the smell, the atmosphere, the excitement and the anticipation. There was something in the air – it was Christmas – the most wonderful time of the year!
Sweets and Nisse too of course:
If you thought the food and the feast ends here, you are wrong! No, when you are filled up with pork and lamb and ham and maybe had a short walk or a power nap to digest at least a bit, then the special homemade sweets were on the table. Typical it would be the home made marzipan served in a very old confect box and of course the Ring cake (in Norwegian, Kransekake).
Behind the top of the cake, you see some Santas or Nisse as we call them in Norway. So let me tell you a bit about him:
A Nisse is a mythical creature of Scandinavian folklore originating from Norse paganism – actually close to what we call an elf. He was believed to take care of a farmer’s home and children and protect them from misfortune, especially at night, when the house folk were asleep – type Fjøs Nisse (Fjøs = barn).
Nisse is the common name in Norwegian, Danish and the Scandinavian dialect in southernmost Sweden is Tomte and Tonttu in Finland. He was often imagined as a small, elderly man (size varies from a few inches to about half the height of an adult man), often with a full beard; dressed in the everyday clothing of a farmer. However, there are also folktales where he is believed to be a shape-shifter able to take a shape far larger than an adult man, and other tales where the Nisse is believed to have a single, cyclopean eye.
In the 1840s the farm’s Nisse became the bearer of Christmas presents in Denmark, and was then called Julenisse (Yule Nisse). This mythical character then turned into the white-bearded, red-capped friendly figure associated with Christmas ever since. Shortly afterwards, and obviously influenced by the emerging Father Christmas traditions as well as the new Danish tradition, a variant of the Nisse, called the Julenisse in Norway and Jultomte in Sweden, started bringing the Christmas presents in instead of the traditional Julbock (Yule Goat).
Ihope you have enjoyed my reminiscing of my childhood and a walk down memory lane. Christmas Eve is now upon us and its time not only to remember our traditions but to give them to our own children and families.
From all of us here to all of you: Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Attending the Ian Anderson concert with his band Jethro Tull playing Aqualung, Living in the Past and of course Thick as a Brick, was a sensational nostalgic music adventure to me. I had the pleasure once before, 40 years ago and my very first concert ever. I was only 18 and for a country boy who just moved to the big capital Oslo, it was an almost indescribable adventure. People where drinking beer and there was an odd sweet fragrance in the air – they were screaming and clapping hands: I was overwhelmed *LoL*.
On the stage there was Jethro Tull from England leading by a long haired, tartan caped maniacal flute player named Ian Anderson: The concert is still reckoned as one of the great rock performances of the 70s. Most of the songs were in the album “Aqualung” released two months later. The year after, he made the album “Thick as a Brick” and of course it went through my head at this adventurous concert – this time together with my dear wife DianeCA. Our tickets were a gift from my friends at the “Boys Only” party when I turned 60 – some weeks ago. I gladly share our experience with you – this time with some collages of the photos – the light conditions where difficult, so I hope you understand:
Actually it was not Jethro Tull, only Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson on the posters this evening. Earlier this year it was 40 years since “Thick as a Brick” and with that in mind “Thick as a Brick 2” was made as a follow up album- however this time with Ian Anderson only on the cover.
It was the same band composition which Jethro Tull is known for: Guitar, bass, keyboards and drums – and in addition the boss’ with his special small guitar and his trademark: the Transverse flute. Besides, there was an extra vocalist, Ryan O’Donnell who also performed as an actor and mime artist – singing in a similar style and balancing out the more rusty voice of the boss.
The original work was performed as it was originally released on LP record – in two consecutive sessions. “Thick as a Brick” was originally featured a mixture of a prog-album and a rock opera. The so-called story – about childhood to Gerald Bostock was admittedly very in the background. In return here all the classic progressive elements with their frequent theme and tempo changes. It is not classic pop songs, but rather a coherent symphonic works. This could probably also be part of the reason that the material has been so seldom performed. The music was remarkable complex and unique in a style never copied through all these years.
The second half of the concert consisted of the raw material anno 2012. It continues the story of Gerald Bostock with a wide range of stories about what happened after adolescence. Unlike the first part of this disc consists of simple songs with a kind of cohesive story and not a coherent work. The material is also performed by this 65-year-old’s voice, and worked perfectly as successor to the first part of the concert.
And by “Locomotive Breath” as an encore, it was also a rehearsal with one of the classic songs from “Aqualung“. Although Ian Anderson doesn’t stand as long on one foot when he plays his flute solos, he is full of energy and the same enthusiasm and artistic aura which he had back in the 70s. A truly magical evening and a trip back memory lane all rolled into one.
Cinque Terre (means five lands) consists of 5 tiny villages connected by footpaths and linked by boat, rail, and trail. At the Northwest coast of Italy, they date as far back as the 13th century and sit on the hillsides of that plunge into the Mediterranean Sea. Colorful houses seem to hang on the cliffs. Local churches sound their daily chimes. And the land is terrace farmed for food. Surrounding these five villages is an infinite mosaic of vineyards, olive and lemon groves, and fruited trees. These agricultural plots seem to hang onto the sheer cliffs above the sea. And from these marvelous fields, we receive tangy local wines such as Sciacchetra, purely extracted olive oils, and delightful herbed pesto.
These five communities discourage auto traffic to preserve the tradition and ecological impact of the area – so they are best reached by train. It has now become a World Heritage Site and a UNESCO National Park. In fact, certain parts of the nearby sea are part of the National Park system as well. And it is the preservation of this area that makes for some clear water scuba diving and snorkeling.
The agriculture is of main concern here in Cinque Terre. All of the 5 towns and other rural villages are tied to each other in their quest to keep local farming alive. The towns people, like their forefathers, preserve the terraced farms as a means of income and property stability. While some of the farmland has been abandoned and is scrub, most have been passed on from generation-to-generation. They farm mostly wine grapes, olives, pears, and herbs. Each family plot is divided by old, dry-rock, stonewalls, built hundreds of years ago.
Monterosso al Mare is the most western of the 5 towns and the closest to being a classic beach town of the Italian Riviera. Vernazza, and Corniglia are just a few kilometers down the coastline.
The latter is different from the others because it is situated on a plateau, over 300 feet above sea level, while the others lie next to the Sea. Manarola and Riomaggiore lie on the eastern end. All of the villages are linked by charming cobblestone pathways that make home to local musicians.
Over centuries, people have carefully built terraces on the rugged, steep landscape right up to the cliffs that overlook the sea. Part of its charm is the lack of visible corporate development. The villages are not influenced by modern development, and that simple, original look, combined with pretty colorful houses, arranged one upon another like stairs gives this piece of Ligurian coast a unique charm:
This is the fifth post from our big family trip; my wife (DianeCA) and I, our children + SO and even my grandchild met up with Diane’s brothers and spouse from the USA. 14 people in all gathering in Pisa at the Park Hotel California, and having the time of our lives enjoying each other’s company, getting better acquainted and exploring this wonderful part of Italy. From my first post: Family from Norway touring Tuscany in Italy, you’ll get an introduction and then you’ll find information and links to my other posts from Pisa, Florence and Sierra.