Celebrating the New Year’s Eve in Scandinavia is traditionally a blast of a feast. No wonder as it is the darkest and often the coldest time of the year and since ten thousand years back there was a good reason to celebrate the return of the sun – Winter Solstice festivals is a part of it of course. All this sets the scene for enthusiasm and cheer and welcoming a new year.
Preparing the evening’s celebration starts days before and the most exciting part is buying the fireworks. Shooting up your own is much more fun and you’re welcome to read the story in my last post: Buy and shoot up your own New Years Fireworks. Then of course shopping what’s needed for our traditional seafood dinner; Shrimp, lobster (and sometimes crawfish) served with champagne. You’re all welcome to join us shopping and then sit in and enjoy the firework show this year – all included in this video:
Actually, this is one of the habits and seasonal traditions I’ve posted the most about on this blog, so let me share some of the others by reposting some of the pics in the video with link to these posts:
From all of me to All of You: Godt Nytt År!
It’s time to open a new book with blank pages. The book – or blog in my case – I will call it “Opportunity”, and the first chapter is devoted to a Happy New Year Greeting. I could write about New Year’s Resolutions, New Year Greeting Cards, New Year’s Day Messages etc., but have decided to concentrate on a look at our New Year’s Eve traditions.
Still at the darkest and often coldest time of the year this sets the scene for enthusiasm and cheer so the celebrations are traditionally a blast of a feast. 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. In this post I’ll concentrate on our seafood delight dinner and the fact that we send up our own fireworks:
New Year’s Eve Dinner:
We have followed the same procedure as for many years this Holiday – the best season of the year – Christmas Eve dinner with our children and visiting family the 1st day of Christmas (for the Yule Smorgasbord, click to read my post about the feast of traditional food: Norwegian Christmas Day Smorgasbord). Next stop is our vacation home in Sweden to celebrate New Year’s Eve. There are three important ingredients in this celebration; a week off, seafood dinner with champagne and of course setting off our own fireworks. Let’s start with the dinner:
My regular readers know we love seafood and no wonder since we have such a long coastline and Norwegians are known as fishermen. Only the best is on the table this evening: lobster, crab, crawfish and shrimp – all naturel – and the whole topped with a bottle of champagne. To make it short: click the photo to bigify, sit in and enjoy!
Setting off our own fireworks:
Ever since my childhood, I remember we were allowed to stay up until pass midnight to see the fireworks. I also remember passing this tradition on to my children and the day before we would build a big ramp to shoot them off with snow and ice holding bottles for the rockets. These days for convenience and safety, I’ve changed from rockets to a box of fireworks with only one fuse.
Part of the anticipation is to buy it the day before. They demonstrate all the kinds they have on a video and we bought one which lasted for a bit more than a minute. Everyone goes out to see and the children have fun with sparklers : -). How we buy it and do it is to be read in my post: .
Happy New Year:
A new year has just begun and from all of me to all of you dear readers I wish you all the best and:
Happy New Year – Godt Nytt År – Gelukkig nieuwjaar – Bonne année – Gutes Neues Jahr – Buon Capo d’Anno – Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu – Szczesliwego Nowego roku – Feliz ano novo – Feliz Año Nuevo !
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!
Skiing in Norway is our national sport and the most striking feature of winter outdoor activities. We start learning at an early age. I remember as a child, winter never stopped us from playing outside; hat hair, wet behinds from slipping in the snow, rosy red noses, shivering cold hands and snow in my jacket were all just a part of the season. I am really thankful to my parents who encouraged us to take part in outdoor winter activities and become interested in natural conservation and understand its importance. At that time I just thought of it as fun, but now I understand it also helps to improve our physical and mental health – even a moderate level of activity has a positive effect.
In that way, I had a quality time with my oldest son last week and I gladly take you along. Talking about starting at an early age: Let me first show you what caught my eye – and really took me down memory lane – when we started our ski trip from the local clubhouse:
If not born with skies on, Norwegians learn to ski at an early age :- )
This scene brought back childhood memories and since I now struggle a bit with my Parkinson’s disease, I was so happy to experience that I had learn the basics from when I was a child too!
Fighting Parkinson’s on skies:
I would like to start the story of our ski trip with the most important result: The recreational part – to improve my physical and mental health. On a beautiful sunny day with fresh, crisp air, it was great to take a break at a lake after some kilometers up hill. With a snack I had in my pocket (an orange and two chocolate bars), we sat down for a rest and a nice chat. The view was breathtaking and I am glad I can share it with you as my Nokia Mobile phone is capable of capturing it all in panoramic mode:
Around 11AM and the sun is low on the horizon since it’s winter time – the darkest time of the year (6 hours duration in Oslo, Norway). If this isn’t wonderful scenery and an atmosphere to charge your batteries – then I don’t know what is!
Like I said: I was glad I still had the basic ski skills from childhood. It’s two years since I was last on skis when I got the diagnoses Parkinson’s – in addition to that I had a knee replacement about four months ago – so I have to admit my form has been better : -) But you can compensate quite a bit for being in shape if you have good technique, both on flat areas, up hills and especially down hills in (almost *LoL*) full speed:
Skiing: The most wonderful outdoors recreation I can think of : -)
The impact of Parkinson’s however feels like driving with the parking brakes on: Picture yourself driving like that and the wire from the parking brake is your body muscles – and they are stiff and tight as guitar strings. The effect of your engine, even on full speed, is relatively small and you have to use quite a lot of fuel to get going.
Let me add; it was my physiotherapist, who trains me 3 times a week, who came up with the idea. He is very supportive and focuses on my mental training as well. We often talk about getting me out of the role of patient and believe me: it worked on this ski trip!
Anyhow; it was a wonderful trip, and an outdoor adventure and I wouldn’t be without for anything in the world. Despite the struggle, I proved to myself that even if I have an uninvited “guest” (Mr. Parkinson) in my body; I am in charge and capable of doing the things that I like. I can still enjoy outdoor life, nature and improve my physical and mental health – and even better: to share these adventures and magic moments with my son!