Santa or Nisse and Smorgasbord food are Christmas traditions in Norway

Nisse or Santa as Christmas Decoration Traditions in Norway #2Yuletide, the return of the sun and now Christmas calls for a special celebration and brings old time traditions based on folklore and myths in Norway. After a long period of darkness and cold, no wonder people needed a break and celebrated with wild feasts the fact that “the sun was coming back”. In Oslo (latitude of 60° North) it means max 6 hours daylight with the sun only low on the horizon at midday, compared to 19 hours and hardly no dark at all at summer solstice. 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.
All of this comes to mind when visiting my parent’s home for the Christmas day smorgasbord. The house is filled with Yuletide spirit with decorations and food traditions which have been in our family for generations. In this post, I will concentrate on the Nisse or Santa and my mom’s homemade food – illustrated with pics from last year’s family gathering on the First Christmas Day. 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:
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Left: Ham, Pork Ribs, Tongue, Roast Beef, Lam Roll & Lever Pate – Right: Salmon & Herring
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Left: Bread & Pork Patties – Right: Cheeses

Remember, all these (except for the cheese), 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!
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…… 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:
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To the right: All kinds of cookies and the Kransekake (Ring Cake)

The Nisse or Tomte:
Nisse or Santa as Christmas Decoration Traditions in Norway #2A 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, in particular 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.
The Nisse 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. Here are some examples of Nisse from my parents home Christmas decorations:
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Left: My Great Grandmother’s Nisse – Right: My Grandmother’s Nisse Family

The Fjompe Nisse:
Nisse or Santa as Christmas Decoration Traditions in Norway #3I’ve never seen him, but he has been an important part of my memories from Christmas ever since I was a child – especially in preparing, like decorating the tree and house in general. The Fjompenisse was defiantly a shape-shifter type, as he could come in (always at night) through the chimney or even the key hole. He defiantly had a temperament: One year I remember we had forgotten to take out the key from the hole and he had to use the chimney. You could then see his footprints of ash all around the house. The Fjompenisse was clearly a traditionalist too and did not want to be disturbed in his work.
Another of these things that takes me down the memory lane and brings back the Yuletide spirit from childhood when I enter my parents house, are all these Fjumpe Nisse figures hanging around:
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Left: On top of the paintings – Right: On top of the old family clock from the 18Hundreds

Jule Nisse or the Santa Claus:
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 Jule Nisse in Norway and Jultomte in Sweden, started bringing the Christmas presents in instead of the traditional Julbock (Yule Goat).

I hope 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 we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

White Gold of Snow by Sunset in Norway

White Gold of Snow by Sunset in Norway #5Writing a blog about Norway and our significant four seasons, it’s time to report about winter weather – at least a good taste of it: You see, this year’s first snow in Oslo came last week. It started late in the evening, so we were all warned for the next day, and in the morning we had the most wonderful White Christmas Post Card views out of our windows.
So finally snow and the Winter Wonder Land are back on track. Some might find it a bit cold, but to me it’s a sign of clean nature and freshness. It also brightens the otherwise dark mornings and evenings – especially on a clear full moon it fills the atmosphere with light. Of course white snowflakes create the Christmas spirit in this pre-Christmas period as well. So before I go on and tell about the strange weather we’ve had this fall, let me share some photos I shot with my Nokia N8 by sunset last week:
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The neighbourhood cowered in a blanket of new snow
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This year’s November earned a place in history books: Never before have temperatures been so high in the month leading up to Christmas – the warmest we have experienced since temperatures started being measured in the 1860. November last year was the coldest in living memory and the temperatures in Oslo were setting records at the other end of the scale, down to -24°C.
That’s a sharp contrast from November this year, to say the least: For the country as a whole, highest temperature was measured +10°C (49°F) which gives the average temperature 4.5°C above normal. So we are all glad that winter finally arrived and just in time for Christmas too!

Now, let’s go back to the scenery I tried to capture after this year’s first snow fall:
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My fascination for snow of course goes back to my childhood: I remember it took some time to dress for the winter season, but then again the strong winter weather never stopped us from having fun. Snow was something we looked forward to: instead of closing our schools, we went to school on skis and the recess in the school yard was never more fun than at that time of the year.

Let me end this White Gold of Snow post with the last photo I shot – by sunset, around 2:30PM. We are into the darkest part of the year and in Oslo the duration of daylight is less than 6 hours. We are soon at Winter Solstice you know (the 21st of December) and in this pic you might get an idea of how the snow brightens up the atmosphere – at sunset:
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As many of my Facebook followers and friends already know, I am currently at a rehabilitation center for Parkinson’s which is just outside of Lillehammer. Many of you may remember Norway’s winter Olympics in Lillehammer 1994 – so I assure you the magic of winter has touched us here too. My training includes outdoor exercise in the beautiful mountains surrounding the center, so I hope I will capture some more winter magic for my readers in the next days. Even when I am away taking care of my health, I always have my Nokia N8 handy you know – so stay tuned : -)

Roald Amundsen Norway first to reach the South Pole

Bust of Roald AmundsenThe Polar Explorer, Discoverer, Researcher and Pioneer Amundsen from Norway became the first person to reach the South Pole on Dec. 14, 1911. Hosting a blog about Norway; our history, culture, traditions and habits, it would have been a disgrace not to mention it today – 100 years later. This year actually call for double celebration significance for Norway coincides: its 150 years since the birth of Fridtjof Nansen too! These two men played important roles as nation-builders and polar heroes and of course equally important were their contributions to science and literature, as well as Nansen’s humanitarian endeavours and his role as a diplomat and politician.

Planning for the North – going to the South Pole:
Amundsen started preparing for an expedition to the North Pole, but when both Frederick A. Cook and Robert E. Peary claimed to have reached the Pole, in 1908 and 1909, respectively, Amundsen secretly changed his plans. In Madeira he revealed that the expedition to the North Pole would go by way of the South Pole. The race was on with Robert F. Scott to see which of them would be the first man on the southernmost point on earth. Five weeks before Scott, who died on the return journey, Amundsen reached the South Pole 14 December 1911:
Roald Amundsen from Norway first to reach the South Pole
Norwegian flag planted on the South Pole (Photo: Norwegian Polar Institute)

The first to sail through the Northwest Passage:
In the summer of 1903 Amundsen sailed from Oslo with the ship Gjøa. The aim of the expedition was to find the Northwest Passage, for which the English had been searching for 400 years. Amundsen had a scientific goal: he wanted to measure the earth’s magnetic field and determine its exact location.
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The ship Gjøa in front of Fram Museum

The expedition had a 23-month stopover in Gjøa Haven on King William Island. While there, Amundsen studied how the Inuit lived and gathered a prodigious amount of ethnographic material. In the spring of 1905, Gjøa sailed onward and emerged at the other end of the Northwest Passage in August 1906.

Norway marks Amundsen’s south pole feat 100 years on:
Today dozens of scientists and explorers joined the Norwegian prime minister to mark 100 years since Roald Amundsen led the first expedition to the South Pole. At the pole, PM Jens Stoltenberg paid tribute to “one of the most outstanding achievements of mankind” and highlighted the importance of this cold continent in our efforts to understand the warming of the globe! He also said Amundsen’s polar expeditions “helped to form our new national identity”. You see, Amundsen’s arrival at the pole on 14 December 1911 came only six years after Norway had declared independence after a long union with Sweden. So there is a lot of reasons to celebrate this year and especially today you know : -)

Pirate Bay Style Gourmet Restaurant Korsaar in Tallinn

Pirate Style Restoran Korsaar in Tallinn #15Restoran Korsaar by the Old Town Square in Tallinn, Estonia, has a stunning pirate-themed design in a spectacular location and serves traditional Creole cuisine with an Estonian touch in a relaxed and informal environment with an emphasis on flavour. It’s a restaurant of Chefs where every client is tended personally by one of them. Attendants` friendly and professional attention makes every visit to this place enjoyable from the beginning to the end.
If you’ve ever dreamed of running away to become a pirate or a wench, now is your chance. This spectacular pirate-style restaurant goes way beyond anything we’ve ever seen in terms of attention to detail and authenticity. From gangplanks to shark tanks, this subterranean grotto has everything covered:
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Panoramic Nokia N8 photo

The interior design has been finished to the smallest detail. The dining room is divided into three separate areas, the Bridge, the Shark’s Hall and the Eastern Corner, seating in total up to 72 guests. To evoke the atmosphere of the seven seas there is a pool of turtles and exotic fish and a beautifully crafted fish tank containing three small sharks in the dining room:
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As you see from my photos, the interior is inspired by pirate ships and is tastefully and carefully crafted, with every element, from the furniture to the cutlery and glasses, having been custom-made by hand. Let me give you a couple more examples:
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The Cocktail: “Bloody Frogs Eye” – Interesting ash trays in the smoking room

True feast for all senses!
Korsaar offers an a la carte menu, an excellent selection of wines and highly professional service. This was the way they made our aperitif “Elixir Bloody Frog Eye” (in the pic above) in front of our table: No frogs were harmed in this process!!
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Their international food is fantastic, with leanings on the creoles and seafood side of the port bow. Even more, said before: it’s a restaurant of chefs who accepts the orders from the clients personally and we had an interesting discussion with him; the awarded Mr. Jaak Hiibus, to decide our dinner. When telling him we were from Norway and that I had caught King Crabs in the Barents Sea, this became our menu:
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Left, starter: King Crab salad – Right, main course: Grilled Patagonian toothfish steak with mango béarnaise

No, I have not forgotten the dessert, but take this opportunity to example the personal and professional service. You see, I like coffee to go with dessert and we got Turkish coffee – the Korsaar way: Fresh milled coffee corns that are pieced up from ferocious plantations of Cuba are turned into a great hearted aromatic drink. First they boil it on hot sand twice and the process ended at our table boiled one last time before our eyes:
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Left: one of our Waitresses serving coffee – Right: dessert: Dark chocolate fondant.

Social Media recommendation:
My regular readers know I am above average active in Social Media and this trip to Tallinn in Estonia was of course announced at my TripIt account and fed to my Facebook wall. The post was commented by a friend of mine Robert Henry T from UK, saying: “I got back from Tallinn on Monday. Incredible place (although freezing!). Check out the German Beer hall just off the main square and definitely eat there”. We did and had a jolly good time:
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The charming waiters at The Beer House – Dinner: Duck Confit
When I told the Manager the reason why we paid them a visit, she insisted that we came with her for a guided tour downstairs: The Korsaar Restaurant, and we ordered a table for the next day – from where you now know the whole story : -)
We found both restaurants very nice, and the staff was professional, friendly and last but not least, fun. The next time you are in Tallinn we recommend you check these two restaurants out!

Petter Northug and Marit Bjorgen in Oslo2011 WSC

FIS Nordic World Ski Championships 2011 (WSC) in Oslo was a success for the hundreds of thousands spectators, the participants as well as the Norwegian hosts, not to mention their athletes. Norway won 20 (8 Gold, 6 Silver and 6 Bronze) out of 63 medals and when our King Harald V who attended every day was asked if that was a bit “greedy”, he answered: Who could blame them, this is what they have been training for years to do: -) The second most successful country was Austria with 10 and Sweden with 5 medals.
Norway’s national arena comprising of the Holmenkollen and Midtstuen hill or ski jump as well as the Cross-Country Stadium is a compact venue in the true sense of the word. The three competition venues all lay in close proximity to each other:
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Cross-Country tracks main tribune with start and finish line.
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Left: Holmenkollen Ski Jump – Right: Midtstuen Ski Jump

The championship lasts for 10 days, and includes 21 competitions within Cross-Country, Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined (jumping first, then cross country by the same athlete). My wife and I had a one day sponsored experience, with three events included:

Nordic Combined team relay:
Norway won bronze, Austria gold and Germany silver in this event. Norway got off to a slow start, as number four following the ski jumping, but ended in third place, 40.6 seconds behind the winner:
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Left: Ski Jump in Midtstuen – Right: Cross-Country relay

King Petter & Queen Marit:
The King and Queen of this championship are Peter Northug and Marit Bjørgen – in a class of their own. The incredible Marit Bjørgen won 4 gold medals and one silver this time and she is also the most successful sprinter in Cross-Country World Cup history, with twenty-three victories. She is ranked second (after Yelena Välbe) in the ladies all-time Cross-Country World Cup rankings, with forty-four individual victories. One of her most notable achievements was becoming the most successful athlete at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, by winning five medals, including three gold medals and the Championship relay gold for Norway’s women. On the day we where there, she won 10 KM:
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Above: Marit in red – Photos from Women’s 10 KM – we were standing close by : )
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Petter Northug won 4 gold and 2 silver medals in this championship including Sunday’s event: Men’s 50 km Mass Start Free, defeating Russia’s Maxim Vylegzhanin – Tord Asle Gjerdalen from Norway came third. Norwegian star Petter Northug powered Norway to gold in the men’s 4x10km relay last Friday as well, following teammates Martin Johnsrud, Eldar Roenning and Tord Asle Gjerdalen to clinch victory in the final leg of the relay after grabbing the lead with one kilometre to go. Northug was quite a successful athlete at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics too: Two Gold, one Silver and one Bronze medal!

How about you: Did you notice in the news or watched some of this winter sport event? Whatever; it would have been nice if you could share your thoughts in comment: