Celebrating New Year with Seafood and Fireworks

Happy New Year 2013It’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:
New Years Seafood delight dinner #AWe 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:
Happy New Year 2013Ever 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 Yule tree Santa or Nisse and food traditions in Norway

Norway Christmas Traditions #AChristmas 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:
Norway Christmas Traditions #BChristmas 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:
Norway Christmas Traditions #CFor 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:
Norway Christmas Traditions #DIf 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).

Yule and Fjompe Nisse from Norway #1Nisse 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!

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:
Smorgasbord as Christmas Food Traditions in Norway #1 Smorgasbord as Christmas Food Traditions in Norway #7
Left: Ham, Pork Ribs, Tongue, Roast Beef, Lam Roll & Lever Pate – Right: Salmon & Herring
Smorgasbord as Christmas Food Traditions in Norway #6 Smorgasbord as Christmas Food Traditions in Norway #8
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:
Cookies as Christmas Traditions in Norway
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:
Nisse or Santa as Christmas Decoration Traditions in Norway #5 Nisse or Santa as Christmas Decoration Traditions in Norway #6
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:
Nisse or Santa as Christmas Decoration Traditions in Norway #1 Nisse or Santa as Christmas Decoration Traditions in Norway #4
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!

Happy New Year from Norway Winter Wonderland

Its Happy New Year greetings time again, to open a new book with blank pages and put my own words on them. The book – or in my case blog – is called “Opportunity” and its first chapter is New Year’s Day. 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 New Year’s Eve and traditions – ours then; To make it short, in photos:
Sunset in Winter Wonderland #1 by RennyBA Drive through Winter Wonder Land #1 by RennyBA
Beautiful sunrise or sunset & driving through Winter Wonderland
Lobster New Year Eve dinner #1 by RennyBA, on Flickr New Years Eve Fireworks Box by RennyBA, on Flickr
Seafood dinner with champagne & setting off fireworks

The Holiday season is the time for traditions; same procedure as years before make it kind of special and helps to bring back memories. For the last decade, ours have been to visit 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 the celebration; a week off, lobster dinner with champagne and of course setting off our own fireworks. How we buy it and do it is to be read in my post: .

New Years Greetings in a nutshell:
New Year greetings 2011With my Nokia N8 mobile phone at hand, a lot of help and inspiration from my wife Diane – and her Nokia X6 – plus a movie maker program, we have taken photos and videos and mixed it all into a New Year cocktail: Shaken but not stirred – From my wife and me : -)

It’s on YouTube of course, so turn up you’re speakers, relax & sit back to enjoy:

Thank you all for the many good times in 2010 and from all of me, to all of you: Happy New Year – hope to see you around soon ; -)

Not Santa or Tomte but Yule and Fjompe Nisse in Norway

Yule and Fjumpe Nisse from Norway #3A Nisse is a mythical creature of Scandinavian folklore, called Tomte in Sweden and Tonttu in Finland – originally 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 Fjøsnisse (Fjøs = barn). Nisse is a nickname for Nils, and its usage in folklore comes from expressions such as “Nisse good dräng” (= Nisse good lad, cf. Robin Goodfellow) – all names connecting the being to the origins of the farm (the building ground). Those names are remembrances of the being’s origins in an ancestral cult.

Yule and Fjompe Nisse from Norway #4One was required to please the Nisse and a particular gift was a bowl of porridge on Christmas night. If he wasn’t given his payment, he would leave the farm or house, or engage in mischief such as tying the cows’ tails together in the barn, turning objects upside-down, and breaking things (behaving like a Troll). The Fjøsnisse liked his porridge with a pat of butter on the top. In an often retold story, a farmer put the butter underneath the porridge. When the Nisse found that the butter was missing, he was filled with rage and killed the cow resting in the barn.

Yule and Fjompe Nisse from Norway #1The 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.

He had temperament; Despite his smallness, the Nisse possessed an immense strength. Even though he was protective and caring he was easy to offend, and his retributions ranged from a stout box on the ears to the killing of livestock or ruining of the farm’s fortune. He was a traditionalist who did not like changes in the way things were done at the farm. Another easy way to offend him was rudeness: farm workers swearing, urinating in the barns, or not treating the creatures well would be soundly thrashed. If anyone spilled something on the floor in the house it was wise to shout a warning to the Nisse below.

The Fjompe Nisse:
Yule and Fjompe Nisse from Norway #8I’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 definatly a shape-shifter type, as he could come in (always at night) through the chimney or even the key hole. He definatly had 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 destirbed in his work. So the day before Christmas Eve, my sister and I had to go to sleep early, so that he had the run of the house all by himself. You see in Norway, the tree is normally (or was in the good, old times), not to be seen decorated and lit until the morning of Christmas Eve day. When sis and I woke up, we had to wake our parents and ask if Fjompenissen was finished before we went out in the living room.

Yule and Fjompe Nisse from Norway #7Today I understand that these traditions are explained by the fact that mom and dad were very tired after a hectic pre Christmas time and needed the time alone to decorate the tree and the house. I don’t blame them “using” the Fjumpenisse as an excuse – to me it just made him more alive and involved. Going down the memory lane; I still have this mixed feeling of respect, anticipation and anxiousness about Christmas just because of the Fjompenisse. I was never afraid – even if he was a bit scary – I mean, mom and dad were always there to “protect” us ; -)

Julenisse:
Yule and Fjompe Nisse from Norway #5In 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).

Gradually, commercialism has made him look more and more like the American Santa Claus, but the Norwegian Julenisse, the Swedish Jultomte, the Danish Julemand and the Finnish Joulupukki (in Finland he is still called the Yule Goat, although his animal features have disappeared) still have features and traditions that are rooted in the local culture – and as you can tell: in my mind : -).