Winter Solstice and Yuletide in Norway

Winter Solstice in Norway, on top of the northern hemisphere (the capital; Oslo at 60°N), today’s return of the sun has a significant impact. At this time of year, we have winter and snow with a temperature around – 5C (23F) and the sun is up only 6 hours a day (equally 19 hours at summer solstice). Around 10AM some days ago, I took some pics at the harbour by the City Hall, trying to capture the beauty of the winter sun rise in Oslo:

Winter Solstice in Oslo Norway #1
Oslo Harbour and Akerhus fortress in the background.
Winter Solstice in Oslo Norway #2 Winter Solstice in Oslo Norway #3
Boats in hibernation at Aker Brygge (Eng.: wharf)

The time around Winter Solstice, a milestone in our calendar, has been celebrated thousands for thousands of years. Worldwide, interpretation of the event has varied from culture to culture, but most have held recognition of rebirth, involving holidays, festivals, gatherings, rituals or other celebrations.
Originally the name Giuli signified a 60 day tide beginning at the lunar midwinter of the late Scandinavian Norse and Germanic tribes. The arrival of Yuletide thus came to refer to the midwinter celebrations. By the late Viking Age, the Yule celebrations came to specify a great solsticial Midwinter festival that amalgamated the traditions of various celebrations across Europe, like Mitwinternacht, Modrasnach, Midvinterblot, and the Teutonic solstice celebration; Feast of the Dead.
In 960 King Håkon of Norway signed into law that Yule was to be celebrated on the night leading into December 25, to align it with the Christian celebrations. For some Norse sects, Yule logs were lit to honour Thor, the god of thunder. Feasting would continue until the log burned out, three or as many as twelve days.

Since I started this post about Sun Rise (occurred today in Oslo at 09:18), let me end with a picture a while after Sun Set (occurred today at 03:12). It’s from a Yule street at our local town a bit out of Oslo:
Winter Solstice or Yuletide in Norway

This picture (with my Nokia N82) was taken a bit after 5PM. As you can see; there is hope for a White Christmas (snow in the air, not stars!) and it got me into the Christmas or Yuletide spirit – quite a prosperous time of the year, don’t you think?

37 Comments

  1. It’s still November 20 here.

    I don’t look forward to November 21 cuz it is the shortest day of the year … but then the days afterwards start getting longer. Yay!

  2. What beautiful pictures! Only six hours of sun, that is it. That is really different from here in California. I am so spoiled by all the sunshine we get all year here in southern part of California that I don’t know if six hours would be enough for me.

    I just love learning about your country and its traditions, they are so interesting. Thank you for sharing them.

    Love and Blessings,
    AngelBaby

  3. Every year for the past 30 years the winter solstice is celebrated by a long concert organized by Paul Winter and performed in the cavernous Cathedral of St John the Divine in New York City. Sue and I make a point of listening to it every year and promising each other that next year we will make arrangements to go to New York and attend it in person. Another year has gone and we will make a pot of nice tea and listen to it on the radio again. It is broadcast over National Public Radio and can be listened to live on the internet. It is a wonderful night of song and celebration. Perhaps you would like to tune in and join us.

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  6. Ahhh, the motherland. One day I will return. Thanks for the reminiscing.

  7. A man after my own heart, I have also recently done a post about the Winter Solstice so was interested to read your take on it.
    What stunnning photographs, I especially like the last one of the street.

  8. Much like Iceland – last week I had trouble adjusting to the everlasting night at first but also keep more active. Would have been very depressing otherwise, I suppose I needed to learn and enjoy the darkness.

  9. Beautiful pics. The sunrise is stunning!
    Wow, only 6 hours…

  10. The right Xmas atmosphere is for sure in Scandinavia!!!
    Since Anaïs lives in Finland I realise what means the winter solstice! I hope to live a xmas one day with my daughter at Xmasfatherland! In a first time i was thinking I saw stars in the black sky on the picture!

  11. Beautiful pictures! I love the light in the first one. So soft and the sun low in the horizon. Love the night pic too. Where I am in Ontario Canada, sunrise is 7:52 and sets at 4:42 today. It’s going down to – 15C tonight! Thank you so much, Renny for my birthday card for tomorrow, the 22nd when I like to think I brought more light into that day, 56 years ago!

  12. The photos are so nice !

  13. Wow, what a fantastic shot. Thanks for telling me that was snow though. I thought it was stars. Well, it looks like stars.

    I’m glad you have the Christmas spirit. I’ve got it pretty bad too.

    Have a terrific day and you and Diane have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Big hugs. :)

  14. Hi, I arrived from Zhu’s blog.
    Do Norwegians use the terms Yuletide and Christmas interchangeably? Or do you treat it as a separate festival, which happens to coincide with Christmas?

    • First of all; thanks for stopping by – always great to welcome new readers!

      The way I write about it, I do understand the question. Christmas is called Jul in Norwegian. In thousands of years back, it was a “return of the sun” festival (or feast), but now it’s a traditional Christmas celebration.

  15. Gorgeous pictures, Renny!

    I wish you a blessed and joyous Christmas, dear friend.

    Love and big Christmas hugs,

    Diane

  16. Now that I live closer to your latitude and longitude, Renny, I am experiencing with you the shorter days and longer nights here in Holland. You still have me beat by an hour on both ends! :)

  17. i think it would be fascinating to spend both solstices in your part of the world since the change is so tremendous!

  18. Hello Renny !
    I wish you a merry Christmas surrounded by people who love you.
    The photos I’ve loved, I remembered my walks Oslo harbor him and gave me nostalgia.
    I think in another life I was Norwegian, I really mean it. When I stepped on Norwegian soil felt that he came home. It was a strange feeling. The last day of my Vacations cried and why my life in Spain is very good and happy. Life is a mystery.
    Renny hug and best wishes. Merry Christmas

  19. You have really caught the essence of what Jul and all that is in Norway. Well done!

  20. It’s so awesome that we’re going to have a white Christmas! It’s snowing alot here in Bergen too!

    Btw, is it okay if I try to update your blog now to WordPress 2.9

    I tried it on my blog and manage to update it now.

  21. I knew you guys didn’t have too much sun during the winter (and I remember the post you wrote on the summer solstice) but sunset just after 3:00 pm must be tough.

    Here, the sun sets around 4:30, which I find is early enough. I need light!

  22. Love the gorgeous photos, Renny! And I know it is my Danish heritage, but the short, dark days of winter don’t bother me at all. I’d love to be there this time of year!

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  24. Hi there!
    Come and get your free gift from my blog!

    I’m going to have a blogging break,
    so we’ll meet again ‘next year’!

    Merry Christmas!

  25. Beautiful photos.
    Merry Christmas to you and all your Family

  26. I love how you captured the beautiful December evening.

  27. Lovely photos. I’m just so happy that it goes in the right direction again – towards the light!!!!

  28. wooow… ver very good photos.. THANKS.

  29. i love the sun .. great picture

  30. i love the night scene photo

  31. sky of night are full of star .. i love that

  32. thanks for comment. a good text. very good.

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  34. I found your blog on Google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work.

  35. woww Renny, i really liked all photos and your country is really very nice and amazing. keep up the good work.

  36. Simply amazing and breathtaking, especially for those like me living in the southern european emisphere.

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