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:
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:
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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!

Nobel Peace Prize from Norway to women rights activists

The Peace prize 2011 awarded by the Nobel Committee in Norway was to be divided in three equal parts between Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman. This important yearly event is of course to be mentioned here since my blog is about Norway: our history, culture and traditions and also since I often talk about how Social Media empowering people. This time we’re talking about empowering women – to get a better world – and I gladly support that. This year I really liked the Nobel Committee’s reason: “For their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work. We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society”. Let’s hope it will help to bring an end to the suppression of women that still occurs in many countries, and to realize the great potential for democracy and peace that women can represent.

Karman of Yemen, Leymah Gbowee and Liberian president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (Photo: John McConnico/AP)

To recognize women rights activistsa:
Karman – at 32, the first Arab woman and the youngest peace laureate ever – is a journalist and member of the Islamic party Islah. She also heads the human rights group Women Journalists without Chains. The prize is also recognized the Arab Spring movement championed by often anonymous activists from Tunisia to Syria.
Sirleaf is widely credited with helping her country emerge from an especially brutal civil war. She was elected president of Liberia in 2005 and won re-election in October this year.
Gbowee challenging Liberia’s warlords, long campaigned for the rights of women and against rape. In 2003, she led hundreds of female protesters through Monrovia to demand swift disarmament of fighters, who continued to prey on women, despite a peace deal that should have ended the 14-year civil war.

8 March International Women's Day in Norway

International Women's Day in Norway #5International Women’s Day (8 March) (Originally called International Working Women’s Day) is a global day and ranges from general celebration of respect and appreciation to a celebration for women’s economic, political and social achievements in past, present and future. The first International Women’s Day event was run in 1911, so this year is the 100 Anniversary.
In Norway we celebrate both by wishing all women a happy women’s day, and by a peaceful demonstration march through the centre of the city to congratulate the women on their progress and bring focus to current society issues involving women. I was at this event (explain why later : -) and gladly take you with (click pic to bigify & enjoy):
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Started as a Socialist political event, the holiday blended in the culture of many countries, primarily Eastern Europe, and the previous soviet countries. In many regions, the day lost its political flavour, and became simply an occasion for men to express appreciation for women. In other regions, however, the original political demonstrations regarding human rights and social awareness of women’s struggles are in focus.
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Norway has a good standard of living for women and strong social rights to promote equality. The Norwegian government is made up of approximately 50% women and 50% men. Women in Norway have 10 months fully paid maternity leave after the birth of a child, and in an attempt to encourage men to be more active in the home; men have four weeks of leave for the exclusive use of new fathers. If the father does not use his so-called father’s quota to be home with the baby for one month, the family loses their right to this portion of the leave period. After the special father’s quota was introduced in 1993, the percentage of new fathers who took paternity leave has increased from 45 to 70 per cent.

The establishment of a special Gender Equality Ombud has made Norway known throughout the world as a country that values gender equality. Norway, which was the first country in the world to have a Gender Equality Ombud which has the duty of enforcing the Gender Equality Act whose 20th anniversary, was celebrated in 1998.
Among other things this act requires equal representation for both sexes on public committees and boards. The rule was strengthened in 1988 with a “60 – 40 rule” for all committees with more than four members. In other words there should never be less than 40 per cent women on a public board or committee.
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So to celebrate this special day my crazy activist wife recruited the entire family to the demonstration march. As most of my regular readers know my wife works at the Oslo Women’s Shelter and is active in women’s issues.
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The shelter marched for awareness of domestic violence and carried signs: “Abuse of the mother, is abuse of the child” , “Break the silence”, “Violence against women is not a private matter!”, and “92 women killed by partner violence since 2000”. They marched together with a group called “Hvite Band” (White Ribbon) which is a men’s group and carried banners which say “Real men don’t hit.”
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Other issues represented were protests against pornography, protests against the use of prostitutes, International women injustice, and rights for women of minority background. So here is a salute to all the women out there. Where would we be without you??

Outdoor Recreation in Norway Winter Wonderland

Outdoor Recreation in Norway Winter Wonderland #20Norwegians love outdoor life associated with voluntary physical activity or use of leisure time outdoors in nature. With leisure means the air outside, and you should not be confused with English free or clean air, or even free of contamination. However, that’s what you get and it’s of course an important part of the recreational effect of a family trip out and about – even in winter times! Wouldn’t you do the same if you had the inviting scenery we had last weekend:
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Panorama photo from the Oslo Fjord just 20 minutes out of town at Sandvika in Bærum.

Treasuring the natural outdoors:
If you think of it: We humans lived outdoors long before we lived indoors, and we had to million years as hunters and gatherers. So we’ve developed a body and a mind that is predisposed to a life in and of nature. The last few thousand years however, we have developed a culture and a civilization that somehow looks like we can put ourselves above the rest of nature. To find peace and a new balance we need to interact with the old natural elements. My respectful contention is that these environments are vital to our health and peace of mind (click all pics to bigify & enjoy):
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Treasuring The ‘freedom to roam’:
Norwegians really enjoy the right to access and passage through uncultivated land in the countryside. The right is an old consuetudinary law called the “Allemannsrett” (lit. all men’s right), that was codified in 1957 with the implementation of the Outdoor Recreation Act. It’s based on respect for the countryside, and all visitors are expected to show consideration for farmers and landowners, as well as other users and the environment:
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Enjoying Outdoor’s natural playground with waffles & hot chocolate.

Ancient traces provide evidence of the freedom to roam in many European countries, suggesting such a freedom was once a common norm. This “right to roam” has survived in perhaps its purest form here in Scandinavia and a possible explanation as to why the right has survived mainly in these four countries is that feudalism and serfdom were not established here. In Norway the right has been won through practice over hundreds of years and it is not known when it changed from mere ‘common practice’ to become a commonly recognised right. Another factor is the survival of large areas of unenclosed forest and to ensure the ability to operate outdoor recreation, we determinately have set aside green spaces, parks, islands and outlying areas in fairly close proximity to urban areas, especially around the capital of Oslo. If you recall my saying: There is no such as bad weather, only bad clothes; winter, snow and ice is of course no obstacle, but rather takes the recreational effect to a new dimension:
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Outdoor Recreation in Winter Wonderland:
I shot a lot more photos with my Nokia N8 mobile phone on this hike by the Oslo Fjord – eager to share with my readers as always. Trying to capture the spirit and atmosphere and bring some of this fresh, crisp and free air home to you:

Now you have seen us exploring our natural environment. How do you interact with your natural environment? Maybe you don’t have snow or skiing, but every place has its own unique beauty. Share with us in the comments.

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 ; -)