Christmas In Norway

CHRISTMAS is a different experience for all of us, International Students especially. Most of us are away from our homes and parents properly for the first time in our lives, which is something that is particularly noticeable when Christmas is on its way, especially if you, like me, only go home twice a year and live on the other side of a large body of water.

My travels home this year will start at 11.30 am from the train station in Aber, and I won’t be in my house until around 1.30 am the following morning. Luckily, I enjoy travelling most of the time, but during the holiday rush and with a large, heavy suitcase filled with presents, it gets tedious.

The Norwegian holidays are not too different from those in Britain. I think one of the biggest differences is the actual presence of snow (although we usually don’t have that on Christmas Eve either; it usually falls later). We give out presents on Christmas Eve, not Christmas Day. We get together as a family, eat some rice pudding at my grandmother’s, sit around and watch TV for a couple of hours, have the Christmas Meal and then spend a couple of hours opening presents before going to bed.

Obviously, these traditions differ from family to family. Some families go to church every year and some don’t eat rice pudding. One of the traditions that happens across most of the country, however, is that of sitting down and watching the Czechoslovak-German version of Three Wishes for Cinderella on NRK, the Norwegian BBC. How this film has become such a part of our culture, I have no idea, but it has been shown at eleven o’clock every Christmas Eve since 1975, and I personally never miss it. There is just something about listening to Knut Risan’s dubbing of every character that shoots the holiday spirit like an arrow right through my heart.

The Christmas Meal is obviously a big deal as well. There are yearly debates in most social groups about what food is the right food, and everyone tends to have a very specific opinion. In my family, for example, we eat something called ‘Pinnekjøtt’, which is very salty and tasty lamb. Other families, however, eat pork ribs or turkey; some eat herring or salmon as well. The choice of Christmas meal is a very big deal to a lot of people and some families end up having both dishes or alternating year to year, as everyone wants to eat the same meal that their mother cooked for them. I’m lucky enough that both of my parents agree that the lamb is the one true dish, and I can’t imagine eating anything else at this time of year. When entered into a debate about this, I will fight for it tooth and nail. Never mind the fact that I have pretty much given up all kinds of meat since coming to Uni – this is personal!

Now we are near the advent of Christmas, I’m fervently planning Christmas meals, parties and presents before leaving Aber. Our house already has some decorations up and I find myself less annoyed by the early start of the shops in town. I’m wishing for snow and I pretend in my head that if I was back in Norway it would be white everywhere, but I know that it won’t be really. The Christmas spirit will arrive with or without the snow, but I will always need Cinderella.