The holiday season is upon us. A time when family traditions come to life. Customs and beliefs are passed down from one generation to the next and celebrated each year. In our home, the traditions of Scandinavia are most evident. Today, I share with you our Scandinavian holiday traditions. Perhaps you will wish to add a few new traditions to your own.
- The Advent calendar is common in Norwegian homes during the holiday season. Typically, these calendars give you a tasty chocolate surprise for each 24 days leading up to Christmas. In our home, rather than a confection, the doors conceal a little note on which a favorite holiday activity is noted. To create our customized Advent Calendar, I used simple Advent Action Cards designed by Ali Edwards. The activity noted on the card can be simple (read a favorite holiday children’s book) or more elaborate (take a drive to enjoy the holiday lights). This takes a little pre-planning as the notes are coordinated with our calendar in advance.
- Christmas cookies are a must-have for any Christmas celebration and baking them at home is a great way to bring the family together. Some of the popular cookies in Norway that you can try your hand at are: pepperkaker or gingerbread, krumkaker (waffle cookie curved in a cone shape), sandkake or sand cakes that are simple short cake baked in molds and filled with jelly, and fattigmann (poor man), a recipe that dates backs to over 100 years ago.
- Another annual tradition in many Scandinavian homes (at least in the United States) is to make Lefse. My mother and my grandmother before her would make lefse every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We now continue this tradition on our own as well as with our extended, lodge family.
- It is quite common in Norway to get your julestrømper – Christmas stockings on Christmas Eve morning. The stockings are packed with candy and small toys. Children like to enjoy them while watching the traditional Christmas movies and TV shows played for the holiday season. The entire day is spent with the family getting ready for the Christmas Eve meal and relaxing at home with the family.
- In Scandinavia, hand-made ornaments are traditional and our family tree is adorned in a similar style with paper flag garlands, straw ornaments, crocheted snowflakes, and woven paper hearts. The woven heart baskets are a great project for all ages and a great decoration for the tree.
- Try mixing up your Christmas meal with a different recipe. Different parts of Norway indulge in their own traditional Christmas Eve meal. In Østlandet (Eastern Norway) it is common to have ribs and pork sausages with potatoes. In Vestlandet (Western Norway) pinnkjøtt lamb with rutabagas and potatoes are the dishes of choice. While in Nord Norge (Northern Norway) lutefisk, peas, bacon, and potatoes are prepared. Try mixing some of these foods into your holiday meal. A few years ago, I came upon an article in Sunset magazine, Christmas in the Rockies, have since began to adapt many of these recipes for our own tastes.
- Follow up your Christmas meal with a delicious, traditional dessert! The popular riskrem (rice pudding) is eaten in almost every Norwegian home on Christmas Eve for dessert. The simple yet tasty dessert contains rice, in almost pudding like texture with cream or milk and sugar added. Top it off with raspberry sauce and it is ready to eat. Try it the Norwegian way by hiding an almond in the recipe before dishing out each serving. Whoever uncovers the almond in their rice pudding wins a marzipan pig, another popular holiday treat in Norway.