Barnesklubb met yesterday afternoon and our activity centered around the Nisse of Norwegian folklore (also known as Tomten in Sweden). I began by briefly touching upon a few details about the characteristics of these “household spirits” who are believed to care for the prosperity of a farm. Typically, nisse are short dwarf-like men with long red stocking caps who reside in a barn. If you care for the resident nisse, leaving a bowl of rice porridge on Christmas Eve, the nisse will return the favor and look after things. If you disregard the nisse, he will cause troubles.
I then read aloud a story, Snippen’s Dilemma by Edna and Howard Hong. It is a cute story of a Nisse named Snippen who makes the decision to leave a farm where he is unwelcome in search of a farm where his life will be easier. Along the way, he encounters a little girl who is praying, “You understand, dear God, that we are glad our dear mother can be with you this Christmas. We know that for her it is the best Christmas ever. But down here, we miss her terribly. I’m little and inexperienced and can’t do the things the way dear Mother did them. The oatmeal is lumpy and little brother won’t eat it,” she prays. “Everything has gone wrong since Mother went to heaven.” Hearing this, Snippen grapples with the decision to continue on to the farm where life will be easy or to stay and help the little girl and her family. [Snippen’s Dilemma can be found in the book, Christmas Comes to Blueberry Corners: And Other Christmas Stories for Children]
After the story, I passed around the three little wooden nisse that I purchased while in Norway (pictured in front of the red tree above). I then demonstrated how to make a similar little nisse in polymer clay (like those surrounding the tree). The activity was a hit … even the adults got into it including a gentleman and his 18-month old daughter who also happened to be at the library. Sadly, I again failed to take photographs of the kids engaged in the activity. When will I remember!?
Sons of Norway has captured a little nisse magic in this month’s Viking by sharing the photography of Per Breiehagen. A native of Hallingdal, Norway, Breiehagen now lives in Minneapolis and has photographed his adorable daughter, Anja, as the model for his wonderful “Winter Magic” photo series. His photography is also featured in this month’s issue of Norwegians Worldwide magazine. I encourage you to check out these links … Per’s work is both stunning and heartwarmingly adorable.
I was happy to be able to give each family a copy of the current issue to take home with them. For additional ideas of integrating Norwegian traditions and learning more about the nisse, see My Little Norway’s post, Nisse Parties.