Yuletide and Christmas in Scandinavia calls for lots of food and celebrations. And no wonder we need a break and some hearty nourishment when we are in the middle of the coldest and darkest part of the year. Traditionally the return of the sun was celebrated with wild feasts in Norway long before Christianity came to this part of the world. 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 Clause. 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.
Let me start with one in the entrance to the house. On the stairs coming in you will meet the family Nisse, or Norwegian elf (click all pics to enlarge and enjoy!):
A Nisse is a mythical creature of Scandinavian folklore originating from Norse paganism. He were 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. Nisse is the common name in Norwegian, Danish and the Scanian dialect in southernmost Sweden.
Above is a group of mischievous bitty small Nisse which come from my great grandmother’s home. My mother now has these, and my sister has a few as well.
Sometimes we catch the Nisse climbing out of view, like this little fellow hanging from the old family clock from the 18hundreds! He was probably hiding a surprise for someone when they weren’t looking.
And then of course there is the food. My mother makes most of the dishes in the traditional way. The pork patties are made a couple weeks before Christmas and frozen until Christmas eve. The rib must be made from the good old recipe: salted and grilled in the oven, and the fat on top of the rib must be crisp – a very important part of the meal!! My sister prepared the salmon herself in a process which takes several days before it can be served. A lot of time and careful preparation goes into the food for this special brunch. Here is some of the dishes:
The sweets are also prepared at home. Marzipan is a necessity at Christmas time, and the marzipan balls are something we look forward to each year:
Another example is this special cookie-cake. The kransekake (literally ring cake ) is a traditional Norwegian and Danish dessert, usually eaten on special occasions such as weddings, baptisms, Yule, or New Year’s Eve. Kransekakes take the form of a series of concentric rings of cake, layered on top of each other in order to form a steep-sloped pyramid. It is made with almonds, sugar, and egg whites (marzipan). The ideal kransekake is hard to the touch, yet soft and chewy.
Kransekake – home made of course :-)
So now you have seen the Norwegian Santa Claus and your mouth is watering from all the delicious foods! I hope you have enjoyed learning about out Christmas, and I would love to hear from you about your own traditions at home. Have a continued good Yuletide, and a Happy New Year!
By the way: If you have been missing me a bit, I have a confession to make; My back is not doing so well lately so I have not been able to sit at the computer that much – the hardest is to type. However we are thinking of you, so please don’t feel neglected if I am not around as often to comment right now.