Christmastime in Norway

Christmas Markets

Many Norwegians tend to love the Christmas season. In fact, they kick off the season in November actually, with Christmas markets. There are many Christmas markets that pop up all around Norway. At these markets, one can purchase all kinds of crafts, toys, and other goodies. Just be forewarned that the items at the markets are not cheap. One popular “market” is Pepperkakebyen in Bergen, where one can find the world’s largest gingerbread town. (Pepperkakebyen isn’t technically a market, but was listed among other markets).

Saint Lucy’s Day

On 13 December, many schools and kindergartens celebrate Luciadag (Saint Lucy’s Day). Saint Lucy was the Catholic Saint of Light. In Catholicism, she is believed to have brought food and aid to Christians that had been in hiding, and that she wore a wreath with candles on her head, in order to light the way, keeping her hands free to carry the food and supplies.

On Luciadag, young children sing as they parade through the schools, nursing homes, and hospitals, wearing white clothes, simple head wreaths, and holding candles. The girl at the front wears a white dress, and a head wreath with candles on it. It is common for people to eat lussekatter, which are saffron buns, for Luciadag.

(Parading through Oslo hospital on Luciadagen; Photo by Sven Goll) (Lussekatter)


Julebord translates into “Christmas table.” A julebord is a gathering of people, usually with coworkers, where lots of food is consumed and alcohol is usually imbibed. Some of the foods commonly served at a julebord include ribbe (pork ribs) with boiled potatoes; pinnekjøtt (lamb ribs); or fish (depending on where one lives).


Many Norwegians keep Christmas decorations simple, with such things as candles, wreaths, angels, hearts, star lights, etc. Homemade decorations are common. The colors used often are purple (during advent), white, silver, gold, and red. Many have some sort of advent countdown to Christmas, such as the adventsstake, which has 4 candles for each Sunday of advent.

Some Norwegians put red tape over their windows to make little squares (24 to represent each day of advent), and then put something in a square each day during advent. Candy advent calendars are also common but some have gift calendars.

(Red tape on the windows)

The Christmas tree is usually a real tree, which often gets decorated with tinsel, baubles, garland, and lights. The tree is generally topped off with a either a silver or gold star rather than an angel. For some families, the tree isn’t decorated until the 23rd (lille julaften or little Christmas Eve).

Christmas Eve & Day

Norwegians do a lot of baking, the closer it gets to Christmas. On lille julaften, many eat different cookies and cakes, krumkake and pepperkake being popular. These baked goods are sometimes eaten on Christmas Eve, at lunchtime.

(Krumkake) (Pepperkake)

Another popular thing to eat on either lille julaften or for lunch on Christmas Eve is risengrynsgrøt which contains a whole almond and whoever finds the whole almond in their bowl gets a marzipan pig.

Christmas Eve, or julaften, is the main day of celebration for Norwegians. Some Norwegians attend a Christmas service on the 24th, even if they aren’t religious. Dinner is usually around 5pm on the 24th, with many Norwegians eating ribbe, served with things like brussel sprouts, gravy, lingonberry jam, boiled white potatoes, red cabbage, apples, figs, prunes, and often with medisterkaker and /or julepølse as well. Meanwhile, others may choose to have pinnekjøtt, often served with brussel sprouts, almond potatoes, carrots, red cabbage, surkål, cauliflower, etc. Dessert is often riskrem (which is leftover rice porridge with whipped cream) and red sauce, or caramel pudding. Juleøl, aquavit and gløgg are common beverages but if one doesn’t drink alcohol, one can drink julebrus, which is a sweet soda, or non-alcoholic gløgg.

(ribbe with sides) (riskrem)

There are two types of “julenisse.” There is the “julenisse” that is essentially Santa Claus, with the red suit, black boots, white beard, and red hat, bearing gifts. This “julenisse” didn’t really become part of Norwegian traditions until end of the 1800s. Then there is a julenisse who is a barn elf (also called fjøsnisse). He lives in the barn and wears a long red hat and has a long white beard, but otherwise really bears no resemblance to “Santa Claus.” Some children still leave out porridge for this “julenisse,” on Christmas Eve, to keep him happy.

After dinner, it is common for Norwegians to sing and “dance” (more like walking) around the tree together. Once that is over, presents are then handed out, one at a time. If there are young children living in the home, sometimes an adult will dress up as Santa and deliver a few presents. Usually the opening of presents is a slow process, with only one person opening a gift at a time.

Christmas day (første juledag) is typically quiet for most. The 26th, which is andre juledag (“the second day of Christmas”), is when more formal lunches and visits with other family members take place. During the days following Christmas (romjul - 25 Dec to 30 Dec), some children dress up and knock on doors, singing songs, asking for cookies. This is called julebukk. In some locations, like Bergen, there is nyttårsbukk instead, which happens on New Year’s Eve. It’s not as common as it once was.



Norwegian English
Adventskalender (en) Advent calendar
Alv (en) Elf
Bånd (et) Ribbon
Engel (en) Angel
Frost (en) Frost
Gaveeske (en) Gift box
Girlander (en) Garland (typically paper)
Grantre (et) Spruce tree
Hatt (en) Hat
Is (en) Ice
Istapp (en) Icicle
Julebord (et) Christmas party
Juleferie (en) Christmas holiday
Julekalender (en) Christmas calendar
Julenissen “Santa Claus”
Julereisende Christmas travellers
Julestjerne (ei) Christmas star / Poinsettia
Juletre (et) Christmas tree
Kjelke (en) Sled / Toboggan
Kristtorn (en) Holly
Langrenn (et) Cross-country skiing competition
Lys (et) Lights
Misteltein (en) Mistletoe
Pepperkake (en) Gingerbread
Postkontor (et) Post office
Romjul Dec 25-30
Ski (en) Ski
Skiheis (en) Ski lift
Skøyte (ei) Ice skate (noun)
Slede (en) Sleigh
Snøball (en) Snowball
Snøbyge (ei) Flurry
Snøfonn (ei) Snowdrift
Snøplog Snow plow (en)
Snøskuffe (ei) Snow shovel
Stearinlys (et) Candles
Sukkerstang Candy cane
Tradisjon (en) Tradition
Ullgenser (en) Wool sweater
Varme (en) Warmth
Vinterferie (en) Winter holiday
Vott (en) Mitten
Akebakke (en) Hill intended for sledding
Andre juledag (en) Second Christmas day / Boxing Day (26 Dec)
Dombjelle (ei) Sleigh bells
Fjell (et) Mountain
Furutre (et) Pine tree
Genser (en) Sweater
Gløgg (en) Mulled wine
Hanske (en) Glove
Innpakningspapir (et) / Gavepapir (et) Wrapping paper
Isskrape (en) Ice scraper
Julaften (en) Christmas Eve
Juledag (en) Christmas day
Julegave (en) Christmas gift
Julekort (et) Christmas card
Julepynt (en) Christmas ornament
Julesang (en) Christmas carol
Julestrømpe (en) Christmas stocking
Kjeledress (en) Snowsuit
Krans (en) Wreath
Krybbe (en) Manger
Luciadag (en) Saint Lucy’s Day
Mandel (en) Almond
Peis (en) Fireplace
Planteskole (en) Tree / Plant nursery
Reinsdyr (et) Reindeer
Skjerf (et) Scarf
Skibakke (en) Ski slope
Skistav (en) Ski pole
Skøytebane (en) Ice skating rink
Snø (en) Snow
Snøballkrig (en) Snowball fight
Snøfnugg (et) Snowflake
Snømann (en) Snowman
Snøscooter (en) Snowmobile
Snøstorm (en) Blizzard
Støvel (en) Boot
Superundertøy (et) / ullundertøy (et) Thermal underwear
Ull (en) Wool
Varm sjokolade (en) Hot chocolate
Vinterdekk (et) Winter tire
Vintersolverv (et) Winter solstice
Ørevarmere (en) Ear muffs


Norwegian English
Avskyelig Abominable
Bratt Steep
Dyr Expensive
Forsiktig Careful / Cautious
Hyggelig Enjoyable / Pleasant / Nice
Lystig / Gledelig Joyful
Strålende Brilliant
Tung Heavy
Billig Cheap
Deilig Delightful / lovely / hot
Festlig Festive
Glatt Smooth
Lys Bright
Skinnende Shiny
Søt Sweet / cute


Norwegian English
Å ake To go sledding
Å danse To dance
Å dele To share
Å falle To fall
Å fryse To freeze
Å gå / stå på ski To ski
Å handle To shop
Å klinge To jingle
Å kose To cuddle
Å motta To receive
Å nyte To enjoy
Å overraske To surprise
Å sende post To mail
Å skinne To shine
Å snuble To stumble
Å synge To sing
Å besøke To visit
Å dekorere To decorate
Å dekke To cover
Å feire To celebrate
Å gi To give
Å havne i en ulykke To have an accident
Å hugge ned et tre To chop down a tree
Å kjøpe To buy
Å kysse To kiss
Å måke To shovel
Å omfavne To embrace
Å pakke inn gaver To wrap gifts
Å sette opp et tre To put up a tree
Å skli To slip
Å snø To snow
Å utveksle gaver To exchange gifts

Phrase: Gledelig Hanukkah

Happy Hanukkah

God jul og godt nytt år.

Merry Christmas and happy New Year.

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Christmas Markets in Norway

Luciadagen (på norsk)

Saint Lucy’s Day (Wiki)

Santa Lucia lights up winter gloom

The Tradition of Julebord in Norway

Norwegian Christmas Traditions

It’s All Jul: Norwegian Christmas Traditions

The Best (and Weirdest) Norwegian Christmas Traditions

Christmas Traditions in Norway

Julekalender (på norsk)

Norwegian Christmas🌟Traditions & Decorations (YouTube)

Norwegian Christmas Traditions (YouTube; på norsk og engelsk)

24 bits of Norwegian Christmas

Norwegian Christmas


Juletradisjoner i Norge: Julenissen

Lussekatter (recipe på norsk)

Exercise: Write a short paragraph about your family’s traditions in December; if you don’t celebrate a holiday in December, write about your favorite things during winter.