Christmas traditions in Norway

It’s a fact that Christmas doesn’t look the same in every country. The traditions are so diverse that it’s always interesting to figure out how the other countries celebrate the most wonderful time of the year.

City lights and parties

And norwegians really know how to do it… From mid November, the whole Norway get in the Christmas mood. The lights and the decorations come and make the streets look magical, as soon as the dark season sets in. Of course, at this time everyone join one (or even more) parties, at work, with friends… They are called julebord.

Even kids celebrate it at kindergarten and school, and these parties are called nissefest. There, Children usually dress as nisser or goblings and dance around the Christmas tree in little red suits, red-rosy cheeks and freckles.

Gingerbread cookies, delicious!


Advent means “coming” and it’s a preparation time until Christmas. A candelabra with four candles is used during this time. On the first Sunday of Advent (four Sundays before Christmas), the first candle is lit. And it goes on in each Advent Sunday. There is even a special song recited at the same time that candles are lit.

The first Sunday of Advent is when the lighting of Christmas tree takes place in the center square of every village, town and city. When the tree is lit, people hold hands and dance around the Christmas tree singing carols.

Advent candles

The most typical food in this time of the year, besides gingerbread cookies and mandarines, the risgrøt or rice porridge. It is made with boiling ground, crushed, or chopped grain in water and/or milk. It is usually served hot in a bowl, with butter, cinnamon and sugar on the top. It’s traditional to hide an almond in the porridge, and the person who find it will get a marzipan pig as present.

risgrot norsk
Rice porridge

Advent is also time for Christmas decorating in houses. The families get together to set the Christmas tree, make cards, cookies and decorations. Advent calendars are used to count down the days until Christmas (usually, the days are filled with chocolate).

St. Lucia Day

Lucia Dagen is celebrated on the 13th December in schools around Norway. A girl or a boy represents St. Lucia wearing a wreath of candles around the head. The children sing the St. Lucia hymn and they go on a precession though the classroom.

St. Lucia’s Day. Photo: Wikipedia


If we had to choose a word to describe Christmas time in Norway it would be koselig, wich means cozy or friendly. Walking on the streets and squares this time of the year, seeing the families sitting together around the table… It only can be described as koselig, right?

Christmas lights

On 23rd December the Little Christmas Eve takes place. The families finish decorating the houses, with a smell of hot chocolate, cinnamon and ginger everywhere.

Candles in the snow

On Christmas Eve, people go to work until 4pm, when the church bells start ringing throughout the city, which means Christmas has officially started. Then families get together to have dinner. What is there the most typical dish in any norwegian table this night? Probably, lutefisk. It is made from aged stockfish (air-dried whitefish) or dried/salted whitefish and lye. It is gelatinous in texture. Its name literally means “lye fish”.

People usually drink gløgg, a beverage usually made with red wine along with various mulling spices and raisins. It is served warm and may be alcoholic or non-alcoholic.

Photo: Wikipedia

At 11pm, almost every family sit in front of the tv to watch “Tre nøtter til Askepott”, Three Wishes for Cinderella. It’s a Czech movie whose dubbed version is played on the norwegian tv every year on Christmas Eve.

This night, Julenisse or Santa Claus comes to the house. It’s traditional to put a bowl of rice porridge outside so that he can eats something before continuing his long trip around the world. The whole family open presents, play games, sing carols and spend the rest of the night together.

Julenisse is coming to town!

The 25th December, families spend together Christmas Day. Churches have services and children usually play with their new toys and go out making angels in the snow.

Angels in the snow, Christmas Day’s entertainment

Christmas Day officially marks the first day of Christmas. Following are 20 days of Juletid (Christmas time) celebrations. So Christmas time in Norway is over on 13th January. Not bad, right?

While waiting for Christmas, enjoy this beautiful Norwegian song. God Jul!


Want to travel to Norway and experience a Norwegian winter? Book your hostel stay at

written by María de la Cruz Gutierrez


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