Norwegian Christmas

Norwegian Christmas

How do the Norwegians celebrate Christmas? How is a Norwegian Christmas? Do you know some Norwegian Christmas Songs?
Well, Christmas in Norway is celebrated in many different ways, of course.

The main stream has Christmas tree, gifts, traditional Christmas dinner with Christmas beer and Aquavit to it.

Norwegians loves the time before Christmas, when the days are short and the daylight only makes short visits. Then we decorate every tree and shed in our gardens with lights and light chains, which makes it look cosy and warm in spite of the dark and coldness.

And then we have the cakes of course: One traditional Christmas cake is "krumkaker", and we have lots of other "småkaker" (small cakes) to the coffee, among other Christmas-this and Christmas-that.

That's how it is.

Smultringer / Donuts

Norwegian smultringer

Smultringer - always popular, and available all year, but has a special place in the heart of Norwegians in December. Photo: Alf Børjesson -


fattigmann Norwegian Christmas cake

The word "fattigmann" means "poor man", but this is absolutely no poor mans cookie.

The ingredients are more of the expencive kind, and the cakes are tasting excellent.

Photo: Alf Børjesson -

Christmas workshop: Photo: Odd Steinar Tøllefsen -

The Norwegian Christmas Celebration is in many ways extremely traditional.

We like to eat and to drink exactly the same as we are used to, during centuries. The Norwegian Christmas traditions are supposed to make us feel as we used to when we were children, and it's hard to make us change anything.

In schools and kindergardens, and in private homes, of course, there are Christmas workshops, where young and old are gathered making gifts and food for Christmas.

Norwegian Nisse family

This is a beautiful Christmas decoration in the local barn of the farm where we buy our Christmas tree. Exited children can enjoy the sheep, the ponys and the decorations, and get in the right mood for Christmas.

Food and statistics

making food for Christmas:

9 out of 10 Norwegians are having meat as their Christmas dinner. most from pork (58%). In western Norway, 7 out of 10 prefer salted, dry meat from sheep, a dish called "pinnekjøtt". In Northern Norway, 62% has pinnekjøtt as first choice.

58% said that the time with family and friends is the most important with Norwegian Christmas. Only 2% is saying that the Christmas gifts or the celebration of Jesus birth is the best Christmas is bringing.

96% of the population in Norway is celebrating Christmas. Source & photo:

How do we celebrate Christmas?

Many are surprised that the Norwegians celebrate the 24th as Christmas.

For most Norwegians, the 24th of December IS the real Christmas.

The 25th of December we call 1.juledag (first Christmas Day) and the 26th is 2.juledag. Both days are holidays in Norway, and most people are not working on the 24th either.

This year, the schools are having their Christmas holiday from the 19th of December, and start again on January 5.

Some goes to church in the afternoon on Christmas Eve the 24th, and some on the December 25. For many people the Christmas is just not Christmas without the traditional visit to the local church.

Over the whole country there is a tradition of lightening candles on the family graves on Christmas Eve, and for many people this is the only day of the year that they actually go to church.


Norwegian krumkaker for Christmas

Everybody loves krumkaker. As they are, or filled with sweet cream. Photo: Synnøve Dreyer -

Norwegian cookie marvpostei

Melting in your mouth, and with a nice cup of coffee ..... A must! Photo: Astrid Hals -

Lille Julaften (Little Christmas Eve)

Norwegian Christmas tree

The last week before Christmas, people are buying their Christmas tree. Personally we take our tree into the house on December 22., and we decorate it in the evening of the 23., which we call Lillejulaften (little Christmas Eve).

When the decoration is finished, we put all the gifts under the tree.

This evening we get the first taste the Christmas food of the year. Norwegian spekemat is a winner, like the ”fenalår” that is a leg of mutton, salted and then dried.

And maybe even a taste of the ”Juleøl” (dark Norwegian Christmas beer) and the Aquavit.

Then we listen to traditional Christmas music, making the last prepair for the next day, finishing the last gifts, and just enjoy the evening.

Julaften (Christmas Eve)

Fiksdal Church on Christmas Eve

Next day is the 24th and Christmas Eve, or Julaften as we say in Norway.

Most homes have a quite normal start of the day, with an ordinary breakfast. The food might be more special than usual, as Norwegians has several food specialties for Christmas.

In the afternoon or early evening, many people goes to the churchyard to light candles on the family graves. Many churches are open for Christmas sermon, and lots of families has a tradition of visiting their local church this afternoon.

Late in the afternoon, at 17.00, all the Church bells in the whole country are ringing, and then it's Christmas and a relaxing peace over towns and places all over Norway.

Norwegian Pinnekjøtt: photo: Alf Børjesson -

At 17.00, when the church bells in Fiksdal Church has called for Christmas celebration, we have our traditional Christmas dinner, "pinnekjøtt".

Most people around where we live in the western coastal area have the same dish for dinner, the "pinnekjøtt", which is just amazing, and unlike anything else. For those of us who are used to it, Christmas is not Christmas without pinnekjøtt.

I hope to come back later with more information about the dish and the recipe. At 20.00 it's time for some coffe and dessert, and then it’s time to open the gifts.

When the children are small, this could be a noicy part of the celebration, but as they grow up, it’s more like a moment of calm and peace.

1. Juledag (First Christmas Day)

Christmas Lunch table: photo: Kim Holthe -

The next day is December 25., and what Norwegians would call 1. juledag, or "First Christmas Day".

Now we have what we call the "Julefrokost" (Christmas Breakfast), or "Julebrunch" what you can call a late breakfast, and a meal both breakfast and lunch.

The table is normally quite loaded on these occations. The best of what a Norwegian Christmas can offer, and food that is unlike what we eat the rest of the year.

I hope to come back later with more description of the food and the recipes.

Christmas party: Photo: Marit Svenningsen -

From my childhood I remember that this was The Family Day of the Year.

This day we were not allowed to visit our neighbours, or to leave the house to play with other children. This was the day for relaxing, listen to the music on the radio, and to play with our new toys.

I believe all these traditions are gone. For children today it's just like any other day, and maybe that's just as well?

Breast of Pork: photo: Marit Svenningsen -

Our family might have breast of pork (svineribbe) for dinner this day, but many people that has this for their Christmas Eve dinner, it's now time for fish.
On the 25th, dinner is often served in the middle of the day, in opposite to the Christmas Eve dinner that is an evening -, or late afternoon meal.

And for coffee we naturally serve our in-and-out cakes.

Norwegian Spekemat

spekemat: photo: Morten Brun -

Another strong Norwegian Christmas tradition is the "spekemat" (photo: Morten Brun - This is salted and dried meat from pork and sheep.

See more at Norwegian spekemat


flatbrød from Norway: Photo: Anna C. Hole -

And of course, with the "spekemat" we have to have old, traditional "flatbrød", and if possible: The homemade kind.

Flatbrød is also to be bought in the grocery shops, but there's nothing like the thin, homemade, baked by the old women that really know the art.

Christmas Desserts

Caramel pudding: photo by Alf Børjesson -

To many people, the dessert is another important issue when it comes to Christmas. Again: Tradition. Tradition. Tradition.

A winner at any Norwegian Christmas dinner party is the "karamellpudding" (see photo), one of the most common desserts all year in Norway. You can buy a mix-in-bag where you just add milk and boil it up, before you put it to chill, but most of us definately preffere the "home made" kind.

cloudberrys: Photo: Kim Holthe -

From Cloudberry and whipped cream, we get what Norwegians know as "multekrem".

This is a traditional Christmas dessert, and loved by lots of people.

We will be back with more, and hope to bring you some recipes and more photos

You can also take a look at our recipes in the "Norwegian Food" pages.

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Christmas Songs

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Norwegian Traditionals

Here are some photos to show you some of the most common Norwegian Christmas cookies, and in the old days, you should have at least 7 different types of them. We will come back later with recipes on these cookies, unfortunately not before this Christmas.

In the meantime, you can follow the links from the images to, and try to translate the recipes yourself.


Norwegian Christmas Cookies pepperkaker

No Norwegian Christmas without "pepperkaker", which means just "pepper cookies" or "pepper cakes". Both children and grown-ups loves these cookies, and this one we eat all through December. Photo: Astrid Hals -

Norwegian Christmas cookie, hjortetakk

An old tradition, but today it is not very common. In the old days: One of the 7 musts. Photo: Astrid Hals -


Aquavit is very popular in Norway when eating Ribbe and Pinnekjøtt.


Christmas Beer

All Norwegian breweries are producing their own "Christmas Beer". This is a darker beer than the ordinary "pilsener" that is the most common, and is brewed on traditional recipes to get the best beer to the Christmas food.


A must for any Norwegian Christmas Breakfast.


Christmas soda

"Julebrus" is also a Norwegian tradition, and is very popular among younger people.

Sparkling and fresh, and brewed for Christmas by most Norwegian breweries. The most common kinds are red, and the Julebrus season starts months before Christmas.