Spending Christmas in Norway: Julaften

You look at you adventskalender and oh my! It’s the day before Christmas!

Just like anywhere in the world, Norwegians also prepare a feast on the night before Christmas, inviting friends and family to come over, share good food and drinks, and exchange gifts. In the Philippines, we refer to this time as Noche Buena, and we stay up late until midnight to welcome the birth of Jesus. After attending the Dawn Mass, Filipinos share a lovely buffet not only with friends and family, but also with the neighbors, the postman, the security guards, and everyone who had been nice to them the whole year round. The common Christmas dishes you will find on the the table are lechon or roasted pork, chicken inasal (grilled chicken), barbecue, grilled fish, spaghetti or any long pasta, pancit (rice noodles), paella valenciana, cooked rice with a selection of yummy dishes like spring rolls, caldereta, afritada, mechado, menudo, and the like. And the dessert is always present! It can be cakes, gelatin, leche flan, maja blanca, fruit or buko salad, or buko pandan.

In Denmark, where I lived for more than two years, the Danes spend the Christmas Eve with foods like flæskesteg (roast pork with cracklings) with brown sauce, caramelized potatoes, and rødkål (red cabbage side dish). Desserts are usually æbleskiver (round pancakes with white confectioner’s sugar and jam), cakes, ris a la mande (rice pudding served with whipped cream and cherry sauce), and julekager (Christmas cookies) like pebernødder (gingerbread) and honningkager (honey cakes).

Now, let’s talk about Norway. 😉 It was very dark outside when we celebrated the Julaften, or the night before Christmas. It is my host family’s tradition to wear something nice, so the women were in dresses and the men in suits. Because there was no snow on that day this year, it was very dark outside. It seemed like we were the only people celebrating the Chrismas Eve in the area. haha

The table was beautifully set up, and the we began with opening some presents while drinking gløgg, a traditional Christmas beverage in Scandinavia. Gløgg is mulled wine typically served hot and with nuts and raisins. I love this spicy drink! Paired with pepperkaker (gingerbread), it is the perfect starter to a great Christmas night! Note: Here in Scandinavia, the people open the presents in front of the giver! It was a thrilling experience, but I am getting used to it little by little.

Gløgg, wine and pepperkaker
Gløgg, wine and pepperkaker
Gløgg
Gløgg

After the unwrapping of gifts, we had a delightful dinner of pinnekjøtt (salted, dried, smoked lamb ribs which are rehydrated and steamed), mashed vegetables, and potatoes. This is the typical Norwegian Christmas dish. We also had some Christmas sausages (lamb), which was okay for me, but less tasty than the regular sausage.

Pinnekjøtt
Pinnekjøtt

In some parts of Norway, they eat lutefisk (preserved fish), duck, or pork ribs on Christmas instead of the pinnekjøtt. I guess it depends on the accessibility of the dish? The dishes were paired with high quality wine, julebrus (soft drinks), and snaps.

After a little while, it’s time for dessert. We had ris a la mande, but here in Norway, it has a different name: riskrem. 😛 This rice porridge can also be served hot, and when it’s hot, they call it julegrøt. 😀

So, my mom and I were talking on Skype, and she asked me what we had for dessert. I told her: “We had rice.” And you can imagine her expression. hahaha

Julegrøt
Julegrøt
Spekemat, the perfect pair for the julegrøt
Spekemat, the perfect pair for the julegrøt

Desserts can also be cakes and cookies, pretty much the same as in Denmark. 🙂

It was very nice to experience the Julaften in Norway. The Norwegians are very warm and welcoming, and they try to be as interested as they can when listening to you. Very polite, if I may say. I was the only Asian on the table, but they tried not to make me feel like an outsider. Of course, there were dull moments, like standing by the kitchen because everyone was having a humoristic Norwegian conversation, but they were outweighed by the good moments and cheers.

Aside from that, Santa Claus (Julenissen) paid us a visit! The neighbor was very, very sweet to wear the costume and complete the children and the children-at-hearts’ Christmas experience! It was kind of solemn when he entered though. Everybody hushed, and so the children got a little bit scared of him.

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Santa literally brought many presents for the kids! Lucky Norwegian kiddos! 😉

The gathering ended at midnight, with some of the adults staying up later. I went to bed with a smile on my face for the wonderful experience. I say, one should go to a Norwegian julaften when invited and don’t miss the chance. There was no singing around the Christmas tree, like in Denmark, but the people’s laughter and cheers played like music to me.

I also like the concept of the first, second, and third Christmas day (December 26, 27, 28 respectively). Those composed the “calm down” stage of Christmas, when Norwegians stay on the couch just having coffee, or go out for a little walk to breathe fresh air.

Next week, I will spend a day or two cross-country skiing! It will be my first skiing experience, and I have a positive feeling about it. 😉 So see you in my next post! God jul, belated Merry Christmas! Love lots! ❤

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16 thoughts on “Spending Christmas in Norway: Julaften

  1. Wow, no snow in Norway on Christmas Eve. That seems so odd. Was this only this year because of the global warming? Whenever I think of Scandinavia in winter, there is snow.

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  2. Christmas is definitely different anywhere! But the important part is that you celebrate it with joy in your heart. Nothing beats Christmas at home, though, but hey, at least you got to spend Christmas in a different way this year. Plus points for experience.

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  3. Any meal with high quality wine is exquisite. I don’t know how to pronounce those food but they all look good. It’s great that you had spent a lovely Christmas there and even met Santa Claus in person! Haha. 🙂

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  4. You must have missed Christmas in the Philippines but the spending Christmas in another country must also be a wonderful experience – the food, culture, and tradition. I’m excited to read about your cross-country skiing experience.

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