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Norwegian Christmas

To examine how other another culture celebrates Christmas.

by Jude Scrutton

Suitable for Key Stage 1


To examine how other another culture celebrates Christmas.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a flip chart or IWB.

  • Optional: Sand kager, a Norwegian biscuit (made by mixing 2 cups of butter and 2 cups of sugar, 4 cups of flour and 1 cup of chopped almonds. Press into a round, 7-inch sandwich tin, bake at 180° C or gas mark 5 until golden brown, and cut into squares).


  1. Ask children how they celebrate Christmas. Ask them when celebrations start and what they eat and do.

    Ask children what Christmas means to them.

    List all the religious things the children tell you and known Christmas religious traditions on a flip chart or IWB.

    Remind children of the actual meaning behind the festivals: that a baby boy called Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

  2. Discuss how the Santa Claus legend began:

    Saint Nicholas of Myra is the primary inspiration for the Christian figure of Santa Claus.

    He was a fourth-century Greek Christian, who was Bishop of Myra (now Demre) in Lycia, a province of present-day Turkey.

    Nicholas was famous for his generous gifts to the poor, in particular towards the three impoverished daughters of a pious Christian. He was very religious from an early age and devoted his life entirely to Christianity.

  3. Discuss how different people from different nation have their own ways of celebrating the birth of Jesus. Discuss how Australians generally have barbeques in 30- to 40-degree temperatures.

    We are now going to look at how Christmas is celebrated in Norway.
  4. Christmas in Norway begins with the St Lucia ceremony on 13 December.

    At the crack of dawn, the youngest daughter from each family puts on a white robe with a sash, and a crown made of evergreens and tall, lighted candles. The boys dress as star-boys in long, white shirts and pointed hats.

    The children wake their parents, and serve them coffee and Lucia buns (lussekatter). The custom honours the memory of an innocent Christian girl, Lucia, who was martyred for her beliefs at Syracuse, in Italy, in the fourth century.

    The St Lucia ceremony is a fairly recent tradition, and it represents a thanksgiving for the return of the sun.
  5. Norwegians usually have a Christmas tree, which is decorated with a variety of things, such as candles, apples, red hearts, cornets, straw ornaments, balls of glass and tinsel. At Christmas time, a Norwegian home is often filled with the scents from resin, hyacinths, red tulips, spices and tangerines.

    Some Norwegians believe in the traditional story of a little gnome or elf (fjøsnissen), who comes at Christmas time. He has to guard all the farm animals and he plays tricks if the children forget to put out a bowl of special rice porridge (risengrynsgrøt) for him in the barn or outdoors.
  6. On 23 December, Norwegians eat rice porridge (lillejulaften) with a special almond in it, which is believed to be magic. The one who finds the almond in their bowl gets a prize. Some people also eat the rice porridge for lunch on the 24th.
  7. On 24 December, many people go to church before gathering at home for a Christmas Eve dinner. The dinner can consist of a pork rib with a good crackling, ribbe, (served with ‘cabbage à la Norvégienne’, surkaal, potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, sprouts, prunes and brown sauce), salted and dried ribs of mutton, pinnekjoett, (served with potatoes, carrots and mashed swedes), or lye-treated codfish, lutefisk (served with potatoes, bacon and pea stew). For dessert, they may have rice blended with whipped cream, served with a red sauce; riskrem, caramel pudding, cherry mousse, or whipped cream blended with multer (orange berries found on the mountainside which look like raspberries).

    In the evening Santa Claus arrives with gifts. Often it is snowing. In the days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, children sometimes go from house to house in the afternoon asking for sweets, in a tradition called ‘Christmas buck’. It harks back to Viking times, when pagans worshipped Thor and his goat, but only a few children keep up the tradition today.
  8. On Christmas Day, many people have a big brunch at noon or dinner in the afternoon for friends and family. It can last for several hours, rather like an Italian family meal.
  9. Optional: Let children sample the sand kager you made. Beware of nut allergies!

Time for reflection

Lord, we wait for the coming of Christmas with feelings of joy and excitement.
And, at this special time, please be with all those families who are waiting for a new arrival,
as Mary and Joseph awaited the arrival of the baby Jesus.


Any Christmas song or hymn.

Publication date: December 2010   (Vol.12 No.12)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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