Most of the time, when you live abroad, Christmas is the moment you travel home to be with your family. This year, I have decided to stay in Norway. First of all, the ticket prices to fly back are totally crazy, and also, I really wanted to live a real norwegian Christmas with norwegian people. And I’m so lucky as having wonderful owners who consider me as a member of their family : they not only invited me to spend Christmas with them but also to cook all the typical dishes (you can find most of the recipes on this website). You want to know what a norwegian Christmas looks like, follow me….
After spending the week preparing the different dishes that we are going to enjoy during the 3 days of Christmas celebration (yes, here it’s the 24, the 25 and the 26), we have started the celebration the 23rd december evening by a unexpected tradition : watching on the tv a short german movie (but they speak in english) called “Diner for one” (and drinking mulled wine ^^). You can find it by following this link https://youtu.be/b1v4BYV-YvA.
It’s easy to understand and it’s quite funny. It only last 11 min so go have a look ! This is how my norwegian Christmas start, surprising and fun ! Let me tell you that I was eager to see what would come next !
December the 24th, Julaften in norwegian ( Christmas eve) is the most important day of the celebrations here. For lunch, we had what we call grøt ! So grøt, what is it ? I would say that it’s a kind of porridge, made with a special rice, milk and cream. When the rice is cooked and soft, you add cream and you serve it ! On the table, you will find sugar, cinnamon, butter and even raisins. And everybody adds what he wants.
Actually, I really enjoyed it even if it could seem weird for a french woman like me who will easily consider this dish as a dessert. But that’s what is the best in living abroad and discovering new cultures !There is a tradition for this dish on December the 24th : an almond (without its skin so totally white) is hidden in the dish, which must absolutely not be eaten by the one who has it in its plate but kept in the mouth until the end of the meal ! A bit like we do with the bean in the galette des rois. At the end of the meal, the one with the almond shows it and he has a small gift! This year it was me! A real kid! My first Norwegian Christmas and I win the “mandelgave”, understand the gift of almond! It was little chocolates, it’s always fun!
After, where one has to be strong, is that the Christmas meal is at 5pm! So we ate lunch around 12:30, and it’s still a heavy lunch and we get back to the table quickly for the Christmas meal that will be the Pinnekjøtt! For this occasion, we dress up, so it’s the moment where everybody retires in its flat to prepare to celebrate.
We were all around a beautiful table, we took out the silver cutlery and the beautiful dishes. The meal is spent around a pinnekjøtt (the recipe of which is on this site) served with potatoes and mashed rutabagas (it’s the tradition!) And frankly it’s not bad at all for a vegetable that is rather neglected in France. We obviously drink beer and aquavit (local brandy 42% …) and we raise our glasses and thank everyone for his presence, his help etc … Bente has a nice word for everyone of us and it was adorable. At the end of the meal, we go to the living room to eat the dessert which will be “Riscreme”. Understand the rest of the noon grøt in which we add some fresh cream with vanilla and sugar! The mixture stays in the fridge for a while before being served with a raspberry coulis.It’s good of course.It starts to be a lot of foods…and it is only 19h!
And one or two hours later, we got the treats …. namely various shortbreads, bites, truffles, caramel etc, etc …. and as I had made a chocolate bûche (french traditional christmas cake), we added it on the table of the living room … and while grabbing sweets each one better than the thers, we begin to open the presents! Because yes, in Norway, Santa Claus does not come during the night of 24th to 25th, but during the day of the 24 … and the gifts are all day long under the tree before they are opened at the end of the evening (a torture for a (big) French child!
The opening of the gifts is a little different from home, at least the way it used to take place in my family. Here, someone takes a package under the tree, a package that has been carefully labeled to find out who is offering to whom (I note it for next year ^^), gives it to the person concerned and we are all waiting to see what it is and to talk about it! And then we take the next gift! Having a big family, Bente and Vidar take care to put with the gift the label to be able to thank the good person for the good gift! It’s a very happy evening and we end up playing cards, drinking tea and tasting all the sweets …
And all that, without thinking a single moment at the tradition of December 25 which is the Christmas breakfast, Julfrokost! So clearly for a French like me, this meal has breakfast only that name! This is a real buffet, but only salty! So even if you drink coffee and tea, you’re far from a classic breakfast (at least French!). On the table is a huge deli platter (with lamb ham, ham and beef tongue … yes), beet salad, marinated herrings, different kinds of bread, a small cheese platter ( sooo great!), an omelette, smoked salmon, and a tuna spread brought by our friend (and neighbor) Anna, Portuguese, who has just popped in for this breakfast. Well then objectively, I’m not (yet) hungry. But hey, everything is so appetizing that I am easily tempted ( will has never been my strong!). It is important to eat herrings only at the end, because their taste, rather strong, would cover all other flavors. I am not a big fan of deli meats but, by dedication …, I tried everything! And I was not disappointed ! It’s obviously new flavors for me, apart from the tongue whose taste reminds me of the tongue that my grandmother used to cook when I was a kid but we ate hot. And everything goes well with the beetroot salad. Finally it is tea that has no place and I replace it with a local apple juice. Before tasting the herring …. well, on grilled bread, it is very good marinated herring! The sugar has calmed the acidity of the vinegar and with the tomato sauce, it is quite delicious. I do not think about buying any cans of it at the supermarket, but I’ll eat homemade with pleasure! While the talking goes on, we must already think to start the dish for the meal that will take place in 4 hours (oops, I should have gone slowly on cheese sandwiches ^^)
We will have another very traditional dish for Christmas here, it is Ribbe …understand ribs of pork … The important thing is the thickness of the fat that will grill in the oven and make a crust which, for all Norwegians, is the best part of Ribbe! This meat will be served with berries called here “tyttebær”, and that google translated by cranberries. They are just crushed with sugar and go perfectly with the meat (especially if you are, as I am, fond of the sweet / salty taste) In the meat dish, in addition to the pieces of Ribbe, there will be pieces of Christmas sausages (fatter than normal sausages … humm) and medisterkaker (which are kind of hot meat pies) .To accompany all this, in addition to the faithful potatoes, there will be some Julesurkål, understand cabbage and fermented red cabbage, it’s very sweet and really surprising as a taste, but it goes well with meat, but I’m not particularly fond of it, but try!
After the meal, we returned to the living room to discuss before taking the dessert. Well I admit that I gave up, unable to eat anything else. Norwegian 1 – French 0. Yet the dessert was “light” and with a fruit that we do not have at home, which looks like an unripe raspberry and grows here in the mountains (and is expensive because rare!). It’s called “multer”, what google translates as cloudberry (personally, never heard that word)
The dessert is just whipped cream with sugar (the base of a lot of desserts …) in which we add the fruits, we mix and it’s ready. So really no, I was not able to taste, not more than I was able to eat the treats that we took out for the rest of the evening. Fortunately, at Bente and Vidar, there is always tea !!
December 26 is also a holiday in Norway. Most of the time, it’s a day where we eat the leftovers of the days before with essentially a big breakfast. Then we crawl to the nearest couch and let us die quietly until evening.
That’s it ! My Christmas at the Vikings is over and I must say it was amazing. Amazing by the kindness of my hosts, by all the new flavors that I have been able to discover and taste, by lights everywhere, homemade knitted gifts for me, the feeling of being part of a (2nd) family. As you can see, the Norwegians eat a lot, a lot for the holidays. We forget for a few days fruits and vegetables and fat is the king! This is the holiday season, everyone will go back to a balanced and healthy sport life after a while. In Norway you will see very few obese people. They have a lifestyle much healthier than most french people (not to mention Americans’one). It also helps to hold the title of happiest!