Christmas in Norway

Jul or jol ([jʉːɽ]) is the term used for the Christmas holiday season in Scandinavia and parts of Scotland. Originally, “jul” was the name of a month in the old Germanic calendar. The concept of “jul” was a period of time rather than a specific event prevailing in Scandinavia. In modern times, “Jul” is a general time stretching from mid-November to mid-January, with Christmas and the week up to New Year as the highlight. The modern English yule and yuletide derive from this term.

The term “Jul” is common throughout Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Greenland, Denmark, Scotland and the Faroe Islands.

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Whereas the start of “jul” proper is announced by the chiming of church bells throughout the country in the afternoon of 24 December, it is more accurate to describe the season as an eight-week event. It consists of five phases: Advent, Julaften, Romjul, Nyttår, and The End of Christmas, very often with Epiphany, the thirteenth day of Christmas, as the final day of the season. From the original beginning on Christmas Day, the custom of Julebord has spread to the entire season and beyond, often beginning well in advance of December.

The modern day celebration is largely based on the Church year and has retained several pre-Reformation and pre-Christian elements.

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The central event in Scandinavia is Christmas Eve (julaften), when the main Christmas meal is served and gifts are exchanged. This might be due to the old Germanic custom of counting time in nights, not days (e.g. “forthnight”), as it holds for other holidays like Midsummer Eve (Jonsok, lit. “Wake of St. John”) and St. Olavs Mass (Olsok, lit. “Wake of St. Olav”), with the main celebration on the eve of the official Church day.

Norse Roots

“Jul” or “Jol” are cognates of Norse “Jòlnir” or “Ýlir”, which are alternate names of Odin, although the root itself is debated. Jul was celebrated during the second moon (from new moon to new moon) of the winter half of the year – roughly from the new moon of November to the new moon of December. At this time, the animals for slaughter were the fattest, flour had been processed, all the work of autumn was completed, and it was time to celebrate.

The time of celebration has varied. According to written sources such as the legislation of Gulaþing, it was mandatory for farmers to have a beer drinking party with at least three farmers attending. If a farmer was so far away from his neighbours that this was difficult, he still had to brew as much beer as if he had been taking part of such a party. The beer should be ready by November 1.

Yule

The tradition of Yule Ale and “drinking Jul” is symbolized by a drinking horn on December 25 on the Runic calendar, with an upside-down drinking horn depicted on January 13, symbolizing that the ale should be finished by then.

By the wording of the legislation, there are two celebrations where beer drinking was mandatory. The first was a form of thanksgiving (where at least three farmers attended), while the second was a smaller party for the family.

The old tradition of brewing Yule ale and drinking in honor of the Æsir, friends and kinfolk also remained in the time following the Christianization, with the law demanding people to brew enough as well as strong enough, but people were now to drink in honor of Christ and the virgin Mary instead.

The figure of the mischievous but gift-bearing Norse nisse, a mythological creature associated with the Winter solstice in Scandinavian folklore, is a white-bearded, red-wearing ancestral spirit also known as Julenissen (Jul spirit), which has been integrated with the figure of Sinterklaas to comprise the modern-day figure of Santa Claus. Like the cookies traditionally left for “Santa Claus” today, it was customary to leave a bowl of rice porridge with butter for the Jul spirit, in gratitude.[6] The food represented a sacramental meal. Sacramental meals were formally called a blót—in this particular instance, yuleblót or winterblót.

Food

Culinary traditions vary regionally. In Northern and Western Norway, pinnekjøtt (ribs of mutton which are steamed, salted and dried, and some places also smoked) is a common dish, whereas Lutefisk and cod are popular in Southern Norway. In Eastern Norway, pork rib roast is common, usually served with medisterkaker and medisterpølser (dumplings and sausages made of minced pork meat). Turkey has recently made its way into the variety of cuisines enjoyed during Jul.

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Other traditional foods are eaten at Første Juledags Frokost, a Christmas Day luncheon where the household serves all available delicacies in a grand buffet. Families might serve several kinds of meat such as ham, fenalaar (ham of lamb), cooked cured leg of lamb, pickled pigs’ trotters, head cheese, mutton roll, pork roll, or ox tongue; and several kinds of fish such as smoked salmon, gravlax, rakfisk, and pickled herring. There will also be a range of cheeses and various types of jam. After the meal, tradition prescribes serving seven kinds of julebakst, pastries and coffee breads associated with the holiday. Gingerbread and gingerbread houses are commonly decorated with sugar frosting. In some instances, gingerbread cookies are used for decorating windows as well as the Christmas tree.

On Christmas Eve, many families eat risengrynsgrøt, a type of rice porridge that includes a single almond, scalded of its skin to leave it white. Whomever gets the almond wins a prize, usually a marzipan pig.

Brewing is closely associated with the preparations for jul, and most Norwegian breweries release a traditional Christmas beer, which is darker, stronger and more flavorful than the common Norwegian lagers. Breweries also produce a special soda, known as julebrus. Aquavit is also commonly served as a digestif to accompany the heavy, often fatty meals.

Julebukk

julebukk

“Julebukk,” a Norwegian noun, translates to “Yule Goat”. Today it is commonly known of as a goat figurine made out of straw, created in the beginning of December often used as a Christmas ornament. The Yule Goat’s oldest representation is that of Thorr’s magical Goats, which would lead him through the night sky. The Yule Goat was also a spirit that would protect the house during Yuletide and it was tradition to sacrifice a goat to the Gods and accompanying spirits during the time span between the Winter Solstice “Winter Night” and the New Year called “Romjul”. It was during Romul that a goat or Julebukk was sacrificed, adults then donned guises to personify the Julebukk. Animal masks and skins, commonly goats and horses were donned in an activity called “hoodening”. Participants would parade from house to house, disguising their voices, singing, offering spiritual protection and warnings. The group would receive small amounts of money, food and drink in exchange for the blessing they offered.

Text from Wikipedia

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Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Glögg

With background info, recipes, and where to find Scandinavia’s beloved holiday drink in the Bay Area.

Article by By Luke Tsai posted in East Bay Express, November 26 2014

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Many Christmases ago, a coworker with a vague Norwegian affiliation first poured me a steaming hot, boozy, sweet, crimson-red concoction so loaded with the fragrance of cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom, it was as though he’d emptied the contents of his winter spice cabinet into the mug.

Glögg_02It was glögg, the traditional mulled wine beverage that’s wildly popular throughout Scandinavia. But here in the Bay Area, glögg — pronounced, roughly, like “glug” — is still largely unknown.

Slowly, though, that’s starting to change, thanks in part to the efforts of a homesick Swede, a beloved Scandinavian specialty shop, and a restaurant looking to expand beyond its typically all-American cocktail selection.

Martin Geijer started his San Francisco-based company, Geijer Glögg, which produces a glögg liqueur, in large part because he was homesick for the stuff. Geijer explained that in his native Sweden, the drink is rooted in the winter season, when everyone is chilled to the bone. “It really is bloody cold,” he said. Alcohol makes you feel warmer — and all the better if it’s served hot and infused with comforting winter spices.

Glögg_05Here in the East Bay, throwing a glögg party can be as simple as picking up a bottle of pre-mixed glögg concentrate, and it should come as no surprise that Berkeley’s Nordic House (2709 San Pablo Ave.) — the Bay Area’s repository for all things Scandinavian — is the place to go. For $7.95, you can snag a bottle of Saturnus, a popular Swedish brand. To make a batch of glögg, pour the concentrate into a pot along with the cheapest bottle of dry red wine you have on hand. (Nordic House owner Pia Klausen favors a Gallo burgundy.) While this heats up, add raisins, almond slivers, and fresh orange peel. Serve the glögg hot, providing spoons for your guests so they can scoop up the raisins, which will plump as they cook, absorbing all of the sweet, boozy goodness.

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As an alternative to the bottled concentrate, Nordic House also carries a house-made glögg spice mix ($3.95) that consists of cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, orange peel, and raisins. You add that to two bottles’ worth of wine and let the mixture sit overnight. When you’re ready to heat it up, add sugar and, if you like, some blanched almonds at the very end. This method takes a bit more advance planning, but according to Klausen, it’s worth it — the spices won’t be as intense with the pre-bottled version.

Glögg_07If you’ve had glögg before, it was probably very similar to the kind that Klausen describes. But Martin Geijer’s family recipe, passed down to him by his father, involved infusing the traditional spices into a highly concentrated neutral spirit rather than the more typical red wine base. Starting last year, Geijer has enlisted Alameda’s St. George Spirits to distill a version of his family recipe. The result, Geiger Glögg, retails for $32 a bottle and is, according to Geijer, the world’s first glögg liqueur. (Apparently, in Sweden the tax code makes producing a non-wine-based product unfeasible from an economic standpoint.)

Glögg_06According to Geijer, the benefits of drinking glögg in this liqueur form are twofold: The spices are more prominent when there’s no wine flavor to cover them up, and, at 20 percent ABV, the liqueur packs a bigger punch than a traditional mulled wine.

You can heat it up in a pot or kettle, the same way you would a bottle of sake. But Geijer said the liqueur can be treated like any other spirit — served cold or at room temperature, either neat or mixed into a cocktail such as a Stockholm Sour: one part liqueur, one part bourbon, a half part fresh lemon juice, and a quarter part simple syrup, all mixed together in a cocktail shaker.

For more ambitious glögg-inspired cocktails, you might look to the handful of Bay Area restaurants that carry Geijer Glögg, including Hutch (2022 Telegraph Ave.), a Southern restaurant in Uptown Oakland whose bar program otherwise focuses almost exclusively on American whiskey. But owner David King explained that he was introduced to the pleasures of glögg when he was working as a chef in Copenhagen.

Glögg_08“Once it’s cold as it is in Denmark in December and January, it’s one of the best things you can put in your body,” King said.

King and his bar manager, Joshua Sexton, are hoping customers will warm up to a holiday cocktail that they recently added to the menu — a milk punch, served hot, that King said will be somewhat akin to a Brandy Alexander, which is traditionally made by mixing brandy, milk, crème de cacao, and spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg. In Hutch’s version, the glögg liqueur adds an extra boost of spice, resulting in something akin to a Christmas-y hot toddy — perfect for the holidays.

Glögg_03You probably want to know how the stuff tastes. I sampled a bottle of Geijer Glögg, and the first thing I noticed was the smell of cinnamon, which was potent enough that it wafted up through the unopened cap. The liqueur had a lovely golden-amber hue and, when I drank it, a honeyed sweetness followed by a spicy kick. The overall effect was not unlike a boozy distillation of Big Red chewing gum.

When you heat the glögg up — in the office microwave, in my case — the intensity doubles or triples. By the second sip, there was a pronounced warmth in my belly. On a frigid (by Bay Area standards) winter evening, I could see myself going back for a second cup, and then a third.

Delfia Cake / Delfiakake

A classic Norwegian Christmas cake recipe from matprat.no136_delfiakake

Delfia cake is a Norwegian classic that undoubtedly belong to Christmas! The name comes from a special coconut fat product called “Delfiafett”. The cake has been baked for Christmas in this country at least since the thirties. I have delfia cake recipes in cookbooks from that era.

Delfia cake does not exactly fall into the category slimming products. Even the most ardent cake eaters stuff themselves usually with just one piece at a time.

When I was a kid, we always had delfia cake at Christmas and I thought it was horrible and it is not exactly among my Christmas cake favourites today either. But it is a Christmas cake, so the recipe deserves a place here among Christmas recipes.

000_recipe_eng_flagg Recipe in English  000_recipe_nor_flagg Oppskrift på norsk

Recipe posted at:
Tickle My Tastebuds Tuesday TuesdaysTable copyTreasure Box Tuesday_christmas

Reindeer Steak With Baked Red Cabbage & Parsnip Purée / Reinsdyrstek Med Ovnsbakt Rødkål & Pastinakkpuré

A classic Norwegian Christmas main course with
a contemporary twist from MatPrat
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For many Norwegian families, especially in the northern counties reindeer steak is their traditional Christmas dinner. Reindeer steak is almost ready spiced from nature with a delicious gamy taste. The traditional classic roast has been modernized in this recipe and is served with baked red cabbage and a velvety parsnip purée.

000_recipe_eng_flagg Recipe in English  000_recipe_nor_flagg Oppskrift på norsk

Recipe posted at:
TuesdaysTable copyhappy holiday link party

Christmas Porridge / Julegrøt

A traditional Norwegian Christmas recipe found in “Jul I Huset”
(Christmas In The House) published by Hjemmets Kokebok Klubb in 1984

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This kind of Christmas porridge has a long tradition in many families in Norway, but not as dinner, but lunch, on the 24th. And in that porridge many hide a peeled almond and the one that finds it in their porridge wins a prize. In my family as in many others that prize is a huge marzipan pig.

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I’ve chewed myself sick on a few of these up through the years – Ted
Winking smile

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See this and lots of other delicious recipes on:
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“Stick Meat” With Mashed Root Vegetables / Pinnekjøtt Med Rotmos

An ultra traditional Norwegian Christmas dinner recipe found at godt.no107_pinnekjøtt_post

A very happy Thanksgiving to all my American visitors

But here in Norway we do not celebrate Thanksgiving so I carry on with my Christmas Special with one of the two most popular Norwegian Christmas dinner dishes of all.

“Pinnekjøtt” (Lit: Stick Meat, see recipe) is the traditional Christmas dinner along the western coast of Norway. It is salted, sometimes cured and dried mutton or lamb ribs. Back when Norway was an agricultural country people ate what was close at hand. Transportation was costly and unpractical with fresh meat and at the west coast people were sheep farmers so they ate mutton. At the eastern part of the country where my Christmas traditions has it’s roots they eat pork ribs for Christmas as people there were pig farmers in the old days – Ted

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See this and lots of other delicious recipes on:
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Tomato Herring / Tomatsild

A recipe for a Norwegian Christmas time classics found on matprat.no

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Here is a recipe for a perfectly fabulous and tasty tomato herring. A classic among sandwich toppings and a flavorous part of most Norwegian Christmas time buffets. Perhaps a gift Idea?

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See this and lots of other delicious recipes on:
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