It’s “jul” (Christmas) in Norway, a country known for its deeply rooted holiday traditions. The entire country seems to go quiet from 3pm on the 24th of December, when the long-sought-after julefred (Christmas peace) is finally supposed to settle in and last at least through annen juledag (second Christmas Day) on the 26th, if not all the way through nyttårsdag (New Year’s Day).
The stores close through the 26th and dramatically cut back their opening hours through December 31. Traffic dies down, and even public transportation shuts down for a few hours in the late afternoon and early evening on Christmas Eve.
At 5pm on the 24th, Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) airs the annual Christmas concert by the Oslo boys choir known as Sølvguttene, and that’s when julaften really begins in alle de tusen hjem (all the thousands of homes.)
Norwegians open their gifts on Christmas Eve, and meals are in accordance with regional preferences – most often juleribbe (pork ribs) in the eastern part of the country, pinnekjøtt (dried lamb ribs) in western Norway and torsk (poached codfish) along the south coast.
Christmas Day (første juledag) can seem almost anti-climactic, while annen juledag often features family luncheons or dinner parties. Norway’s state church also holds special services throughout jul, and they’re often packed on the 24th and 25th.
Norway doesn’t float holidays like some countries do, so there are no extra official days off this year, since December 25 is a Saturday and December 26 is a Sunday. It’s back to work on Monday for many although the vast majority of Norwegians save up some of their holiday to take during the period known as romjul, the days between Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Those of us at Views and News from Norway intend to take some time off ourselves during romjul, for the first time in more than a year. We’ll be back covering the news from Norway as usual from Monday January 3. In the meantime, we’d like to wish all our readers en fortsatt god jul (an ongoing merry Christmas) og godt nyttår (and a Happy New Year) and we hope you’ll keep clicking in during 2011.