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Christmas celebration in Norway is a true festival of lights, full of events, with preparations and traditions that last a whole season. White snow and decorations add to the magic.
The warmth from open fires. The sound of giggling children playing in the snow. And, of course, hand made gifts at numerous small and big Christmas fairs and markets.
In Norway the celebration and preparations for the holiday season begin early on, also with the baking of Christmas cookies (seven different kinds, at minimum), buying Christmas gifts and the significantly less fun act of cleaning houses and apartments.
And it says something about how the Norwegians stretch Christmas to a whole season, that in the city of Drøbak in Southern Norway, the popular Christmas House has already been open for visitors the whole year. Many other cities and places have imagined their own cosy events and fairs.
Christmas, called “jul” here, actually predates the christianisation of the country, and although we don’t know much about how the old heathens celebrated, we know that they used to sacrifice animals and drink beer. In other words, their rituals weren't totally different from ours.
Pre-Christmas is a time for socialising, and a lot of great restaurants serve you typical Norwegian Christmas dishes, often of local ingredients. The menus usually consist of ribbe (pork ribs), pinnekjøtt (lamb ribs), or in some parts of Norway; cod. In bakeries, go for Norwegian Christmas cookies like goro, krumkaker or berlinekrans, and in supermarkets, a fun do-it-yourself kit for building your own, miniature gingerbread house. Read more about the Norwegian cuisine
On Christmas Eve (December 24th) most Norwegians gather together for a traditional meal, and sometimes the "Julenisse" (Santa Claus) will pay them a visit.
Beside the many Christmas markets, a huge variety of Christmas concerts are held all over the country. Several hotels and restaurants keep their doors open for you, while some are closed from December 24th to the 26th.
The whole country is an ongoing huge festival of lights that keeps on shining a couple of weeks after New Year's Eve to preserve that fairy-tale spirit.
As in many European countries, most Norwegian towns and cities also offer Christmas fairs and markets.
Most decorate the streets with lights and garnish, and some take it even further. In Bergen for instance, kindergartens, schools, businesses and thousands of individuals have contributed to a gingerbread town every year since Christmas in 1991.
A visit to the wooden town of Røros will probably put you in the right mood, while Tregaarden's Christmas House in Drøbak is a Scandinavia's only permanent Christmas shop. Outside Oslo you'll find Hadeland Glassverk, where visitors can purchase handmade glass from local artisans.
Many dream of a white christmas, but have you ever dreamed of celebrating christmas while enjoying the spectacular northern lights?
In 2009, the Travel & Leisure Magazine voted Tromsø as one of the best places in the world to spend Christmas, not least due to the possibility of seeing the northern lights.
But chances are you will be able to see the lights in many destinations above the arctic circle, and maybe in Trøndelag too. Some cruise ships are known to offer northern lights-themed travels during the holiday season as well.
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