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Horse and sleigh at Røros
Horse and sleigh at Røros.
Photo: Thomas Rasmus Skaug - visitnorway.com
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So you're going on a Norwegian Christmas holiday? Great choice! Here are some of the questions you might have, along with the answers:

1. I'm dreaming of a white Christmas. Where can I find snow?

Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet recently published their national weather forecast for Christmas Eve. The short version:

Oslo and the surrounding eastern part of Norway will probably have a nice white coat come December 24th, in both cities and more rural areas. The same applies to Northern Norway, from Bodø and up.

Southern and Middle Norway are more of a gamble – you'll probably have to stay away from the coast and cities like Trondheim to have a shot at snow, while Bergen and the west coast in general will probably stay soggy.

If you'd like a thorough overview of snow depths for specific locations all over Norway, visit Yr.no. For snow reports focusing more on skiing, Skiinfo has got you covered.

2. All I'm craving is some hot cocoa, donuts and a chance to buy a pair of knitted wool gloves. Could you please point me in the direction of the nearest Christmas fair?

Bergen julemarked
Bergen julemarked.
Photo: Bergen Reiselivslag / Robin Strand - visitBergen.com

Just pick a direction. Norway is such a cornucopia of riveting Christmas fairs that you could probably survive most of December on a diet of nothing but free gingerbread cookies and mulled wine.

If you're having trouble choosing, you'd be well advised in having a look at this guide to the best Christmas fairs Norway has to offer. Right now, there are fairs going in places ranging from cities like Oslo, Bergen, Tromsø and Haugesund to more picturesque locations like the island fishing village of Henningsvær in Nordland.

At the fairs, you'll find a selection of anything from handcrafted products and delicacies to woodwork, gingerbread towns, ferris wheels, puppet shows and pastries. Be aware that most fairs close up shop before Christmas Eve, so make sure to plan your visit accordingly.

3. I forgot to buy Christmas presents - what now?

Photo: Nancy Bundt / Visitnorway.com

Don't worry - Norwegian law is pretty generous in instances of breathless last minute Christmas shopping. According to website Lovdata, stores can «stay open on the last three Sundays before Christmas Eve between 2 PM and 8 PM. On Christmas Eve, regular sales places are to close no later than 4 PM, and they shall remain closed on the first and second day of Christmas.»

For cities in particular, this equals ample opportunity to pop a freshly wrap present under the tree in the nick of time. If you're in Oslo, Visit Oslo is reporting that most stores, including malls like Oslo City and Storo Storsenter are open this Sunday. Visit Bergen has a great overview of open stores and malls both inside and outside the city centre, while Trondheim Torg Shopping Centre will be open until 7 PM this Sunday.

On Christmas Eve, it's important to remember that many stores do close earlier than their 4 PM deadline demands. While some stores in Oslo will close at 2 PM, Christmas comes even earlier (1 PM) for many of the stores in Bergen and Trondheim.

4. Staying indoors is not my thing. What can I get up to this Christmas?

Even though Norway does quiet down quite a bit during the holidays, our nights are not completely silent.

Whether you're in the mood for a Christmas party or a Christmas mass, you can find a great selection of activities by browsing the Visit Norway event calendar.

Sweaty Grimstad dance floors or cool winter hikes to Pulpit Rock – the choice is yours.

If you'd rather relax and take in a movie, movie theatres are open for most of Christmas, the exception being Christmas Eve. Although the site is in Norwegian, showtimes for most theatres can be found here, just pick your city of choice from the dropdown menu. And no, the films are not dubbed - unless it's animation, in which case you might want to avoid listings marked «norsk tale».

5. Or how about I go Yule goating instead?

Norsk Folkemuseum
Norsk Folkemuseum.
Photo: CH / visitnorway.com

Sure, but only if you're a kid. The Norwegian tradition of going from house to house asking for candy (sound familiar?) during Christmas wasn't always so child friendly, though.

The Yule goat tradition is a Scandinavian custom centered around a person draped in furs, with a goat head ornament helt aloft on a long stick. Creepy in itself, and even moreso when followed by a procession of people dressed in rags, symbolising the dead. The Yule goat would make mischief and demand snacks, while scaring all the children in the process.

Jeff the Nature Guy, of Billings Gazette, has a lot more to say on this topic:

This tradition mutated over the years, and today it's mostly about letting small kids dress up in Christmas-y clothes and knocking on neighbours' doors for sweets, perhaps in exchange for a song.

If you do decide to revive the old ways, have at it, but prepare to have some odd looks thrown your way:

6. For how long has Norway celebrated Christmas?

Gålå, Gudbrandsdalen
Gålå, Gudbrandsdalen.
Photo: Terje Rakke/Nordic Life - Visitnorway.com

Christmas in general is a bit of sponge holiday, soaking up bits and pieces from various cultures and traditions as it goes. Throughout history, it has been a celebration of anything from the god Saturn to winter solstice.

The Christian variant of the holiday was introduced gradually in Norway around year 1000. The Norse sacrificial feast jólablót (jól = jul, the Norwegian name for Christmas) coincided with the birthdate of Jesus on the 25th of December, a date that had already been moved from sometime earlier in the year to better match Roman holidays.

Our current Christmas tradition, as it is celebrated today with customs like Santa Claus and singing around the Christmas tree, did not take shape until the 1800s.

7. I'd like to dine out, are all the restaurants closed?

Photo: CH / Visitnorway.com

Not all of them. Although Christmas is a time of rest and relaxation for a lot of chefs and wait staff, there are still plenty of places that will welcome diners, especially in the cities.

For instance, Visit Oslo have compiled a comprehensive list of the opening hours of various Oslo eateries during the holidays.

You will find a similar list for Bergen here, and one for Tromsø here.

As for ordering traditional Norwegian Christmas food? You won't go wrong with pork ribs or pinnekjøtt (it means stick meat), the latter of which is cured lamb cooked over twigs in a saucepan. There are plenty of other culinary traditions, as seen in this classic Christmas food test, courtesy of the US embassy here in Norway:


Nordic Choice Hotels - a different hotel company

Thon Hotels - with fantastic breakfast

Hurtigruten -  "The World’s Most Beautiful Sea Voyage"

Widerøe - the largest regional airline in Scandinavia

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