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Photo: Jan Kåre Råfoss
Travel Trade

They turned the town hall into an Advent calendar

Kvinesdal’s local businesses were facing an untimely end. The solution they came up with is nothing short of amazing.


In 2006, the town Kvinesdal in Southern Norway was facing a big problem: The road.

It was the year that the E39 was set to open. When it did, it would be diverting much of the traffic the towns local businesses relied on.

“Our first thought was that all the shops were going bye-bye, that people were just going to drive right past us”, says Per Tore Bjerge, project head at Handelshuset Kvinesdal.

However, rather than accept their fate, Bjerge and other locals banded together to come up with a plan to save the town.

“In one meeting, there was this guy named Geir Nilsen. He counted the windows of the town hall and said ‘how about we turn the entire building into an Advent calendar?’”

Thus, Norway’s largest Advent calendar was born. Banners with numbers ranging from 1 to 24 were placed in the windows, and a local hero with American decoration skills in his blood (Kvinesdal has more inhabitants with American citizenships than any other place in Norway) was handed the job of lighting the town hall in a properly extravagant fashion.

They hung Christmas lights in the shape of snow crystals in every window, lighting one every day in the days leading up to Christmas Eve. In the stores, people were given loyalty cards that got stamped every day someone made a purchase, thereby acting as a ticket in the daily calendar raffle.

Ten years later, the local businesses have survived the new road and Bjerge has just been drawing the first raffle winners on the local radio station.

Though most of the prizes are donated by local stores, the one behind lid 24 of the calendar (drawn by the mayor) is a somewhat bigger one:

“A briefcase with one hundred thousand Norwegian kroner, cash.”

Or nearly 12,000 dollars, as Kvinesdal’s American populace might say. The prize used to be a car, but Bjerge says people worried too much about the costs of insurance and whether or not to keep their prize.

“So we figured a briefcase would be better.”

If you’re not the raffle type, there is still plenty to do in Kvinesdal should you want to drop by this Christmas.

Photo: Jan Kåre Råfoss

Apart from the town’s strong connections to the US (there is an American emgiration museum just a short walk from the town centre), it is well known for the surrounding nature with the long Fedafjord and valley stretching inland, surrounded by tall mountains – perfect for a snowy hike or a skiing trip.

According to Bjerge, the town itself is also a good place to calm down this Christmas.

“We’ve built a small Christmas village with wooden stalls, campfire cooking and Christmas trees arranged like a tiny forest. We serve mulled wine and waffles, and sell home knit wool caps and mittens. It’s a back-to-basic, good old fashioned type of Christmas”, he says.

“The holidays can often be a stressful time of year. In Kvinesdal, we want people to be able to leave the chaos behind, take a break and talk to one another.”

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