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Christmas celebration in Norway, or «Jul», is a true feast of lights, events, 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, handmade gifts at numerous small and big Christmas fairs and markets.

In Norway, the celebration and preparations for the holiday season begin early on, usually the last weekend in November, with the baking of Christmas cookies (seven different kinds, at a minimum), shopping for Christmas gifts, and going to at least one cheerful Christmas concert. 

A whole season of magic

And it says something about how the Norwegians stretch Christmas over a whole season, that in the city of Drøbak near Oslo, the popular Christmas House is open for visitors all year round. Many othercities and places start preparing for cosy events and fairs early on. Find the top Christmas destinations in Norway and check out 7 ways to experience the Norwegian Christmas Spirit.

Christmas, called “jul” in Norway, 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 typical Norwegian Christmas dishes, often with 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 “berlinerkrans”, and in supermarkets you can buy a fun do-it-yourself kit for building your own miniature gingerbread house.

On Christmas Eve (24 December) most Norwegians gather for a traditional meal and the opening of presents, and sometimes Father Christmas will pay them a visit.

All in all, the whole country is an ongoing huge festival of lightsthat keeps on shining for weeks after New Year’s Eve to preserve that fairy tale spirit.

Why Norwegians call Christmas «Jul»

In Norwegian, the term «jul» for the holiday season in December has its origins in the old Norse word «jól». This word was used to describe the midwinter celebration and the winter solstice in Norse culture. Similar words, like «Yule» exist in the English vocabulary as well, or «Joulu» in Finnish, «Jõulud» in Estonian, and «Julfest» in German.

The «jul» holiday included rituals like «juleblot», where offerings were made to the gods to ensure a bountiful harvest and protection during the cold winter months ahead. It was also a time for social gatherings, lavish feasts, and the exchange of gifts.

Over time, with the advent of Christianity, the old Norse customs gradually merged with Christian Christmas celebrations. Nevertheless, many of the ancient traditions and symbols have endured in modern Norwegian Christmas celebrations.

Therefore, when Norwegians celebrate «jul» today, they honor both Christian and ancient Norse traditions that have fused to create the unique Norwegian Christmas celebration we know today.

Active Christmas adventures

In addition to the many Christmas markets, there are a huge variety of Christmas concerts all over the country. Several hotels and restaurants keep their doors open, while some are closed from 24 to 26 December. And if you want tohit the slopes during your stay, pick a hotel in the mountains or near a ski resort, and enjoy all the things you can do in the snow.

Go Christmas shopping

As in many European countries, most Norwegian towns and cities also have Christmas fairs and markets.

Most decorate the streets with lights and garnish, and some take it even further. In Bergen kindergartens, schools, businesses, and thousands of individuals have contributed to a gingerbread town every year since the Christmas of 1991.

A visit to the wooden town of Røros will probably put you in the right mood, whilst Tregaarden’s Christmas House in Drøbak is Scandinavia’s only permanent Christmas shop. Not far from Oslo, you’ll find Hadeland Glassverk where you can purchase handmade glass from local artisans.

See what’s on during Christmas

Pick December dates to find concerts and fairs, as well restaurants with Christmas menus.

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