So you’re going on a Norwegian Christmas holiday? Great choice! Here are some of the questions you might have – along with the answers.
Inland is always more snowsure than the coast, but Oslo and the surrounding eastern and middle part of Norway often have a nice white coat at Christmas, in both cities and more rural areas. The same applies to Northern Norway.
But what to do with all that snow? Well, go skiing, of course!
Just pick a direction. Norway is such a cornucopia of riveting Christmas markets that you could probably survive most of December on a diet of nothing but gingerbread cookies and mulled wine.
If you’re having trouble choosing, you’d be well advised to look at our guide to the best Christmas markets in Norway. The places range from cities like Oslo, Bergen, Tromsø, and Haugesund to more picturesque locations like the 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.
Don’t worry – Norwegian law is pretty generous when it comes to breathless last-minute Christmas shopping. According to the law, 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”.
This gives you ample opportunity to shop for a freshly wrapped present you can stick under the tree in the nick of time. If you’re in Oslo, most stores, especially in the shopping centres, are open on Sundays in December. The same goes for Bergen and Trondheim.
On Christmas Eve, it’s important to remember that many stores close earlier than 4 PM. 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.
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 large selection of activities by browsing our event calendar.
If you’d rather relax and see a film, many cinemas are open for most of Christmas, with the exception of Christmas Eve. And no, the films are not dubbed – unless it’s animation, in which case you might want to avoid screenings marked with “norsk tale”.
Sure, but only if you’re a child. The Norwegian tradition of “julebukk” where you go from house to house asking for candy (sound familiar?) during Christmas wasn’t always so child-friendly, though.
The tradition is a Scandinavian custom that is centred around a person draped in furs, who holds a goat head ornament aloft on a long stick. Creepy in itself, and even more so 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.
This tradition mutated over the years, and today it’s mostly about small kids dressing up in Christmasy clothes and knocking on neighbours’ doors for sweets, usually in exchange for a Christmas carol.
Christmas, in general, is a bit of sponge holiday that has soaked up bits and pieces from various cultures and traditions. Throughout history, it has been a celebration of anything from the god Saturn to the winter solstice.
The Christian variant of the holiday was introduced gradually in Norway around the year 1,000. 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.
Although Christmas is a time of rest and relaxation for a lot of chefs and waitstaff, there are still plenty of places that will welcome diners, especially in the cities.
As for ordering traditional Norwegian Christmas food? You can’t go wrong with “ribbe” (pork ribs) or “pinnekjøtt” which is cured lamb cooked over twigs in a saucepan. There are plenty of other culinary traditions, too, as seen in this classic Christmas food test, courtesy of the US embassy here in Norway.
16 November– 30 December
(Closed 24 and 25 December)
Winter Wonderland in Spikersuppa, Oslo
The designers’ own Christmas market at DOGA, Oslo
30 November–1 December
Maihaugen’s Christmas market, Lillehammer
30 November–1 December and 7–8 December
Norsk Folkemuseum’s annual Christmas fair, Oslo
Christmas market in Røros
28 November–22 December
Bergen Christmas market
Christmas market in Trondheim
28 November–8 December
Christmas market Haugesund
1 November–22 December
Pre-Christmas fun in Henningsvær, Lofoten
Christmas market in Egersund
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Read up on everything Norwegians do and eat before and during the holiday season.
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