Celebrating a Norwegian Christmas: Watch, Read, Listen, Do & Consume!

In Norway, the Christmas season is stretched over several weeks. It starts on the first Sunday of Advent, usually at the end of November. The Advent period lasts about four weeks until Christmas Eve. During Advent, a new candle is lit in a four-candle Advent wreath every Sunday. It’s a time of Christmas preparations – baking, decorating, shopping, and parties. On Christmas Eve, there are church services and families get together for the main Christmas meal. Presents are exchanged, and Julenissen may even visit and distribute presents. After Christmas Eve follows the period called “romjulen”, a quiet time until New Year’s Eve.

Would you like to experience a touch of Norwegian jul? Here are some ideas of what to watch, read, listen, do, and consume in these last few days of Advent and during romjulen that follows. God jul!

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Watch 👀

Home for Christmas (Netflix Original Series, 2 Seasons, 2020 & 2021)

A fun and atmospheric rom-com set in a Christmasy, winter wonderland in Norway! (It’s a bit raunchy at times, so beware if watching with young children.) Frustrated by all her friends being a part of couples and families and her family constantly commenting on her single status, Johanna rashly and falsely announces at a family dinner on the first Sunday of Advent that she has a boyfriend. Now she has to find one to introduce on Christmas Eve.

A Storm for Christmas (Netflix Limited Series Released Dec. 16, 2022)

I was hoping for a third season of Home for Christmas, but instead there’s a spin-off of sorts with this limited series. The main character and her father from Home for Christmas return but in totally different roles. The story takes place at the Oslo airport. Per Netflix’s description, “Destinies collide when extreme weather traps travelers and workers at an airport, forcing them to spend the final hours leading up to Christmas together.”

Three Wishes for Cinderella (Available through Amazon Prime Video)

Apparently, it’s a Christmas tradition for many Norwegians to watch the Norwegian dubbed version of the 1973 Czech movie Three Wishes for Cinderella. Last year, an updated Norwegian retelling was made by director Cecilie A. Mosli. The movie features spectacular shots of Norwegian winterscapes and architecture as well as glimpses of Norwegian culture. Consider putting it on your watch list!

Grevinnen og hovmesteren / Dinner for One (YouTube, Skit begins at 2:25)

This is a bizarre Norwegian tradition! Every year on Little Christmas Eve (Dec. 23) at 9:00 p.m., NRK, the Norwegian national TV station, shows this short black and white comedy skit (first released in 1963) about a butler and an elderly countess hosting a dinner for four imaginary guests. The link above includes an introduction in German. The skit begins at 2:25. “Same procedure as last year?” and “Same procedure as every year” are now common phrases in Norway.


Read 📚

There’s no better time to read books set during Christmas or winter than now. Below you’ll suggestions, and it wouldn’t be a Norwegian book list without some crime fiction as well.

For a list of Christmas books for families, visit my page Book List: Christmas in Scandinavia.

   

A Very Scandinavian Christmas: The Greatest Nordic Holiday Stories of All Time (2019)

From the publisher: This collection brings together the best Scandinavian holiday stories including classics by Hans Christian Andersen of Denmark; Nobel Prize winner Selma Lagerlöf, August Strindberg and Hjalmar Söderberg of Sweden; as well as the acclaimed contemporary Norwegian authors Karl Ove Knausgaard and National Book Award nominee Vigdis Hjorth. These Nordic tales―coming from the very region where so much of traditional Christmas imagery originates―convey a festive and contemplative spirit laden with lingonberries, elks, gnomes, Sami trolls, candles, gingerbread, and aquavit in abundance.

Berlin Poplars by Anne B. Ragde, translated from the Norwegian by James Anderson (First published in Norway in 2004)

Taken from the publisher: Aware of their 80-year-old mother’s failing health, three brothers reluctantly reunite over the winter holidays, where unexpected guests and the question of inheritance prompt the revealing of some bizarre, and devastating, truths.

Winter Stories by Ingvild H. Rishøi, translated from the Norwegian by Diane Oatley (First published in Norway in 2014)

I don’t often read short story collections, but at a virtual event with Norwegian authors, this particular author was mentioned as a must-read and I was drawn to the serene winter cover. It’s a collection of three long short stories, all of which take place during winter time in Norway and are about vulnerable people (a young single mother, an ex-convict, and a teenager) trying to do their best for the young children in their lives, but with difficulty. The author does a compelling job of exploring their struggles, and in every story there’s an unexpected stranger whose compassion makes a significant difference. A five-star read for me.

   

The Caveman (William Wisting Mystery) by Jørn Lier Horst, translated from the Norwegian by Anne Bruce (First published in Norway in 2013)

Jørn Lier Horst is my favorite Norwegian crime writer. The Caveman was the first of his that I read. Wisting is a likable and respectable police investigator who works in a smalltown, coastal community south of Oslo. His daughter Line, a journalist, is also a main character in this story. This installment takes place during the holiday season. Horst’s books usually tackle a greater social issue; this one reflects on forgotten and marginalized members of society. The Caveman won the the 2016 Petrona Award for the Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year.

The Snowman (Harry Hole #7) by Jo Nesbø, translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett (First published in Norway in 2007)

I had read the first Harry Hole book a few years ago and wasn’t a fan of him (a too damaged alcoholic with poor judgement), but I wanted to give the series another try since it’s such a popular one both at home and abroad. I’m glad I did; this book was a fun ride! I really enjoyed that it took place in Oslo (November with the first snow). Also, Harry Hole’s character was much more likable; he doesn’t drink in this installment and his skills as a detective really shine. In this story, Harry is on the hunt for a serial killer who’s been targeting married women with children and leaves a snowman behind as a calling card. It was very engaging and suspenseful with a satisfying resolution.

The Redeemer (Harry Hole #6) by Jo Nesbø, translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett (First published in Norway in 2005)

This Harry Hole installment is even more of a Christmas crime read, though it does venture outside of Norway. From the publisher: Shots ring out at a Salvation Army Christmas concert in Oslo, leaving one of the singers dead in the street. The trail will lead Harry Hole, Oslo’s best investigator and worst civil servant, deep into the darkest corners of the city and, eventually, to Croatia. An assassin forged in the war-torn region has been brought to Oslo to settle an old debt. As the police circle in, the killer becomes increasingly desperate and the danger mounts for Harry and his colleagues.


Eat & Drink 😋

Norwegian Christmas Cookies – Syv slag kaker

Christmas cookies are an important part of a Norwegian Christmas. The baking starts early and long standing tradition calls for syv slag, or seven varieties. The number seven was believed to bring luck and is an important religious number often symbolizing completion or perfection. The seven types are chosen based family preferences. Norwegian Christmas cookies all generally have the same basic ingredients (butter, flour, sugar, eggs) and are either baked, fried, or made with a special tool. My favorite type is krumkaker, a cone-shaped cookie made with a special flat iron. Berlinerkranser is another good one. This year I plan to try making serinakaker. Read more about Norway’s syv slag kaker at The Great Norwegian Christmas Cookie Extravaganza and 21 Norwegian Christmas Cookies for a Scandinavian Holiday.

Gløgg

Gløgg is a very popular warm beverage (may be alcoholic or non-alcoholic) served throughout the Christmas season. You’ll find it in homes, at parties, and out at Christmas markets. It’s usually made with red wine along with various mulling spices and served with raisins and almonds. You can make it from scratch or buy readymade gløgg (and potentially add your own wine or spirits) or you can buy mulling spices to add to your own seasonal beverage.

Risengrynsgrøt (Rice Porridge)

A popular food during Christmastime is risengrynsgrøt or rice porridge. It is served with butter, cinnamon, and sugar on top, and during Christmastime, it is traditional to hide a peeled almond in it. The person who finds it receives a marzipan pig as a prize (though my family is not a fan of marzipan so we have Norwegian chocolate as prizes instead). You can make it from scratch or buy a premade mix you heat up with milk.

For more inspiration related to eating and drinking, visit the websites of favorite Scandinavian food writers.


Do 👐

Listen to Norwegian Christmas music.

For me it’s not Christmas without my playlist of Christmas music which of course includes various Norwegian artists. Among my favorite songs are Kim Rysstad’s 2017 album Snøen laver ned (The snow is falling down) with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. I also enjoy songs from trumpeter Ole Edvard Antonsen’s 2010 Christmas album Desemberstemninger (December Moods). And finally, it’s not Christmas without some Sissel Kyrkjebø, Norway’s Queen of Christmas Music. Sissel has a new Christmas album out this season, Winter Morning. It was recorded in Utah with the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square.

Make heart baskets.

Paper heart baskets are popular not only in Norway but also in Denmark and Sweden. During Christmas time, they are used as decorations on trees or in garlands and may even hold candies and small treats. They can be simple and extremely complex. All you need is paper, scissors, and a little tape for the handle. Single color wrapping paper and construction paper work fine for this. See instructions here and watch this video to help with the weaving.

Go on a virtual visit to Oslo during Christmas time!

In the video Christmas in Oslo: Festive Highlights from Oslo, Norway, it’s early December 2022 and winter has arrived in Oslo, though not the snow that is currently there now (at time of publication). The days may be short and dark, but the city is bright with festive decorations. Consider also taking a walk through the Oslo Christmas Market. For more glimpses of Christmas time in Oslo, watch Visit Norway’s photo series, The Christmas Town, Oslo, which covers everything from Christmas markets to ski jumping.

Watch St. Lucia celebrations with Rick Steves on a visit to Drøbak and Oslo.

In Rick Steves’ European Christmas, Rick visits Drøbak and Oslo to explore the Scandinavian Christmas tradition of Santa Lucia (December 13). Candle-bearing Santa Lucias bring light to the middle of winter and the promise of the return of summer. To capture the celebration, he traveled to Drøbak where kindergarteners bring light and saffron buns to a senior home and to Oslo where the Norwegian Girls’ Choir perform by candlelight in Gamle Aker Kirke, a tiny, heavy-stone, Viking Age church in Oslo (skip to 14:43 for segment on Norway). For some background information on the celebration, visit Life in Norway’s The Scandinavian Santa Lucia Celebrations Explained.


Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season! God jul og godt nytt år!

Holiday Gift Ideas for Scandinavians at Heart

It’s that time of year again when we all welcome gift ideas for friends and family in our lives. Do you have some Scandinavian enthusiasts on your gift list? Here are some gift ideas that might be of interest. If books are on your gift list, read on to find out how to save on physical books at Amazon.

Recently Released Scandinavian Cookbooks

This year has seen the release of some notable Scandinavian cookbooks. Buy now and save $5 when you spend $20+ in physical books sold and shipped by Amazon by using code GIFTBOOK18 (expires Friday, December 21, 11:59 p.m. PT).

                  

Nevada Berg is an American transplant to Norway. She lives on a mountain farm with her Norwegian husband and son. She has a beautiful blog, North Wild Kitchen, that I follow and now the recently released cookbook North Wild Kitchen: Home Cooking from the Heart of Norway, which has been selected as one of the New York Times Best Cookbooks of Fall 2018.

Magnus Nilsson is a Swedish chef who is head chef at the famed restaurant Fäviken in Sweden. His 2015 documentary cookbook, The Nordic Cookbook, was very well received, and his newest cookbook, The Nordic Baking Book, is not to be missed. It contains 450 recipes for home bakers chosen from across the Nordic region — Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Faroe Islands, and Greenland. Watch Magnus Nilsson introduce The Nordic Baking Book.

                    

Rene Redzepi is a Danish chef and co-owner of the world renowned restaurant Noma in Copenhagen. David Zilber is the chef who runs the restaurant’s acclaimed fermentation lab. At Noma, named the world’s best restaurant four times, every dish includes some form of fermentation. Fermentation is one of the foundations behind Noma’s extraordinary flavor profiles. This cookbook has also been named one of the New York Times Best Cookbooks of Fall 2018.

Anyone who has ever been in Scandinavia in December will know that Scandinavians really love Christmas. From huddling up in candlelit snowed-in cottages to consuming gløgg at every opportunity, Christmas is peak-hygge season all over Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. Bronte Aurell of The ScandiKitchen Café in London shows how to celebrate Christmas Scandi-style by sharing her delicious recipes and family traditions.

Books & Reading

Books are always a wonderful gift. Are you looking for gifts for young kids, tweens, and teens? For books relating to Norwegian culture and history, take a look at my Book List: Norwegian History and Culture. Or see Book List: Christmas in Scandinavia for seasonal books the whole family will enjoy. But otherwise here are some suggestions for the adult readers in your life.

Limited time offer: Buy now and save $5 when you spend $20+ in physical books sold and shipped by Amazon by using code GIFTBOOK18 (expires Friday, December 21, 11:59 p.m. PT).

    

  

Household Items

   

Personal Gifts

Family Entertainment

                            

Music

 

This collection of solo piano music was inspired by the Scottish musician’s journey along Norway’s ancient pilgrimage route from Oslo to Trondheim. You can read more about the musician and his journey at The Norwegian American and sample his music.

Aurora is an up-and-coming singer-songwriter from Bergen, Norway. Her music is unique pop — emotional and dreamy. In the new year, she will perform in Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Denver, Minneapolis, Chicago, Toronto, Montreal, Toronto, Boston, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, and Washington DC.

Norwegian Pride

    

I hope you’ve found some gift ideas here. I’d love to hear if any of these make it to your friends and family. I wish you a wonderful holiday season!

Disclaimer: AVikingInLA is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. At no extra cost to you, you support my work. Thank you.

✨GIVEAWAY!✨ Tickets to Wardruna with Eivør in Los Angeles, Sept 14

Don’t miss this opportunity to experience a one-of-a-kind evening of Nordic music in Los Angeles. On Friday, September 14, Wardruna will be joined by Eivør for an evening like no other. They will be performing at The Theatre at Ace Hotel in Downtown LA. Enter my giveaway for a chance to win a pair of tickets to their concert! Keep reading for giveaway details.

Continue reading

September 2018 Los Angeles Culture Challenge: Much to offer for Scandinavian enthusiasts!

Just because the lazy days of summer are over doesn’t mean you can’t seize the opportunity to do something new! September offers many opportunities to enjoy some special multicultural events or explore new-to-you areas. And Scandinavian enthusiasts in particular are in for a treat.

One particular favorite LA event, CicLAvia, returns at the end of this month on Sunday, September 30. But this is not a regular CicLAvia event; it’s a special eight-mile street party to celebrate the LA Phil’s centennial season. The route goes between Walt Disney Concert Hall in Downtown LA and the Hollywood Bowl, and it will showcase LA’s creative spirit with 1800 musicians, artists, and dancers coming together to perform at the six hubs and along the route. It even includes a free concert at the Hollywood Bowl in the evening (concert details and ticket information here). Celebrate LA!: LA Phil 100 x CicLAvia looks to be an event not to be missed.

For Scandinavian enthusiasts, September has much to offer!

Not only are there two special Scandinavian festivals going on this month, but also Norwegian film, music, and an author are making their way to Los Angeles.

        

Neither of the two festivals are in the local Los Angeles area, but both could make for interesting excursions out of town. During the weekend of September 14 to 16, Solvang in Santa Barbara County celebrates its Danish heritage with the 82nd annual Solvang Danish Days festival. The following weekend, September 22 and 23, you can experience all things Viking and Scandinavian at the Vista Viking Festival in San Diego County.

      

Norwegian thriller “Revenge” by writer-director Kjersti Steinsbø opens August 31 and runs through September 6 at Laemmle Music Hall in Beverly Hills. Using a false identity, Rebekka sets out to confront the man with whom she shares a dark secret about the death of her sister. She must face the consequences of her actions and decide how far she will to go to seek revenge. It is in Norwegian with English subtitles. The LA Times says, “Come for the chills, stay for the view…

Wardruna, a Norwegian music group, is coming to The Theatre at Ace Hotel in Downtown LA on Friday, September 14. Their music has been featured in the History Channel series “Vikings.” Although Wardruna’s music shares characteristics with music typically labeled as folk, world, and/or ambient, none of these genres really describes their unique style. It truly must be experienced. And now’s your chance! Buy tickets here OR enter my giveaway for a pair of tickets!

Finally, Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgård will be in town to discuss My Struggle: Book 6the long awaited final book in the My Struggle series. He will make two appearances. The first one is Saturday, September 22, at Skylight Books in Los Feliz. The second one on Sunday, September 23, at Aratani Theatre of the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center in Downtown LA.

How will you explore the richness of Los Angeles this month? Continue reading

Little Norway is making a name for itself in the big world!

I love hearing news of Norway’s influence, or Scandinavia’s in general, out in the big world, especially in the U.S. and when it gets close to home here in Los Angeles. The winter Olympics is always a fun time to be Norwegian. Lately, though, Norway is making a name for itself in other areas as well. Whether it’s film, podcasts, books, music, or sports (besides skiing), there’s something for every Scandinavian enthusiast right now. Here’s a round-up of various Norwegian “sightings” outside of Norway and Scandinavia. How many are you already familiar with?

Film

Right now Angelenos can see The 12th Man, a film about Norwegian history by Norwegian director Harald Zwart. It has a limited engagement at Arena Cinelounge in Hollywood (released in the U.S. on May 4). It is a World War II-set thriller based on the true story of Jan Baalsrud, a Norwegian resistance fighter who was the only one of his 12-member group to escape the Nazis when their sabotage mission failed. The movie follows him as he tries to make his way to neutral Sweden through the Arctic landscape. The Los Angeles Times writes, “World War II-set Norwegian thriller ‘The 12th Man’ has the right stuff.” Catch it before it moves on… There’s even a book, Defiant Courage: A WWII Epic of Escape and Endurance by Astrid Karlsen Scott and Dr. Tore Haug, for those who are particularly curious about Jan Baalsrud’s experience.

Another movie to feature Norway is soon-to-be-released Mission: Impossible – Fallout. Norway’s iconic mountain plateau Preikestolen (The Pulpit Rock) in Western Norway is where Tom Cruise does a spectacular stunt. The movie opens in the U.S. on July 27. View the official trailer with a glimpse of the scene at Preikestolen. A hike to the top of Preikestolen is actually on my Norway bucket list so I’ll be eager to see this movie.

Netflix Series

The Rain isn’t a Norwegian creation but rather a Danish one. It’s a brand new original 8-episode Netflix series that was released May 4. It’s about two siblings who, six years after a brutal virus wipes out most of Scandinavia’s population, join a band of young survivors seeking safety and answers.

And just in case you aren’t aware, there’s a relatively new Norwegian series currently available on Netflix as well. Borderliner, released March 6, is about a police detective who covers up a murder case to protect his family, but then his partner suspects foul play. Newsweek writes, “New Netflix series ‘Borderliner’ is the perfect Scandinavian noir gateway drug.

Podcast

Also going on right now is the new podcast Death in Ice Valley. It explores the still unsolved mystery surrounding a female body found in Norway’s Isdalen (Ice Valley), near Bergen in Western Norway, in 1970. Producers hope to solve the mystery with the help of modern technology that wasn’t available back then and with input from listeners from around the world. There’s even a Facebook group where members can view and further discuss the evidence provided in each episode. The first episode was released April 15, and a new episode drops every Monday.

If true crime, cold cases, mystery, and intrigue are your thing, especially with a foreign touch, then this podcast may be of interest. I’m currently listening to it as the episodes drop and am curious to see how/if this case is resolved.

Authors & Books

Norwegian authors are also making a name for themselves outside of Norway.

Music

It’s been a busy time for Norwegian musicians abroad as well! Kygo, SigridAurora, and Alan Walker all played at Coachella Music Festival in April in Indio, California. Coachella was apparently one of the biggest crowds Kygo has ever played for. Kygo is now wrapping up his “Kids in Love Tour” in Canada and Northeastern U.S. After Coachella, Sigrid was a guest on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (watch appearance here). Kygo will be performing on The Tonight Show on May 14, and Aurora will be performing on Late Night with Seth Meyers on May 23.

Sports

Los Angeles’ Major League Soccer club LA Galaxy signed two Norwegian players for the 2018-19 season, Jørgen Skjelvik and Ola Kamara. The LA Galaxy also has Swede Zlatan Ibrahimovic, so Scandinavia is well represented.

And in case you’re not already aware, in honor of Norway’s Constitution Day (May 17) and the signing of its two Norwegian players, LA Galaxy will be hosting a special Norwegian Heritage Night at Stubhub Center in Carson on Friday, May 25. For more information on this event and how to buy tickets, please visit Los Angeles Culture Challenge: May 2018 (17th of May Celebrations & LA Galaxy Norwegian Heritage Night!).

Norway is also making a name for itself in boxing, female boxing to be precise, with Cecilia Brækhus (5 fast facts you need to know). Earlier this month in Carson, California, Brækhus not only continued her whole career win streak and defeated her opponent keeping her titles, but Brækhus’ match was also the first female boxing match to be aired on HBO in the cable network’s 45-year history of boxing coverage.

I hope you enjoyed this eclectic round-up of recent Norwegian sightings in the bigger world. If I missed anything, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Dark Shadows Premiere and After Party

When people think of Los Angeles, what comes to mind is often movie making and movie stars. Along with that comes premieres and after parties. During my time of living in LA, and due to the fact that I married into a movie-making family, I’ve had the fortunate opportunity to attend a few movie premieres, the most recent of which was Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows, and what an evening it was. Continue reading