By SRO Kjell Michelsen
Advent in Norway is the preparation period before Dec. 25, which starts four Sundays before Christmas. Every Sunday up until Christmas Day is commemorated by lighting a four-candle candelabra.
On the first Sunday of Advent, a Christmas star is also hung up in the living room window, symbolizing the star of Bethlehem. With the sun being gone behind the mountains in the month leading up to Christmas, the Advent star and other decorations help to light up those dark, arctic days and nights this time of the year.
December is also the month where many in Norway, and indeed, most of my childhood friends hold on to old Norwegian Christmas traditions. I have friends that right now are making homemade “Sylte,” which is the belly side of the pig, rubbed in with various spices and gelatin powder, rolled up skin-side out, then tied with twain, and slow cooked for a few hours, cooled overnight before it’s ready to eat. “Sylte” is usually eaten as a cold cut on a slice of homemade whole wheat bread topped with either strong mustard or pickled beetroots.
Another unique tradition is the baking of seven varieties of Christmas cookies. This is sadly a tradition which slowly over the years has given way to the store-bought versions, but many are still baking, maybe not all seven varieties but indeed a few, like pepper cookies, krumkake, and spritz-cookies.
Christmas parties are also a big thing in Norway. Companies will often rent a whole restaurant or invite their employees to a weekend at a resort hotel where they will be “wined and dined,” as a thank you for the year that has been, the better the year, the bigger the party.
The Advent season is also the kick-off for the release of special Christmas editions of comic books. Most of them are Norwegian in origin, but many are also comics from the United States, like Donald Duck, Beetle Bailey, Blondie, The Katzenjammer Kids and many more. Every store sells them, and people will buy several and lay them out on the living room table where families sometimes in the evening will sit around with lit candles, Christmas music playing and read these comic books together in the days leading up to Christmas.
Until next time, be safe, be happy and be a good caretaker of your very own Christmas traditions.