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Norwegian Christmas in the UK 2007

Norwegian Christmas in the UK

Norwegian Christmas celebrations are of course based on the same religious message as everywhere else in the world. Nevertheless, Norway also has some particular ways to celebrate, including some die-hard traditions that go back to pre-Christian times.

Norwegian Christmas fare still reflects age-old traditions at a latitude where fresh ingredients were rare in the middle of winter.  Meat and fish are often preserved in some way - cured, salted or smoked; vegetables were traditionally either dried or pickled, or long-keeping such as cabbage and root vegetables.

På låven sitter nissen med sin julegrøt - This popular Christmas tune describes how the nisse -  a strange mixture of Santa Claus and the gnome-like figure who protected farms - enjoys his porridge (julegrøt) left out for him in the barn. Woe betide the farmer's wife who omitted to do this, as the nisse would then show his displeasure by destroying crops or animals. Nowadays, this old tradition lives on in the rice porridge served up with sugar and cinnamon, and eaten by Norwegians on Christmas Eve. The person who finds the blanched almond in his or her porridge wins a marzipan pig.

In Norway, there is a great focus on children at Christmas time.  On Christmas Eve, the children are encouraged to sit around the altar for the church service. After church, the family gathers at home, where presents are opened and everyone links hands and walks around the tree, singing carols and Yuletide songs.  And where else are the children actually visited by Father Christmas on Christmas Eve and sing for him before he leaves his sack of presents?

One old tradition which is being revived is the habit of julebukk, a kind of trick-or-treat, where the children dress up in fancy costumes and knock on doors. They then have to perform a song or trick before being rewarded with sweets, cakes or biscuits.

Food

Many Norwegians and friends of Norway wish to observe Norwegian Christmas traditions even abroad.  For many, there is no Christmas without ‘ribbe’ or aquavit. But where can you buy these and other Norwegian delicacies in London? Here are a few pointers:

Norwegian ‘Ribbe’
(Middle Belly of Pork for ‘Norwegian Style Rib Roast’)
This is now available from the following butchers, who have been specially instructed by Norwegian customers, and will take orders for Christmas:

In West London:
Macken Brothers Family Butcher (ask for Rodney)
44 Turnham Green Terrace, Chiswick, London W4
Tel. 020 8994 2646
Tube: Turnham Green
“Excellent family butcher that has largely been unaffected by our endless meat scares by only selling meat whose history is known; so the beef is grass-fed Aberdeen Angus, lamb is Wales' best, and the pork and veal free-range...”  – Gourmet Britain Magazine

In East London:
John Charles the Village Butcher (ask for Dave or Ken)
12 Blackheath Village, Blackheath, London SE3
Tel. 020 8852 0470

How to prepare and serve your 'ribbe': See traditional recipe here.


Geitost
Nor can Norwegians survive without their beloved brown goat's cheese. Many prefer the "Ekte Geitost", or pure goat's milk cheese, which is quite sharp with a delightful 'goaty' flavour. It is available from the Norwegian Church, tel. 020 7740 3900.  Others prefer the milder version, which also contains cow's milk. It is exported from Norway under the name Ski Queen and is available from specialist cheesemongers and many supermarkets, e.g. Waitrose Belgravia, Harrods Food Halls, Selfridges.

Almond ring cakes (Kransekaker)
Mrs Aase Walker, tel. 020 8554 0763, takes private orders. The cakes cannot be sent by post but may be collected from the Norwegian church or by appointment from her home in Essex.
Prices: Whole cake, 18 rings: £25. Half cake, 9 rings: £15

Norwegian & Danish Aquavit (norsk og dansk akevit) may be bought at the following stores/off licences (check availability in advance):

  • Gerry’s Wines & Spirits
    74 Old Compton Street (Soho)
    Tel. 020 7734 2053
  • DMC
    3 Wansdown Place
    Fulham SW6 1DN
    Tel. 020 7385 1920
  • Fortnum & Mason
    Piccadilly, W1
  • Harrods Food Halls
    Brompton Road, SW5
  • Selfridges Food Halls
    Oxford Street, W1

Internet shops: Norwegian food can also be bought over the internet from www.norskmat.no. Norwegian household goods, gift articles and food from www.norwayabroad.com.




Photo: Thomas Skyum / IN

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Christmas in Norway focus a lot on childrenPhoto: Thomas Skyum / IN

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