Traditions and Food

With the changing seasons being quite distinct in Norway, events throughout the year take on a special meaning. Each season brings its own festivities and Norwegians love a celebration!

There are special traditions for Christmas, Easter, National Day and Midsummer. Just like in the UK, birthdays, christenings and weddings are celebrated with parties and food. National costumes are often worn on these occasions.

Easter

Traditional church services are held on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday, but the Easter holiday also provides a welcome break for non-churchgoers. As it comes at the end of winter, many Norwegians take to the mountains to make the most of the end of the skiing season. The traditional Easter meal is roast lamb. Children are often allowed extra sweets, and ‘Easter marzipan’ has become a popular item in the shops.

National Day

Norway’s National Day is 17th May, the date when its first national constitution was signed in 1814. This date is now a public holiday and is celebrated widely across the whole country. Every town and village has a children's flag parade, usually with a marching band, and the whole town comes together for games and speeches, hot dogs and ice cream! Most people celebrate at parties in the afternoon or evening as well, where buffet tables offer salads, smoked salmon, cold cured meats and herring dishes, cream layer-cakes and eggedosis (egg yolks whipped with sugar). On 17th May, children are allowed endless ice-creams, hot-dogs and sweets and there is usually a lot of music and singing. Anyone who has a bunad – a national costume – is sure to wear it on this day.

Midsummer Night

This is celebrated on 23rd June, which is the Feast of St John (Sankt Hans). An ancient custom includes lighting huge bonfires to dance around, like those of Guy Fawkes Night in the UK. These fires are often lit by a lakeside or fjord, and people who have a boat of any kind decorate it with twigs and small flags and take to the water. Popular food served on this day includes all sorts of seafood and a smooth porridge made with soured cream and sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon, called rømmegrøt.

Christmas

Christmas in Norway is all about families, and especially children. Christmas Eve is the most important day of the celebration and many Norwegians go to church for a child-friendly family service. Even those who do not go to church regularly attend on this special occasion, and children are often allowed to sit around the altar. In the evening, most families carry on the old custom of linking hands to form a circle around the Christmas tree for carol singing. Unlike in the UK, Christmas presents are exchanged and opened on Christmas Eve.

On Christmas Day, the traditional dinner usually includes extended family and friends. In Norway, traditional Christmas food is either a cod dish called lutefisk with trimmings, spare ribs of lamb called pinnekjøtt, or a roast side of pork with crackling, called ribbe. Another dish served up at Christmas is risengrynsgrøt, a rice pudding sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon, with a blanched almond hidden in it. Whoever finds the almond wins a prize, just like finding the coin in a Christmas pudding! 

  


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Did You Know?

Although Lent is no longer observed in modern Norway, it is traditional for Norwegians to eat ‘Shrove Buns’ on the last Sunday before Lent (‘fastelavn’). These are sweet buns filled with jam and cream or almond paste. The UK has a near equivalent in the hot cross bun at Easter.