We did it…. we successfully celebrated our first traditional Norwegian Christmas. Weeks were spent leading up to this date researching what was involved to ensure it all goes smoothly. This is what we found out. Christmas Eve seems to be the main day, consisting of a light breakfast, church, a big festive late afternoon meal and then the opening of presents. Christmas Day is a day of rest, Starting with a big Norwegian breakfast, testing out the presents, then another big festive meal, followed by plenty of alcohol….. I think we may have made the alcohol bit up ourselves. Then comes Boxing Day…. after the food, chocolates, beers, red wines and aquavit, this is also a day of rest.
It was really important that we got everything right…. including the meal. So much so, that we were invited to a dry run of the Christmas dinner weeks before the event. This was hosted by a lovely couple known through Paul. The main menu for Christmas Eve was pinnekjøtt, this is grey salted inedible looking lamb that needs to be soaked in water then boiled on top of sticks in a big pan. Sounds awful but tastes lovely. Christmas Days meal was svineribbe…. which is basically pork ribs. This was my favourite. Each meal was a success, which is good because Paul always feels the need to ask any who has tasted his cooking to score it out of ten. I always give 10/10… its just easier.
So Christmas here was very different to previous years, this is down to a number of reasons. Firstly, it was our first Christmas without Sharnai and this was hard, but I was comforted by the fact that if we were to have served her grey lamb and surkål (similar to sauerkraut) she would have probably walked out anyway. Secondly, the change in routine made for a more relaxed Christmas and finally CHURCH….. yep, I attended church!!
Before moving here we lived in a small village surrounded by churches, some of the most picturesque churches I have ever seen. In the time we were there we never entered a single church, not even at Christmas. This was down to the fact that the village was also surrounded by pubs! Every Christmas we would contemplate going to church, but the lure of the local was too much to ignore. Here it is very different….. unfortunately there is no pub culture. We do not have little caverns nearby that we can drop into for a pint after a long walk. We do not have cosy welcoming huts filled with neighbourly people shouting “skål” while holding up tankards of ale and wearing bunad’s (traditional Norwegian dress) and clogs. Instead, I am surrounded by farmland dotted with sheep, houses and one big beautiful church. So because we have no pub to lead us into temptation we attended church : /
On entering I was surprised to see how popular it was. The magnificent structure was overflowing with smartly dressed people waiting to enjoy the service to kick start their Christmas festivities. Paul and I sat on the back row as to not bring attention to ourselves. I’m not sure why we did this but I have a vague memory of attending church in my late teens and a Pastor shouting out pointing to me “HAVE YOU LET GOD INTO YOUR HEART TODAY”? I remember panicking and answering in a very small voice “No not today”….. I then went home felt guilty and nearly joined a cult. So, after making ourselves comfortable in the warm welcoming house of God I was happy to see a brass band and choir up front. “Cool, that should mix things up a bit”, I thought. Then came the singing of the hymns. Paul, who can sing and also in his own words “can read Norwegian” joined in. I looked at Ben who seemed to have fallen asleep on my arm and started to feel the need to distract myself and pretend I was busy doing something else. I undid my laces…. then did them back up again, I searched in my pocket for a tissue that I didn’t need and I stroked Ben’s head as though he needed reassurance…. he was fast asleep at this point. All done so I wouldn’t have to sing a Norwegian hymn. Thankfully the hymn eventually came to an end and I relaxed a little. The priest said a few words, Paul and I looked at each other a few times and shrugged, he then must have said something funny because people laughed, so I laughed also. Then came the next hymn I decided to give this a shot until I got to a part that was written on the page as ‘og fred på jorda blant menneske som Gud har glede i.’ I started to wonder who Fred was. In my early teens my Mom came up with the idea, that to get us from under her feet she would send us to Sunday school. I hated it, but I was reassured by the certainty that if I attended every Sunday for ten weeks I would get a gift at the end. On the tenth week I skipped to Sunday school and sat with a huge grin on my face until my name was called to come up front. As I walked to the stage I noticed that the Pastor was holding a bible…. “shit” I thought. “thats my bloody present”. I was not impressed. I did however have a go at reading it and I do not remember it referring to a Fred.
After an amazing performance from a choir boy and the brass band the Priest said a few words and the service came to an end. We walked out into the afternoon damp air and made our way back home. As I walked I felt a surge of contentment. I’m not saying that I will be attending church every Sunday but with no pubs within walking distance this definitely came a close second to begin our Christmas celebrations!!