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How To Have a Nordic Christmas

Updated: Nov 21, 2023

Christmas is a time when we often think of Scandinavia with it's snowy scenes, vast forests and cosy attitude towards to the winter. Nordic designs, cosy knitwear and the style of living here is more often cherished in the colder months and especially around Christmas. We can all welcome some Nordic living into our lives at any time, although it's perhaps easier to gently introduce a Scandi style of living at Christmas.

Decorate some pepperkaker (gingerbread cookies)

Pepperkaker are a quintessentially Scandinavian Christmas cookie. They are not just gingerbread, but a mix of fragrant spices that always remind me of the winter months. Lots of people in Norway have a tradition of decorate pepperkaker for Christmas. Often kids will have little pepperkaker decorating parties and eat grøt (porridge) and drink gløgg (a spicy, fruity hot drink that can be non-alcoholic or alcoholic depending on your preference- and age!!)

Host a grøtfest

Grøt or porridge is a big thing here in Scandinavia at Christmas. The most popular is risgrøt (rice pudding) which is eaten warm, sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon and usually eaten outside with a a glass of red, fruity cordial around a warm fire. Julegrøt is a normal cosy and healthy food to enjoy in the colder months and is fun to share with friends and family. I am sure that they will never have had anything quite like, but I promise you that it's a tradition that will quickly become a winter favourite.

Go to a Christmas market

The Christmas market is something that has come to us all from Germany, but it has quickly taken a hold in Scandinavian, and some of the worlds best markets are in Nordic cities like Copenhagen and Oslo. Even so many small towns, villages and organisations host their own markets. It's magical to stroll around wooden stalls filled with beautiful handmade crafts and treats, breath in the warm smells of Christmas spices and take a chance to support smaller local business and individual craftsmen and artisans.

Get a real tree

Until very recently it was quite difficult to find an ariticial tree in Norway. Norwegians love a real tree at Christmas with the fresh smell of the forest and the feel of real pine needles. Artificial trees can be wonderfully realistic and if you aren't able to get a real tree or don't want to, why not bring a few pine sprigs or branches into your home. Even one sprig will release that beautiful fragrance and remind you that are living a Nordic life by brining a little piece of nature inside.

Christmas workshop Norway
Juleverkstad (Christmas workshops) are fun and creative. Photo courtesy of Kraftmuseum.no

Go to a juleverkstad (Christmas workshop)

Local organisations and museums in Scandinavia often host juleverksted around Christmas time where kids and adults can make traditional Nordic Christmas crafts. They could be anything from nisser making (Christmas gnomes) to baking. Why not host your own juleverksted? My family and I like to make cute pinecone crafts at Christmas time and drink some hot chocolate and eat cookies while we do it. It's become a special tradition of our's, but we also jump at the chance to go to a hosted juleverksted too as it's lovely to learn a new and special craft.

Norway winter
Fresh air and wide sky are good for the body and soul

Get outside

Need I say more! The whole concept of "Velvære" (wellbeing) in Scandinavia comes from getting out into nature and taking deep breaths of fresh air. With so much indulgence over the Christmas period we need to remember to take care of our wellbeing in other ways too and being out in nature is a wonderful and gentle way to freshen up our bodies and calm our minds.

Decorate with natural products

The Nordic style of decorating is very much in keeping with a natural understated look. Think wool, sewn decorations and décor made from pine cones, branches and anything that you can find outside. In the Nordic region we are surrounded by coniferous forests, moss and evergreens, but take a moment to look at your own surroundings. Is there something you can bring inside and craft into a beautiful piece of décor? Maybe an interestingly shaped branch that you can hang baubles from, a small plant you already have that can be decorated with some Nordic inspired ribbons, or take an evening do some papercrafts.

Christmas in Norway
Lille Julaften (23 December) is a time to clean and finish Christmas preparations

Enjoy Lille Julaften

Christmas in Norway especially starts earlier than Christmas Day. Lille Julaften is 23 December and is the start of festivities here. It's a time to relax and wind down and finish the final preparations before the big event. Traditionally this was a time to clean the house, washing walls, floors and even ceilings ready for the next day. These days it is more a time to relax and chill out, finish wrapping presents before delivering them to everyone and maybe stopping for a hot chocolate or coffee.

Make Christmas Eve the main event

In Scandinavia the main Christmas event takes place not on Christmas Day but on the evening of Christmas Eve. Families and extended families get together in the late afternoon for a celebratory meal of roast pork rib, lutefisk (a traditional cod dish) or pinnekjøtt (lamb). After dinner present giving takes place at a very relaxed pace and the evening doesn't usually end before 11pm.

And don't forget your nisse!!

I am sure that most people are familiar with the little Scandinavian Christmas gnomes that have become so popular recently. These nisser (as they are called in Norway) hold special significance here. It is said that they live in barns and outbuildings on farms and oversee the health and safety of the animals. Usually they are shy and gentle but if you upset them they can be very mischievous or even harm the animals. So on Christmas Eve we must remember to thank them for their work by giving them their favourite treat of grøt (porridge). The warm grøt should be served with a knob of butter (they especially love butter!) and left outside the barn for them.


How could we forget the famous Nordic julebukk!! The julebukk or Christmas goat is a traditional throughout the whole of Scandinavia. It dates back to pre-Christian times and the old goads when Thor was said to ride through the shy on a chariot drawn by two goats. In more modern times a goat was slaughtered for Christmas. Nowadays the julebukk is usually a Christmas decoration made of straw and either hung on the tree or stood next to it. The julebukk above is a bit bigger than you might want in your house and stands in our local town.

Have I inspired you to welcome some Nordic traditions into your life over Christmas? I strongly suspect that you already embrace some of them, if not all!

Why not join us in the Living a Nordic Life Facebook Group where we are talking all things Nordic..

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