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Our Nordic Friend the Fjøsnisse (Nordic Barn Gnome)

I expect you've seen lots of photos towards Christmas of little santa type creatures outside snowy barns in Norway. Maybe they are carrying a lantern, or sometimes they might be riding a pig. You might even have one of these little nisse or tomte in your house in the form of a Nordic santa.

But do you know the story of the fjøsnisse?

Let me tell you all about the fjøsnisse (fee-yus-niss-uh). Fjøsnisse or barn gnomes have been living around people for as long we can remember. Sometimes they are called gårdsnisse (farm gnomes), but these are slightly different. We don't usually see them because they are very secretive and like to keep to themselves. They live in the barn or outbuildings on almost every farm and the main reason for that (apart from their shy nature) is that they love animals. They love taking care of the animals and spend all year tending to them when you are not looking, making sure they are healthy and fit and keeping the barn and surroundings safe. Nisse are somtimes seen at half light, or at twilight and they look like a very old man dressed in grey with a long red hat and a long beard. They are not easy to spot because they are very small, no taller than a cat.

At Christmas it's time to let our secretive little friends know that we appreciate all their careful work throughout the year. They never ask for anything, but if we upset them they can be mischievous and even hurt the animals and we don't want that.

But the one thing they love, the thing they adore is julegrøt or Christmas porridge. This simple, nourishing and comforting porridge is what we in English call rice pudding. It's sweet and creamy and served nice and warm which is great if you live in a barn all the year. We sprinkle it generously with sugar and cinnamon and sometimes with a dollop of butter. Fjøsnisser love butter, so we always make sure that they get an extra helping. The bowl of hot porridge is left outside the barn door where we think they might be living so the fjøsnisse can see it, and then we leave them to it. You won't see the fjøsnisse take his porridge. they are quiet, but you will find the empty bowl the next day which means he's eaten it and enjoyed it and you don't need to worry anymore about upsetting him.

Tradition tells us that we should leave grøt out every Thursday for our nisse, but the most important day to do this is on Julaften evening, or the evening of Christmas Eve, when all the humans are celebrating and the fjøsnisse is looking out at us. Some more ancient traditions say that it should be left out on the solstice.

I think to be on the safe side I am going to leave porridge out on both the solstice and Julaften this year!!

Will you be leaving porridge out for your nisse this year? If you do you'll be joining 350,00 Norwegians who will be leaving porridge out too.

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