Norse History


Norway's Christmas history is based on the birth of Jesus combined with other heathen traditions. The season began as a celebration of the transition from dark to light, or winter to spring and summer. The heathen custom of drinking Yule, known in Norway as “Jul,” was moved to December 25, in honor of Jesus' birth. Over time, the custom was Christianized but the name “Jul” was retained.

Norwegian farm families used to slaughter their animals during the Christmas season because the meat was supposed to be better. The meat would last them until the next Christmas season. Once the butchering was finished, candles and soap were made from the fat, and the women prepared breads, sweets and beer for the holiday. The entire house was cleaned in and out, and the families made sure everything was in order before the celebrations began, going as far as providing food for wild birds and giving a little extra to the farm animals.

When it came time to celebrate, the barn door was marked with a cross to keep evil spirits away. Christmas dinner was a variety of foods but all of it was the finest, most delicious of the year. Everyone ate together, whether they were servants, families and friends. The food was left out until the next day in case the “little people” came by for some snacks. The family did not want to insult them.

Everyone would go to church on Christmas morning and then hurry home to spend Christmas Day socializing with friends and family. Groups of people would go from house to house, singing and entertaining in exchange for treats. The 13th Day of Christmas marked the end of the holidays. Everyone would eat all of the leftovers and drink more Yule.




Copyright 2003 Mary E. Bishop