New Delhi, Dec.17 : The Embassy of Norway brought together most of the Christmas traditions for one early holiday celebration today, and with an Indian twist.
The staff made decorations for the tree, danced around the Christmas tree while singing the classic carols. Santa Claus made a surprise visit with an Indian twist; he arrived on cycle rickshaw and handed out sweets for everyone. Even without snow and cold, everyone experienced the true Christmas spirit. The temperature reminded us more of the Holy Land than Norway in December.
Christmas celebrations in Norway are based on the old traditions of celebrating the year end and the “return” of the sun light. Today, the holiday is a mix of a Christian message and old traditions of good food, family and friends.
In winter, daylight is scarce in Norway, in the south, only about six hours per day and the north is without sun for most of the winter months.
Christmas, therefore, is an important event to light up the dark months of Thule, way up north. Long before Norway was Christened, Scandinavians celebrated the pagan holiday Yule (Winter Solstice), as it meant days would start getting longer and the nights shorter.
The month of December is the time of Advent. It is a time of anticipation and preparation. Most people have “advent calendars” with a small gift or chocolate for every day from the 1st of December to the 24th. December is filled with activities such as Christmas concerts, making decorations and putting them up, work parties, special television programs, shopping for presents, baking of the seven special kinds of cookies and cakes, children’s Christmas school plays, preparing of food and some even make their own beer.
On December 13th, Scandinavians celebrate Saint Lucia’s Day, a light festival to chase away the darkness, where young girls and boys dressed in white with burning candles hand out sweet rolls made with saffron.
The 24th of December or Christmas Eve is the big day and the whole family is usually gathered, eating Christmas porridge, drinking glÃ¸gg (mulled wine), watching re-runs of Christmas movies for the 100th time and getting ready for the dinner.
The actual Christmas celebration starts at 5 p.m. when the church bells ring and Christmas is officially declared. Some attend church services at that time. Next, it is time for a big, festive dinner with lots of traditional kinds of food. Afterwards, there is a walk around the Christmas tree, singing Christmas songs, both old and new. Then everyone gets presents, which are kept under the tree. Some lucky children get a visit from Santa Claus who brings presents, as well. The important thing is to spend time together with family and friends.
The 25th and 26th are days usually spent visiting relatives and eating more food. Some children also dress up as Santa Claus’ helpers and go from house to house in their neighbourhood, singing Christmas carols for treats.
Christmas in Norway officially ends on January 13, when the families are supposed to dance around the tree and then throw it out (if it is not one of these modern trees made of plastic). (ANI)