Political correctness hasn’t hit Norway quite as hard as the US, so I will take my chances wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, offered here with a few pictures from Tove Jansson’s “Trollvinter“, perhaps the most beautiful book ever written about winter, alienation and friendship. Incidentally, don’t confuse this wonderful book with the latter cartoon characters – it bears the same. relationship to those as A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh bears to Disney’s version.
In Norway, Christmas starts early – for us, at least, on December 23 with the traditional “julegrøt” – rice porridge. In the porridge, eaten with sugar, cinnamon and an “eye” of butter, goes a few almonds – and the one who finds the most almonds gets a prize.
Tomorrow, the 24th, is the big day, with a slow morning and, for the children, an even slower afternoon until (after church around 2pm) it is time for the big Christmas dinner. (Incidentally, I don’t go to church myself, so I have the house to myself and get to put on Swedish television with Disney’s Christmas – largely unchanged since the 1960s – prepare the potatoes and sample the wine until the family returns, which for me is the best possible start of Christmas.) After dinner, when the younger children are close to exploding from repressed anticipation, comes the unpacking of gifts – always done slowly, one gift after another – from under the Christmas tree. This takes a while, during which heaps of cakes, wine, and other goodies are consumed until everyone drifts off to sleep, to awake on Christmas morning to prepare for a late and very large breakfast.
Until then, not a word will be heard from here – may your Christmas be peaceful and quiet, the food delicious, the gastrointestinal apparatus in capital shape and the gifts well thought out (or, failing that, returnable.)