Thursday, 20 November 2014

Christmas in Kristiansand

I am from Australia have lived in Norway for about 10 years. Every Christmas I think about home and the Christmas traditions we have there. We do it a little differently you could say....

Back in Oz, we celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December. Christmas eve is usually celebrated by going out on the town and having a few drinks with friends which meant that Christmas day, we were allowed to sleep in. Of course it is a bit different for couples with children, but I did not have any kids, so that is what me and the boys used to do.

Christmas in Australia is in the middle of the summer, so it is always hot. Shorts, flip flops and a shirt are standard dress attire that day.

Christmas Eve 2004 in Melbourne with friends (me on right)
At lunch time, I would go to my parents place and open the presents. After that we would eat a massive lunch which usually meant that I could barely walk afterwards. The lunch would be a barbeque with a variety of different meats - turkey, lamb, ham steaks, you name it. Desert was always Mum's fantastic chocolate cake, which I have been known to go a little overboard eating it....

Typical Christmas lunch at Mums
We were fortunate enough to have a pool, so a few laps would help work off the excess of food!
The rest of Christmas day was hanging around at their house and nibbling on the left overs.

My wife and I had our three children in Norway, so I never experienced a Christmas in Australia with kids. When we go home every other year as a family, we have large lunches with Mum and Dad which is pretty much what it would be like if we were there during Christmas. Mum always has presents for them, so I guess it is a kind of Christmas for them anyway. We usually go home in the summer months.

One of my boys on the beach in Queensland during the Norwegian winter
My first Christmas in Kristiansand was a bit of a shock I have to say. The Norwegians celebrate it on the 24th and 25th and sometimes the 26th. WOW, that is a lot of celebrating! The Norwegians also have a funny tradition of sending Christmas cards that are pictures of their family. I have never seen that before, but it is a nice thing and now we also do it. Actually we try and make funny ones each year by doing silly things.

This was an attempt at a "funny" Christmas card picture.. 
For the past 10 years, we have had Christmas Eve at home with the kids. My wife usually cooks a roast and we let them open one present that day. The following day it is a massive dinner at her parents' house which requires two large dining tables. Her mother has 13 grandchildren and 12 of them are boys, the 13th one is a girl that was adopted from Columbia. Well, at least she got a girl in the end...

We put all of the Christmas presents under the tree. THE TREE, now that is a story in itself. Every year it is a bit of a mission. Her parents live on a beautiful farm with a lush forest full of pine trees. So each year we walk through the forest to find the perfect tree. I am the impatient one that is satisfied with almost any pine tree, but my wife likes it perfect. We usually disagree on which one to cut down and in the end she gets her way. Her parents have exactly the same "discussion" when they go tree hunting, so I am glad we weren't the only ones!

I love the smell of pine in the house and always have. In Australia we also had a real tree most years but sometimes it was a plastic one. I really enjoyed the real pine trees and the smell takes me back to my youth every time.

Another attempt at a funny Christmas card
I do think that Christmas here in Norway is a little like torture for kids because they see all of the presents under the tree but cannot open them until after dinner! Half the dinner they sit there staring at the tree and usually they do not eat very much. By the time they start to open the presents, they literally rip open the wrapping paper. A bit like a man lost in the desert who finally finds water. I guess that is a pretty good comparison.

Another tradition her family has, is for one family member to dress up as Santa. They have used the same outfit for probably 60 years. Well, it looks like that anyway. My first Christmas here, I had to dress up as Santa and I knew almost no Norwegian, so all I could say was "Ho Ho, ja and takk". I guess they figured out it was me.  

Back in Australia, Christmas was all about the family getting together which did not happen that often as all of us kids had moved out and lived our own separate lives. Here in Norway with my wife's family it is the same but I would say that Norwegian families are a lot closer than Aussie ones. Julia's parents are always having visitors from family members, almost everyday. Back home, I would sometimes go weeks without seeing mine. Here is a classic example of this close nit Norwegian family.

They live on a road that is about 5 kilometres long. Half way up the road I will pass by her sister's house, then it is her uncle's on the right, then her cousins on the right and then another cousin, her brother on the left and finally her parents on the right! That is a lot of road to travel before passing a house that is not related to her family! That is special but it is also very nice. I personally could not live next to one of my brother's because he would drive me insane, but here it works.

The city of Kristiansand looks amazing during Christmas when there is snow. The decorations and lights on the trees and the festive feeling you get when visiting the town centre are special.

We also did that in Australia but it does not have the same affect when it is hot and sunny. Sure, I have worn a Santa hat out in the surf once...

One of my boys on the beach near home during the Norwegian winter
Some people go to a real effort to make their houses look nice during Christmas in Kristiansand. Lots of lights and decorations both inside and outside their houses. That is nice and my kids love it when we drive past them. Actually, it makes my life a bit harder because then they want to have the same types of decorations at our house! Thankfully my wife comes to the rescue there. She is an amazing Mum. She decorates our house with lights each year which can be clearly seen from the street and she is famous for her Halloween parties. This year, the entire neighbourhood came to our house for a Zombie Disco! My kids were very impressed.

I have always liked giving presents to people and I think I got that from my Mum. She was and still is the same. In fact, she has a massive closet at her house filled with gifts that she gives out from time to time.

Here in Norway I always buy a little something for my mates. A few years ago it was beers, then a couple of pairs of CAT socks, last year it was carving knives and this year it will be a fleece jumper. They never get me anything but then again, they do not have to because they are not used to it. My wife always says that I should not do it because they will feel uncomfortable and will feel that they need to buy me something. We don't do that here in Norway she says. That is probably true, but I like to do it anyway. I think it feels nice when you receive a gift from someone and so I want to do that for them. Ho ho ho.

In comparing traditions from Australia to Norway I would have to say that the Aussies live up to their reputation as a chilled out race that take it pretty easy on Christmas Day. The Norwegians on the other hand are very organised and like to spread out the celebrations. I spoke to a woman the other day who said that they celebrate Christmas over 6 days. Six days!!! She said she has a large family in both Kristiansand and Oslo, so they travel to and fro.

Lastly I would like to say that I hope there is enough snow for Tveit Skisenter to open because that is the perfect Christmas present!

Tveit Skisenter with the monsters
God Jul and Merry Christmas.

Adam @ Visit Southern Norway

1 comment:

  1. The people are very lucky to have this blog because it has better knowledge.