Saturday, November 25, 2006

In My Country the Days We Celebrate Are – Norway

Since the two most recent assignments were rather similar, I decided to put them both in the same post. Thus, here comes a summary of the days, customs, parties and rituals we celebrate in Norway.

Even though this country is, by and large, quite secular, we have a state religion and should, no matter how heathen we become, thank Jesus for ensuring that we have so many days off. Every Sunday we dutifully observe the fourth commandment by keeping shops closed, unless they are below a certain size, in which case they are allowed to stay open.

Spring is the best season by far, abundant with "red days" (official holidays) scattered all over the calendar. There’s a day off for Ascension, two for Lent, four Easter days, and then there’s Labor Day on May 1st and National Day on May 17th.

Customs are adopted and changed as we see fit. For example, we still celebrate the end of fast (fastelavn) by decorating fagots with colorful feathers, munching on wheat buns filled with whipped cream and jam, even though most of us skip the troublesome prerequisite of actually fasting.

During Easter we are required to go skiing in the mountains. Not all of us do, but those who don’t aren’t considered proper Norwegians. In our cozy cabins we decorate eggs, eat chocolate and oranges, quiz each other and read crime novels. We don’t have an Easter bunny, but luckily we still somehow have cardboard eggs filled with candy.

The night before Labor Day, May 1st, leads up to the worst hangover of them all, which actually may not be that inappropriate, considering how alcohol serves as a means to subdue the masses into blindly accepting the status quo. It is hard to rebel against the establishment when you’re shit-faced and singing to the porcelain abyss.

May 1st also marks the beginning of the "russefeiring"- high school students’ non stop drunken brawl, culminating seventeen days later when the graduates wake up to realize they are sadly unprepared for their final exams. This tradition is in many ways the modern equivalent of an unsupervised rite of passage where youths are socialized into the adult world of hazardous drinking and all sorts of promiscuous behavior.

The National Day is especially tailored for kids, who revel in unlimited supplies of ice cream and hot dogs. It is also customary to dress up in national costumes and sing blatantly patriotic songs, saluting the flag with teary eyes. All over the country people follow marching bands in parade, shouting "Hip Hip Hooray!"

After an uneventful stretch of summer and fall only punctuated by a rainy mid-summer’s feast, Christmas season officially opens on December 1st . Every morning children find small treats in their "Advent calendars," and for each of the four Sundays of Advent we light purple candles for joy, hope, longing and peace. December 13th is the day of Lucia, the Sicilian lady who was tortured and had her eyes gouged out without being blinded. This family friendly incident is celebrated by making kids wear white sheets adorned with tinsel and have them go around school carrying candles, handing out saffron buns (lussekatter) and singing the praise of poor Saint Lucy.

All self-respecting housewives have to obey ancient numerology by baking seven different types of cookies. Christmas lunch usually comes in the form of rice porridge with a blanched almond, and whoever finds the hidden treasure is awarded with marzipan in the shape of a pig. Those of us who hail from farms are careful not to forget to leave a bowl of porridge out by the barn for the domestic gnome. If not, there is no telling what mischief he can stir up. During the "romjul," the days between the 24th and New Years Eve, children of all ages dress up and go "julebukk" (Christmas goat), begging for candy or drinks.

Celebrating the end of the year typically happens in the form of champagne parties, turkey dinners and sometimes lethal fireworks. The following morning initiates the next year, traditionally by watching the annual ski jump competition televised from Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and, of course, by cooking up yet another set of futile resolutions.


Blogger Kittygk said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:00 PM  
Blogger Kittygk said...

I just love the humor in your posts they are always a great fun to read :) I can also see that there are many simularitys in Icelandic and Norwegian festivitys :)

2:04 PM  
Blogger Aurora said...

I agree, fun reading :) It's so similar with swedish celebrations, but yet not so similar..! Small things separates our traditions from each other ;)

4:10 PM  
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10:53 PM  

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