Norwegian Christmas Traditions

Family Dinners at Christmas

You’d think that Christmas dinner is either on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, however, in a land where juletid is recognised from December to January (thanks to the Vikings), Christmas dinner is an everyday occurrence.


The most popular Christmas dinners, lutefiskpinnekjøttribbe, julepølser and medisterkaker, are eaten throughout the whole of mørketid (dark time).  Norwegians seem to love to announce the special occasion – ‘We’re having pinnekjøtt for dinner so I have to go home early‘ or ‘I can’t come to the movies… we’re having lutefisk‘.  It is perfectly normal in Norway to decline social invitations because of a Christmas dinner.

Sometimes Norwegians start juletid dinners even earlier.  We visited the farm in Alta for a long weekend in November and our dinners included pinnekjøtt and ribbe (and Grandiosa on the third night before the flight home).  To celebrate julour family doesn’t just meet on Christmas day, we have nearly a whole week of celebrations with a series of different traditional dinners.  Not only do we have dinners but we also have Christmas suppers.  Just for fun, below is our Christmas juletid menu from 2008:


Frokost > BreakfastMiddag > Dinner, Kveldsmat > Supper
Because our family are farmers there is no ‘lunch’ as they are used to being out in the field working at this time – it is the only part of the day that has a bit of light.  Farfar says it’s the ‘best part of the day’ so why would you want to be sitting inside eating?  If you’re hungry, you’re always welcome to graze the kitchen table as Farmor always leaves food out, just in case.  Dinner can be as early as 2pm and supper as late as 11pm.  Every meal is a buffet (even breakfast).  No food is plated for you – it’s serve-yourself all-you-can-eat every day.  Farmor lays down a table full of food at every sitting – always more than everyone can eat.

December 22nd:
We arrive just in the afternoon in Alta.  Boller with salami and cheese with varm kakao (Hot Chocolate) is always waiting for us.

Middag – Norwegian Salmon with potatoes, cucumber salad, lemon and sour cream.

Kveldsmat – Fresh waffles with brown cheese or sour cream and jam, and varm kakao.


December 23rd – Little Christmas Eve

Frokost – Bread with cold meats, cheeses and cucumber.  Waffles with brown cheese or sour cream and jam.  Breakfast juice.  Moose ate his ‘surf n’ turf‘:


Middag – Grandiosa pizza because we went out carolling.

Kveldsmat – Varm kakao and pastries/cookies

December 24th – Christmas Eve

Frokost – Bread with cold meats, cheeses and cucumber.  Bacon and eggs.  Pickled tomato herring (pickled uncooked herring in a tomatoes sauce with plenty of onion and spices – Mooses favourite breakfast!).  Breakfast juice and varm kakao.



Middag – Lutefisk and pinnekjøtt.  We normally have special farm guests at Christmas and so Farmor makes two dishes as Lutefisk is an acquired taste.  Each dish has its own particular sides:

Lutefisk – diced bacon, mushy peas, potatoes, grated brown cheese and mustard.  (The sides can be very regional.  Brown cheese and mustard is a North Norwegian tradition – Western Norway uses white sauce, East Norway uses a mustard sauce – and I’m sure there are plenty of other regional varieties.)


Pinnekjøtt – potatoes, mashed swede and mustard.  (Some make a thin gravy for the meat but Farmors is so juicy we don’t need it.)

Juleøl and julebrus (Christmas beer and soda).

Kveldsmat – too full from middag but we manage a piece or two of Kransekaker(Ring Cake).

December 25th – First Day of Christmas

Frokost – too full from last nights middag but manage to have some breakfast juice – needed to save ourselves for the day’s eating.

Middag – (Family dinner at Tantes) a buffet of cold cuts and Christmas leftovers.  Gløggjuleøl and julebrus.

Kveldsmat – Risgrøt (Rice Porridge) with the hidden almond and varm kakao.  (Storebror (big brother) always wins the mazipan pig because he eats the most grøt!)


December 26th – Second Day of Christmas

Frokost – Bread with cold meats, cheeses and cucumber.  Breakfast juice.  (Food is starting to become a big blur but Farmor never gives up!)

Middag – Ribbe (Roast Pork Rib) with julepølse (Christmas Sausage), medisterkaker (White Rissoles), sauerkraut, gravy, pickled red cabbage, potatoes, prunes, cranberry/tyttebær sauce, mushy peas, apple sauce (specially made for me).  Moose’s plate:



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