Sneaking into a neighbour’s house dressed as a goat may be the kind of thing that could get you in serious trouble in the UK but in Norway, it’s all part of an ancient tradition to celebrate Christmas!
There have been many variations of Julebukk over the years. It started out as the pagan celebration of the goat, representing the ghosts of winter nights. Later, it became the norm to dress as a goat and surprise your neighbours. Nowadays, however, it is a cross between trick or treating and carol singing. Children dress up in costumes and tour the neighbourhood whilst singing carols and receiving gifts.
But Julebukk is far from the only Norwegian Christmas tradition. On Christmas Eve, for example, following the traditional church service, most families sit down to bowl of porridge made with butter, sugar and cinnamon. In one bowl there is a lucky almond and the finder of the nut receives a special present: a marzipan pig.
An extra portion of porridge is often made and put outside for the Nisse. This gift-bearing creature is said to protect all farm animals and, if his porridge is forgotten, he is likely to play tricks on the children of the family. With its roots in Viking times, this tradition stems from a time when farmers believed that the household Nisse (or elves) would help them around the farm if they were shown respect or turn on the farmers if they weren’t left an offering.
When it comes to gift giving in Norway, it all comes down to Julenissen – the Norwegian Santa Claus. Sporting a long white beard and red stocking cap, Julenissen visits families with a sack full of presents and rather touchingly, as well as the children, the birds get a present too - a sheaf of wheat hung outside as a special Christmas dinner.
You see, when it comes to celebrating Christmas Norwegian style, it’s all about tradition and fun. To experience this wonderful country for yourself, why not take a look at our selection of fabulous holidays?