Phrases Pronunciation English
God jul og godt nytt år! goo yuhl oh goot neett ohr Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Norwegian Christmas traditions were developed through hundreds of years; many customs date back to pagan times when solstice was celebrated with a Midwinter Fest. Below you can learn some vocabulary that go with both traditions.
kakelinna kah-keh-lin-nah A period of mild winter weather–which often occurs in Norway in December–when Christmas baking started.
Note: kake means cake.
goro goh-roh A flat cookie, rolled out, then baked in a special goro iron. These cookies were made as early as in the 17th century, and since they require costly ingredients, the name may have referred to “god råd” meaning affluent, i.e. a cookie only affluent people could afford.
fattigmann faht-tee-mahnn A deep-fried, diamond-shaped Christmas cookie. The name of this cookie translates to “poor man,” perhaps referring to the fact that all the good ingredients used would lead to poverty on the part of the baker.
lefse lehf-seh Norway’s answer to tortilla (see the Recipes section) is made either from flour or–especially in the United States–from potatoes. Lefse may be served with meats, or even fish, such as lutefisk (see below). In Norway, more often, it is served with coffee as a treat, then buttered and sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon.
nisse nih-seh Norway’s answer to Santa Claus, a gnome-like man, dressed in a sweater or shirt and vest, knee pants, knitted stockings and sturdy shoes. In the old days, the nisse was the personified spirit of the farm.
jul yuhl This was originally the name of the Midwinter Fest (jol). But when Christianity was introduced, the heathen festivities were replaced by the Christian celebration.
lutefisk lew-teh-feesk A lye-treated cod, lutefisk is one of the many traditional Christmas goods. Since it has little taste in itself, it is often served with fried bacon, or butter, or a cream sauce.
rømmegrøt ruh-meh-gruht Porridge made from sour cream (see the Recipes section). This is a treat for the nisse and humans alike, often served at Christmas.
julenek yuh-leh-nehk A sheaf of grain, often put on a pole or roof peak for birds at Christmas. All God’s creatures must be treated well at Christmas; the horses get some oats and the cows a handful of flour and some extra fine hay.
juletre yuh-leh-treh The Christmas tree, having originated in Germany in the 1500s, came to Norway a couple of hundred years later. Typical decorations now always include strings of small Norwegian flags and a luminous star at the top.
julelys yuh-leh-lees Christmas candles are used a lot to decorate the homes. Lys (candles) are also brought to the cemeteries on Christmas eve and placed on the graves. This custom goes back to the early part of the 20th century.
juleevangeliet yuh-leh-eh-vahn-geh-lee-eh The Christmas Gospel
pinnekjøtt peehn-neh-kjuhtt Ribs of mutton, salted, dried and sometimes smoked. To prepare you steam them on a rack of juniper or birch sticks. Serve with mashed rutabaga.
ribbe reeh-beh Pork ribs. The custom of having pork for Christmas goes back to pagan times. Pigs–symbols of fertility– were sacrificed to the god Frey at the Norse Midwinter Fest.
God dag, god dag!
Er det noen snille barn her?
goo dahgh goo dahgh.
aer deh noo-ehn sneel-leh bahrn haer?
Good day, good day!
Are there any nice children here?This is the opening line of nissen when he enters the house on Christmas Eve.
julegaver yuh-leh-gah-vehr Christmas presents
gå julebukk goh yuh-leh-bookh Children dress in costumes, put on masks to avoid being recognized, and go from home to home, usually between Christmas and New Year’s. The masqued visitors are asked in for a treat. If they are sent away empty-handed, they “carry Christmas out with them.” (Not a good thing).
julesanger juh-leh-sahng-ehr Christmas carols
God jul og godt nytt år!