Tag Archives: Christmas

God jul!


As I mentioned on Friday, there have been a ton of gray, overcast days in a row here.  We finally saw a tiny bit of sunshine in the middle of the day on Saturday (literally, like 1 hour of sunshine), but for the most part gray, gray, gray.  No snow, but lots of gray.

When I was visiting with my fiancee’s grandparents, they mentioned a term for this period that I hadn’t heard yet: kakelinna.  According to the Norwegian wikipedia page, this concept describes a mild weather period in December, right before Christmas.  In the old days, people believed that the mild weather was the result of all the traditional Christmas baking.  That is, all the people using their ovens caused the weather to become warmer!

Like many beliefs from simpler times, this one has been abandoned in favor of modern science.  The term lives on, however, to describe this period before “fullvinter” or full winter sets in.  To Norwegian eyes the weather may have been mild, but as a southerner, it sure seemed full to me. 

So this is why I have never heard of all these Norwegian traditions that are supposedly popular in the US

I’ve already mentioned that I love maps (and, again, if you have relevant maps of Norway, let me know) and this map is pretty darned cool.

(Click on the map for the bigger version that is easier to read.)

The map breaks down the most common ancestry in each of the counties of the United States.  As you can see, the light green representing Norwegian shows up in a lot of North Dakota, some of Minnesota, and a little bit of Iowa, Wisconsin, and Montana. 

The thing that prompted this map is a question I get fairly routinely in Norway: what is __________ like in the US?  The blank can be almost anything that people are curious about and, as a real-live-in-person American, I get to represent the Stars and Stripes in all blank-related matters. 

I usually try to give the best answer I can to these questions.  Often this is the not-very-exciting-but-still-true “it varies by region in the US.”  When it doesn’t vary and there is a fairly consistent American pattern, however, I try to give that as well. 

This all brings me to Christmas and Christmas traditions.  Lately, I’ve heard of several Scandinavian traditions that I thought were not celebrated in the US, but it turns out that they are actually celebrated in the Upper Midwest.  It has usually prompted a second Norwegian to correct me about my knowledge of the US.  A bit embarrassing, but that’s what happens when you get a southerner to speak on behalf of the whole country!  (Note the distinct lack of Scandinavian ancestry in the South.)

So, North Dakotans, why don’t you quit reading and go dance around your Christmas tree or something, eh?

Happy Thanksgiving

One unforeseen consequence of the spread of American culture is that many erstwhile American holidays are now celebrated around the world.  For instance, Halloween and St. Patrick’s Day both developed into major events in the US, but now are celebrated in the American style in many countries.  Then there are the holidays that weren’t truly American to begin with, namely the Christian holidays of Christmas and Easter, which are celebrated throughout the Christian parts of the world. 

Of the big American holidays, that really leaves just the 4th of July and Thanksgiving as true American holidays.  As a result, today is just another Thursday in Oslo.  Everyone is at work, no big celebrations are planned, and there won’t be any football on TV. 

Which all makes me feel ambivalent.  On the one hand, I’m sad that I won’t get to experience those traditions this year.  On the other hand, I’m thankful that we Americans get to keep this part of our culture as our own.  In such a multicultural country as the US, it’s nice to have a uniquely American holiday to bring all the diverse groups together.  After all, for one day a year, you can never get enough of the “hypersweetsweet potato casserole with fluffy marshmallows on top, the cranberry sauce, or the perhaps-too-dry turkey.  It’s enough to make you want to fall asleep on the couch watching football.

(But aren’t you having a makeup Thanksgiving in early December with your fiancee’s family?  Yes, but it’s still not quite the same.  And it would ruin the blog post.)

Here’s a gratuitous picture of a cartoon turkey: