Confirmation and bunad galore

We celebrated my oldest niece’s confirmation last weekend. She is fifteen and as a Evangelical Lutheran tradition we then celebrate her becoming an adult. Her life doesn’t change much at fifteen, but traditionally this is the age from which you were considered an adult. 18 is the age where you’re legally considered and adult in Norway.

The tradition involves weekly church meeting throughout the school year, although this varies from place to place. There are also non-religious confirmations based on various secular organisations, where obviously the church is not involved. The confirmations has long traditions in Norway, and was introduced during the 16th century, during the 18th century if was made obligatory. The confirmations coincided then with the last year of school and the confirmation became a religious exam, as well as a requirement for getting an apprenticeship. Today it is a matter of getting to know your religion, becoming more reflected, growing up and also the family party.

My niece was two when I met my husband and when I met her for the first time. It has been amazing watching her grow into the young lady she has become today, and it has happened so quickly. She went from a young girl to a young lady in the blink of an eye. She is lucky to have an amazing mother who can take credit for the level of maturity in my niece. She has done a good job in emphasising my niece’s good qualities throughout her upbringing and focused on the positive in life. But my niece is much more than just the result of her upbringing, she is also very clever, she has a brilliant sense of humour, she is well-reflected and mature for her age. She is insanely beautiful and determined. I’m very proud of her and consider myself very lucky to be able to follow her further in life.

I wish to keep my family anonymous and thus leave you with pictures of some of the gorgeous bunads present on that special occasion.

The most Norwegian of all days

Delightful Chatter - Norway 17 May

Two good friends parading together

Today is May 17th and that is not just an ordinary day in Norway. In 1814, on this day, our constitution was written up and signed. A little later it was rewritten a little to suit the union we joined with Sweden, but by and large it was significant to Norway’s later split with Sweden and the nation’s independence. This days has been celebrated extensively every year since, and this year, for the 200th time. We call the day simply ‘syttende mai’ which translates to ‘the 17th of May’, and if anyone asks we say it’s our national day, ‘nasjonaldagen’.

I really enjoy this day. It’s always been a tradition, but after the rose parades of 2011, I wrote about them here and here, I’ve learned to appreciated this day a lot more. And also now that I have children who participate I have been forced to look at it all from a different angle which has also improved how I see this day.

Delightful Chatter - Norway 17 May

She doesn’t remember much from her first 17 May celebration, but this year she has learned to shout ‘hurrah’ and wave her flag

The day starts with salutations being made. I’ve never really checked just how early this is done, but I’ve always considered extremely early. The salutations are often cannons being fired or something similar. These are often followed by early rounds of parading brassbands, I’ve often slept through these too. Then, sometime between 8 and 9 in the morning all school children, and younger children, gather to parade. The children group up or line up with their class, their kindergarten or with their brass/marching band to parade the streets for about an hour. Where I lived before it was always the head of the police who fronted the parade, where we live now it’s a fire truck. Everyone is dressed up, men in suits, women in dresses, and a whole lot, maybe even the majority is dressed in their ‘bunads’.

Delightful Chatter - Norway 17 May

Details of my bunad


The ‘bunad’ is Norway’s national costume, and they are different depending on where you’re from. It’s similar in idea, but not in style, to the tartans of Scotland. The embroideries of many of the ‘bunads’ can be traced back to specific farms where the patterns are based on family heirlooms with rose-paintings on or floral patterns on items found in the vicinity or made by residents of the farms. I got mine for my confirmation (a Evangelical Lutheran tradition to celebrate your transition into adulthood – I’ll get back to that in a later post) when I was fifteen. My ‘farmor’ (my father’s mother) embroidered mine and I cherish it more every time I wear it. It really is special to me.

Norwegians are seen as cold and unfriendly, at least through an untrained eye. And in this part of the world, street parades are not very common. And that it is not combined with alcohol can also seem shocking if you’ve spent some time in Norway.  But the 17ht of May is a day for the children. It is mostly the children who parade while the parents cheer as the parade passes. After the parade everybody gather up at school or in the town square, or in a similar area,  there are a few speeches and then activities for the children.

Delightful Chatter - Norway 17 May

Tasty, but a little puncture, a Pavlova cake in the correct colours – red, white and blue

The tradition in our family is to join the parade in the morning. When I was younger I went with my school, now I go with my children. We spend some time participating in the post-parade activities before we go home and eat ‘lapskaus’ (recipe here). When I was younger it was always ‘farmor’ and ‘farfar’ (my father’s mother and father) who made the lapskaus and they had all children and grandchildren over to eat. Now it is my parents (my children’s ‘mormor’ and ‘morfar’) who visit us. Often we also have friends over and there’s usually cake. It’s a good day.

A general rule is also that children are allowed about as many ice-creams as they can today, or the same number of ice-creams as their age. My five-year-old is allowed five ice-creams (poor boy only had two today – he’s still not aware of this rule).

Easter in Norway

I’m a little behind on my blogging, or rather, I have things I would like to blog about that I haven’t yet got around to. But who cares if easter was over a few weeks ago? In Norway we say that yule (christmas) lasts until easter, which I think would mean that easter should last until yule again.

Easter is ‘påske’ in Norwegian. The funny letter is pronounced like the vowel in ‘bought’ or at least if you pronounce the word like the Queen of England does. Or it’s at least a very similar sound. Whatever sound you manage to produce you’ll anyway be fine, as we have such dialectal variation in this country that it would fit into one or another. The word derives from Hebrew and has obviously followed the introduction of Christianity. Before the introduction of easter, or ‘påske’, the spring equinox was celebrated, so easter has proper roots in our culture. It’s still standing strong, despite the decreasing popularity of the church.

Cabin sunset. Delightful chatter. Today påske is ideally spent in a cabin, somewhere in the mountains, where you can ski wearing less clothes than you need while skiing in the winter. You should come home with rosy cheeks, white circles around your eyes and a white line across your temple (yes, from the sunglasses). You should eat oranges, marzipan, kvikk lunsj (a chocolate-covered biscuit), lamb, and eggs, but not combined.

I spent the beginning of easter by myself in my in-laws’ house while they borrowed my family and spent some quality time at their cabin, in the woods, with no snow, but with some sunshine. I had exams due, but worked efficiently for some days in order to push school work out of my mind completely for some days and spend some lazy days in the cabin with my loved ones.

I have no idealised pictures of us out skiing with our oranges and kvikk lunsj in tow. I did get a few freckles though, but not enough to brag about here. But just to show you how perfect it all was anyhow, I’ve added the one and only photo I took during those days in the cabin. A quiet sunset by a small lake in the woods about an hour from the coast. Easter was good this year!

Kakemenn – Norwegian christmas cookies

Kakemenn is always a favourite among the kids. It’s sweet, very mild in taste and, like the pepperkaker, they are shaped in various recognisable figures. They are very easy to make and the ingredients are items you most likely already have in your cupboards. Kakemenn is to me important come christmas, and I never go a year without making them.

Kakemenner

The recipe is very straightforward and easy. Just mix all ingredients together (but do feel free to reduce the recipe – we used about half this year):

1 kg of white wheat flour
0,5 kg of sugar
4 teaspoons of horn salt (“Horn salt (also hartshorn) is used in traditional Norwegian baked goods as a leavening agent. Modern horn salt is ammonium bicarbonate.In the USA it can be purchased at the pharmacy” says this site)
85 grams of butter
4 dl of milk

Kakemenn'As with the pepperkake-dough, the kakemenn-dough must also be cold before it’s easy to work with. The dough doesn’t need to be as thin as the pepperkake dough, I would set the thickness of it to double that of the pepperkaker, see this post. The kakemenn are baked at 200 degrees until they get a wee bit of a tan. They should still be white-ish, so about the colour of a Scandinavian in April would do.

Never stand too close to the oven when opening the oven-door, and never get the horn salt too close to your nose. You have been warned! (sneezing and swearing could occur!)

God Jul!

Today is the day we celebrate Christmas in Norway. The sun ‘turned’ a few days ago so we’re a little late in celebrating the coming of longer days and more sunshine, but today we celebrate family, joy, and enjoy the time we spend with out loved ones. There’s also a touch (!) of materialism included in the celebration of Yule and some of us also attend church to get a drop of religion added into the mix.

One of the trees standing near the wee lake in the city centre is decorated with heart-shaped lights every year. This year snow covered the ground and made the place looking even more magical.

Yule eve (juleaften=yule evening) doesn’t really get serious until late in the afternoon. How you spend the day depends on the amount of responsibility you’ve been given or have taken on. For those of us not cooking, cleaning and running errands, that means sitting in front of the tv for hours watching the same shows that are sent every year at this time. I try my best to help out but find myself being ushered away only to end up doing nothing.

The evening starts with a massive dinner of ‘Pinnekjøtt’ (=stick meat. ‘pinne’ is basically a wooden stick). I’ll get back to the etymology of the word in a later post (posting about pinnekjøtt before yule is to me a no no as I only eat it once a year). The family is gathered, we’ll be 12 around the table this year: kid, spouse, siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. After dinner we have ‘riskrem’ for dessert, which is similar to appelsinris. In the big bowl of ‘riskrem’ there is an almond. The finder of the almond gets a prize (usually a pig-shaped, chocolate-covered marzipan – no logic there).

Some decorate the tree with Norwegian flag - a tradition that started after world war II.

After uncles have spent hours devouring food (an uncle is always blamed for the duration of the meal) we move to the living-room, the tree, and the presents beneath it. When we were younger we used to dance around the tree, but when most kids became teenagers the reluctancy grew, and the dancing became a thing of the past. Son will be the only person under 20 this year, which means there are many adults who’ll do their best to please him, so spontaneous dancing might occur. After all the presents have been unwrapped we eat a bit more. And the hours pass as we talk and laugh, eat and drink.

I hope all of you have a wonderful day and evening, no matter how you spend it. But no matter what your religion or ethical outlook on life – take care of those around you and appreciate their presence. God jul!

The Day Before the Big Day and Risboller

It’s the day before the big day for everyone except my wee brother: today is his birthday. He’s turns 23 today and is not very happy having his birthday the day before Christmas eve. He complained when he was younger that the reason it wasn’t cool having his birthday the day before Christmas was that his hands hurt so much after spending two entire days unwrapping presents. Anyway, a wonderful brother to you wee brother! May you crush all your opponents playing Fifa.
The day has been spent hurrying to get everything ready in order to spend the evening with the family. Today is called ‘little Christmas eve’ in Norway. In our family the tradition is to decorate the tree, with the tv on in the background. On tv is the annual christmas show on the state-owned national channel (à la BBC) playing christmas tunes  and discussing ways to cook the perfect ‘ribbe’. The pinnacle of the evening is the wee film ‘Dinner for one’ which is always shown at around nine in the evening.
A few cookies were served during the day, making sure the kids were high on sugar as well as high on life in general. Son did not go to bed voluntarily tonight!
One of the cookies served today were ‘risboller’ (ris=rice, boller=sweet rolls). These are in no way related to sweet rolls though. Think chocolate covered, puffed rice. Again a type of traditional and seasonal cookie, as good as it is simple.
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
Whisk this until it’s fluffy. Melt the other ingredients:
  • 100 grams chocolate
  • 85 grams of coconut fat
  • 3 tablespoons of coffee

And add with the sugar and egg. Then add as much puffed rice as you please, but make sure you are able to cover everything with the chocolaty goo. Place about a tablespoon full of mix in muffin cups and store somewhere cold. Enjoy 🙂

Yule-calendars and chocolate figures

The countdown for christmas is very big in Norway. The ‘yule-calendar’ which counts down the 24 days of December until Christmas Eve is the most prized possession of many a child (also among the older ‘children’). I made one each for Son and Husband a few years ago and have spent some time finding presents for them every year after. This year though I have been lazy. Husband took over much of the calendar business for Son’s calendar, and Husband himself has spent most of the advent-time on a rig some nautical miles west from here, which meant he wouldn’t be home to open his calendar.

The last day of November I counted quite a few comments from mothers (strangely it seems it’s the mothers who are in charge of the calendar-business) who were done, almost done, or panicking completely, over the 24 small gifts. I was among those who, instead of thinking about the calendar, jumped on a plane to London and pretended to have forgotten completely what date it was (I had helped out quite a lot with Son’s calendar though, I didn’t leave it all for Husband). While I was (last-minute) packing I was on the phone with Husband (he and Son had gone away for a few days so that I could finish working on a wee project of mine). He asked me to have a look in his wardrobe. In his wardrobe I found a white, wooden plank with the numbers from 1-24 painted on them and 24 small, metal hooks.

I was very surprised, to say the least, that he would give me this, but, mean as I am, thought maybe he meant this for Son, but to give it to me so that I had something bigger to give Son as a calendar for next year. Husband and Son returned home a few days before me. I came home very late a few days later and upon entering our bedroom that night, I found the calendar hanging on the wall. The wooden plank now had 24 gifts hanging from the hooks. Needless to say, I was moved to tears! And honestly it’s not at all because of the gifts, it’s solely the fact that he has spent so much time planning this calendar, keeping it secret, and surprising me with it without giving me any hints at all about it beforehand.

As the days have passed now it has become obvious that he has really spent a lot of time on the gifts and remembered everything I have looked at and wished for for the past months. Coming home from Liverpool he brought home a bottle of Magners Pear (Magners is my only weak spot when it comes to alcohol – or when it comes to any drink except tea) which is impossible to get hold of in Norway. And I also found this eco-cup (eco my ass, but it is cute and it’s a travel-mug perfect for tea, as it’s porcelain rather than metal or plastic). The gifts are very well planned! And, he has wrapped them in mathching gift-wrap-paper that was designed by the my brother and the company he used to work for; so the calendar was as aesthetically pleasing as well.

I had planned to write a post about chocolate figures that Son and I made here the other day, in a mould made to create 24 chocolate-figures to be used in a yule-calendar. The tradition with yule-calendars and the gifts that go in them, which used to be chocolate figures, was supposed to be the main subject of this post. But I just had to brag a bit. What else can I do with a husband like that? After being through a bit of a rough patch for a while, Husband and I are finally back where we should be, and more in love than ever. We are both going that extra mile in all situations to make the other smile, laugh, or be happy, and life is just wonderful! Pink clouds with silver linings! Obviously, my husband has for the past weeks done a much better job than me!