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.
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!
Fastelavn is the three days before lent. The word derives from low-German and means the evening before lent, it also tells of Norway’s religious history and influences: lent is a Catholic tradition, while Norway is primarily Protestant, much of the tradition has been brought to the country through German influences. Lent starts seven weeks before Easter, which would be now on Wednesday. Today is the last Sunday before lent. Traditionally the days before lent were days where you could feast before the 40 days of fasting, consequently the days before lent are in Norway called ‘fleskesøndag’ (lard Sunday), ‘fleskemandag’ (Monday) and ‘feitetirsdag’ (fat Tuesday).
The Christian traditions were mixed with heathen traditions of fertility. ‘Fastelavnsris’, twigs from a birch-tree decorated with colourful feathers, are sold by a non-governmental organisation for women’s health in all supermarkets the Saturday before fastelavn. Historically the ‘ris’ was used on married, young women who had yet not born children and to fight of winter. Norwegians might have invented friendly spanking…
Today much of this is lost. The meaning of it is not given much thought, but a combination of the earlier traditions lives on. Today is, by the man in the street, called ‘fastelavn’ or ‘bollesøndag’ (sweet-roll Sunday). The modern tradition involves exquisite sweet-rolls, the dough similar to that of the French brioche, served with cream and a sprinkle of icing sugar. And the tradition still stands strong. Last year my parents visited for ‘fastelavn’ and my mother made the rolls. Here is her recipe:
Makes 12-16 rolls:
3,5 dl whole milk
50 grams of fresh yeast
100 grams of butter
1 dl sugar
500 grams of flour
1 t cardamom
Melt the butter and mix with the milk. Make sure it’s not too hot when you add the yeast. Add the egg and mix with the dry ingredients. Knead the dough and leave to rise until it has doubled in size under a plastic cover (the plastic will keep the moist from vaporising). Roll out and leave to rise while the oven heats up to about 200 degrees Celcius. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown and delicious. Try and wait until the rolls are cool before you slice them in two and add whipped cream (mix the whipped cream with custard cream if you feel decadent) and serve with a sprinkle of icing sugar. Many also serve with a layer of jam (raspberry or strawberry) and a thin slice of marzipan.
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 🙂
Today is the third Sunday of advent, and I am sorry it had to become the third before I was to tell you about this tradition. In Norway we count down the four Sundays before yule. The tradition is based around the lighting of four purple candles. One candle is lit every Sunday. Usually the lighting involves a small song or a short poem, gløgg, gingerbread cookies and clementines. It’s not a tradition that gets a lot of attention outside the home, but the four purple candles can be seen in schools, kindergartens, churches, TV.