I’m now back in Norway to celebrate Christmas. More than one week holiday during the shortest days and longest nights of the year is a good break in between two summers. Yesterday the dinner table was filled up with food, drinks and sweets and the pace of life slowed down to an absolute minimum with time for cakes, coffee and contemplation. Today, one of the most quiet days of the year, I wish you all a merry Christmas, and may all your wishes come true (as long as they do not contradict any ethical standards of course).
The word Christmas is derived from Latin and is a noun made up by the combination of christes mæsse, the former being the son of God, and later even God and the Holy Spirit as a trinity. The latter means Eucharistic service. This word can be used to describe the most common understanding of Christmas, the birth of Jesus, as his parents Maria and Josef (there is, however, some confusion regarding the paternal rights). The Christian churches has celebrated this tradition, but interestingly was this celebration frowned upon among some protestant beliefs and in Scotland the big celebration was, until recently, if not still Hogmonay and not Christmas. This is due to the Presbyterian condemnation of Christmas after the reformation and for a couple of centuries.
In other languages other words are being used. In Norwegian, and the other Scandinavian languages, the word for Christmas is jul, and the word is from pre-Christian times when this time of year was celebrated as the time of year when the days got longer; solstice. As Christianity was introduced, the old tradition got replaced by the new: The birth of the child Jesus in the city of Bethlehem.
Over two thousand years after the the birth of Christ, Anno Domino, in 2010 the religious aspect of Christmas is less important, and have shifted towards other values such as spending time with family, friends, eating good food, have a break in day-to-day life.
Christmas is also a time of traditions. The food, the customs, the smells, the schedule has to be the same as ever in order to bring forward the remembrance from Christmases earlier. In a media perspective the medium of Christmas is TV; in Norway the public broadcaster (NRK) is showing the same programs as for ten years ago. It starts with a Czech film “Three nuts to Cinderella” (My direct translation), before “The journey to the Christmas Star”, and afterward Disney series is playing an important part. At five PM church bells are jingling, and introducing Christmas.At this time dinner is supposed to begin, at the same time Christmas hymns are broadcast in radio and through TV. Internet is also being used to send greetings, and in Christmas eve 2010 it replaced SMS as the greeting medium.
The Norwegian Christmas dinner is geographically determined. As a Norwegian living in the eastern part of the country ribs from pig and sausages is being served with sauerkraut, potatoes, carrots, cauliflowers and brown gravy. In the western part, ribs from sheep is eaten, but also fish which is predominant in the northern part. The dining traditions are also a traditional phenomenon, and is inherited from parents to children, and has passed down in generations. From the times when Norway was a poor, rural fishing nations with scarce resources have we inherited our Christmas food (mostly west and north), and this food is often conserved in an old fashion using salt.
I do like Christmas, the food, the traditions and the social aspects are reminders of other values, which is often forgotten in our highly competitive rational economy. Like Ebenezer Scrooge, from Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol” it is important to learn the real values of Christmas.
The header picture is licensed under creative commons, and is intellectual property of Vicky Brock. Found on Flickr.