Christmas in Norway in the 1850’s in some ways, in principle at least, isn’t that much different from how I think of Christmas today, in 2016.
Reading the memories from the attached document, at the end of this post, I see similarities. We still busy ourselves with preparations for the season in much the same way as my ancestors did. I stock the pantry for anticipated visitors. I bake holiday treats. I clean the house and decorate. I prepare the garden for winter. I put outdoor items into the shed and move things to under the protection of the eves.
I donate to the local homeless shelter and food bank. Though, I think if we had more face to face contact with those who have less, we would probably give more generously as I think my relatives did. To see the need in someone’s eyes is so much more moving then logging onto a charity website and clicking “donate”.
I think of my maternal family traditions which now must date back nearly 200 years and take pleasure in knowing that my great-grandmother passed on to her daughter traditions that continue to be passed on today.
My heart is softened to know that my daughters learned from my mother and me how to make the traditional Norwegian flatbread, lefsa. We use the family recipe handed down by generations. BUT, with one significant change. For, my paternal/father’s side passed down some interesting genetics. I have had to modify the recipe, replacing wheat flour with gluten free flour. Thankfully, gluten-free flour works wonderfully and the lefsa we make today is just as delicious as that from my childhood memories.
I would like to think that my ancestors live on in each of us. I look into my youngest eyes, and though they are not of the dark deep blues of my grandmother, they are blue. My 3rd brother inherited the eyes of our grandmother.
I like that my family also does not have a feast on Christmas Eve. Fortunate for us, we don’t have many Norske miles to travel to church. We can easily walk to Christmas Eve service. On Christmas Eve we keep things simple and have started some new traditions. After church, we head out to view holiday lights and decorations. We return home and enjoy homemade sweet treats and a beverage. And, yes, on Christmas morning I toss some extra grain to our hens and a few more doggy biscuits to our sweet labrador retriever.
My oldest has introduced her husband to Lefsa and I know my youngest is a pro at making it too.
We think of the holiday starting with Christmas Eve and lasting through Epiphany. I leave our decorations up as long as tolerable to brighten the dark days of winter. It’s sad that for so many, Christmas is now just a day. We continue the celebrations with an annual New Years Eve gathering of friends. Bringing light into the darkness of winter.
Lastly, I do wish my grandmother had passed on her gift of descriptive storytelling. I will practice and with practice, just maybe I’ll get a bit better.
Attached is the copy of document recounting my grandmother’s memories of her mother’s stories about Christmas in Norway. May everyone be so blessed to have traditions to share. What is your story?
Here is our family recipe: tollefson-lefsa-recipe