After four weeks of Advent preparation, church bells chime signifying the start of Julaften, the Christmas period throughout Scandinavia. With traditional origins stretching back to pagan times, the Scandinavian countries celebrate the evening of December 24 with a Christmas feast and gift-giving. Songs are sung whilst walking around the tree placed in the centre of the room.
A Summery Australian Christmas
Over in Australia, Advent is non-existent and not celebrated. It’s summertime, it is hot and the school holidays are fast approaching. It’s a time to catch up with friends, take the kids swimming or to the beach, eat alfresco or hang out in an air-conditioned venue, such as a mall, while you shop for Christmas gifts. (We are big consumers – we love to shop).
Australians celebrate Christmas when December 25 arrives, but it is not always at home. A game of cricket at the beach is a popular Christmas day activity accompanied by meat on an outdoor barbeque. The beaches are crowded.
Australian Christmas Food
Being multicultural in nature, you will find any and every type of cuisine in Australia, depending on the ethnic heritage. Despite the heat, most families keep to European traditions and more often than not, roast meat will be cooked, whilst salads, and increasingly Vegan dishes may feature on the table.
Having Scandinavian connections, our family honours Scandinavian traditions celebrating with Danish and Norwegian food as well as Aussie fare, including the Ris a la Mande Creamed Rice Porridge. Still we ALWAYS have a Pavlova on the table. This is essential!
Last Christmas, this fancy variation made an appearance.
Nordic Christmas Food
In Norway, steamed, salted and dried ribs of mutton, or Pinnekjøt, is the traditional Christmas dish, while roast pork is on the menu in Denmark, along with an entree of smoked eel. Both the Danes and the Australians love sausages (on the Aussie barbeque), at Christmas, but the Danes go one better with a “Julemedister,” – a speciality Christmas sausage that puts the humble Aussie Xmas snag to shame.
Norwegian traditions prescribe seven kinds of Julekaker or Christmas pastries to be made in Jul. Gingerbread is a favourite, as are gingerbread houses decorated with lollies, whilst gingerbread cookies are even used for decorating windows and the Christmas tree as well.
Out in Australia, I also bake Shortbread for gifts and plenty to eat myself! Got to keep that Norwegian tradition alive in some way!
In both Scandinavian countries, eating rice porridge after the Christmas feast, with a single almond in it, is a widespread custom.
In Denmark, it’s called Ris ala mande and contains sugar, cream, and a dose of sweet sherry, sweeter than the Norwegian version of Risengrøt. Both may be served with warm cherry sauce, however, I prefer it hot or cold with an Australian twist – adding Golden syrup – a byproduct of sugar cane.
The person that finds the single whole almond in the rice porridge gets a special prize or gift. If you find you have the almond early on, you secretly hold it in your mouth until dessert’s end to hold the suspense!
Making your own marzipan sweets and decorating them in individual ways is popular in Denmark. Marzipan is not something you’ll find in Australia. You have to know a Scandinavian friend to find any!
Norwegian breweries release a traditional beer, as well as a Christmas soft (non-alcoholic) drink, known as Julebrus. You might find a Swedish version at your local Ikea store. And there is always some Aquavit – traditionally drunk after a heavy, fatty, meal, purportedly as an aid to digestion! Excuses!
Glogg, a special mulled wine, is popular in Scandinavia. The only Glogg I found in Australia came from my local boutique tea shop who celebrated Scandinavian traditions by releasing a Glogg loose-leaf tea, mimicking the mulled wine flavours of cinnamon, cloves cardamom and orange.
Scandinavian Christmas traditions
According to Norwegian tradition, an elderly Nisse or elf with a long beard hangs out in the barn, on Christmas Eve, looking for porridge to eat (called grøt). Norwegians living on farms knew to put a bowl of porridge out in the barn, to keep the Nisse happy and prevent bad luck the following year. The Jule Nisse also brings gifts to the children but is gradually being replaced by Santa Claus.
Do we have Nisse in Australia? Sadly, no. But Santa and Jingle Bells on infinite repeat, is omnipresently heard. Does that count?
How do you celebrate Christmas?
Join the challenge and post about your holiday treats. Let’s link up and party!
Join host Sandy in the blogger party for Friendly Friday and visit bloggers joining us in celebrating this Christmas.
Sandy from The Sandy Chronicles
Sarah from Travel with Me
Manja from Embarrassment of Riches :-
Checking in with Trent’s Weekly Smile 🙂