Carolling isn’t something Australians are used to. There is just something not quite right with wearing thongs (flip-flops) and shorts in the scorching heat singing ‘Dashing through the snow…’. Carolling in Norway just makes sense.
In Norway, it is our family’s tradition to go carolling on Christmas Eve. I thought it would be awfully freezing standing out there in the cold but carolling is unexpectedly warm. This is because of all the other activity around the singing – squishing everyone in the car, all piling out, trudging up the hills in two feet of snow, singing for two minutes, rolling down the hill again, having a snowball fight around the car and then off to the next place. All this activity with an extra 10 kilos of snow-jacket, boots, beanie, mittens and scarf to keep us warm. By the end of carolling I’m all hot and sweaty as if it’s a scorching-hot Christmas day in Oz.
I go carolling every time even though I don’t know the songs we sing, as they are Norwegian, or the people we visit. I stand in the back row with Moose (he is tall and a bass) and listen to the family harmonise. Norwegians are very musical, singing is a part of life, a daily activity, and my family really knows how to sing together. I love being a part of our family’s carolling.
The carolling is very improvised. No practise is needed because everyone knows the songs (including harmonies) off by heart. The hardest part is keeping up with Farmor as she races round from house to house trying to squeeze in more and more families each year. There are so many of us carollers that we have to take several cars and someone is always bound to get lost in all the excitement. We make sure to bring our mobile phones to keep a track of where Farmor is headed next. I think this chaotic casualness is a very Norwegian thing.
As carollers we never go empty handed. It is tradition to give Tante’s famous pepperkaker hearts to each house we visit. Tante’s designs are so beautiful that the pepperkaker never get eaten but hang on the wall the whole season. When Tante gives out her hearts she always says ‘they are meant to be eaten’ and the families reply ‘you can’t eat art!’
Here is a recording from our family carolling last year:
This first song is Langt, langt harfra (Far Far Away) – the carollers (kind of) tunes first and then when the family opens the door the singing starts.
This next song is a traditional Norwegian carol, Det lyser i stiller grender (There is Light in Quiet Villages). The carollers were going to sing one verse (as there are six) but Farmor loves singing so much she makes everyone sing the next verse too.