Decorating the whole house for Christmas is a big tradition in Norway. It is certainly worth all the fuss as it not only creates a great atmosphere but your work will be up during the whole Christmas season – from December til mid-January. (That’s better than displaying your artwork at most galleries!) No table is left alone, no window is left undressed and no sofa is left bare. Christmas is an all-out decorative affair.
Norwegians like their decorations to have a ‘home-made’ quality. Home-made decorations are best although the modern-minimalist kind are starting to creep in. After years of juleverksted (Christmas workshops – where the community gathers together and makes cakes and decorations) Norwegians usually have enough ‘made-with-love’ decorations for the whole house. However, the shops sell ‘home-made’ looking decorations just in case you haven’t had time to hand-make everything… yet. (All the Christmas decorations are from the Alta farm except the two outside shots.)
To see 2011 Norwegian Christmas Fashion visit our post.
– Table Cloths
Table cloths a strong feature of the room as everyone gathers around tables. Cloths usually have bright red as a major colour. Patterns are important and usually have a Christmas theme. There are two usual cloth dressing methods – having a highly decorative cloth or a strong coloured cloth (usually red or purple for Advent) on the base and a smaller decorative cloth on top.
These are usually highly decorative pieces of material. They are placed anywhere in the house – on benches, over sofa arm-rests, along mantle pieces etc.
– Bed Linens
Yes, even the bedrooms spread Christmas cheer. Linens are often flannel for Winter warmth. It is common to have check patterns, hearts, and traditional Norwegian cross stitch patterns on the sheets and/or doona. Extra pillows with Christmas prints are used and also a Christmas patterned blanket (usually made or wool or felt). Typical colours are red and purple.
Cushions are used to decorate chairs, sofas and benches. It is common to have a whole bunch in each area – some plain coloured to frame and others with strong Christmas scenes such as nisser in the barn, reindeer grazing or a snowman.
Cotton printed curtains are a popular dressing for windows. Most common are two side curtains (window height or floor length) which are tied back to the window sides by a decorative chain/rope or just with ribbon. Many windows also have a a short railing curtain on the top. Kitchen windows can have a short curtain crossing the middle of the window. They are often made from a light white decorative lace. Lace curtains can also accompany the the side curtains. Panel curtains are very popular in Norway. The are about 25cm wide and hang down to the floor. These curtains are specifically for extra decoration (especially if your normal Christmas curtains are a plain colour) and can have prints or Christmas scenes crafted in.
Curtains are important in Norway to help keep the heat in but also diverts the eye of people outside – as it is always dark outside and bright inside windows turn into a TV-effect showing the antics of the insiders.
A Norwegian seven stick candle is often placed on the windowsill and left on the whole Christmas season – candelabras are also common. On other windows an electric bright star is hung from the top. The lights coming from the window mimics the sun and also makes the house look decorative on the outside.
– Hanging Decorations
Christmas stars, hearts or bells can hang from the centre of the window. A chain of small bells or hearts can hang on the side. I’ve seen nisser heads with beard hanging from the corner of curtain railings. A popular decoration to hang in the centre is decorated pepperkaker.
– Sill Decorations
Plants, especially Christmas Star, is popular to put on windowsills. Candles also (seven stick Candelabra). Sometimes you will see nisse figures or a decorative plate with tinsel and bobbles, or a bowl of potpourri. Long wreaths (usually fresh to add a pine smell to the house) a placed along sills.
– These decorations are similar to the window hanging decorations -hearts, chains, stars – except for hanging peperkaker (it is too irresistible to look up and take a bite on the way through!). Larger doorways are often dressed with curtains that frames the entrance. It is popular to have statues such as julebukk, a welcome nisse, wreaths or a paper-mache reindeer.
Wall candelabras jut out above furniture that doesn’t move (otherwise you’d bump into them!) They are often for little tea lights as the candelabra cup shields the flame from the wall. These decorations can also be placed by windows. The fixture stays up all year – changing the glass holder gives a fresh look for every season.
– Wall Hangings
These include, decorative linen, Advent calendars, Christmas wreaths, bells and ornaments such as baubles (which have a special L-frame hook to jut them out from the wall), oven printed mittens, painted plates and snowflakes. Kremmerhus are on old traditional shopping bag for bits and bobs, made of paper. They can hange anywhere in the house and can also be used as an Advent calendar. Tinsel is not for the walls. In fact, tinsel is not a feature of a Norwegian Christmas.
To learn how to make kremmerhus visit our post.
See Table Cloths in the Linen section above. Also doilies are used for extra decoration.
A pot of Christmas Star is a feature for any table. You will also find little Christmas trees, candles, figurines such as nisser, or reindeer. Table wreaths a very common (even with berries and moss) and they can also hold candles. Advent candles are usually purple – four of them are placed on a plate or candelabra on the table.
Girl and Boy Nisse are very popular figures. In fact, julenisse (Santa Claus) is almost always paired with Mrs Claus. The two seem to be inseparable.
– Plates and Bowls
Bowls and plates are important as they hold food! Nuts, chocolates, clementines and pepperkake are all found on plates and in bowls on (nearly every) table. Goblets of glass or steel are also used as decoration for lollies. Food also become a decoration at Christmas – Kransekaker is a favourite table dresser. Clove orange decorations give a nice Christmasy scent. Decorative plates can have tinsel with baubles, candles or more food! Sometimes plates are decorative enough on their own and are propped up with a stand.
– Gingerbread Houses (Pepperkakehus)
These are usually placed on tables or mantels for show. They are made in early December. When they need to be eaten (generally after Christmas) they will find their way to the dinner table.
Oven mittens, tea towels, hand towels, curtains and doilies don’t escape the Christmas season. Red checks or tartans, hearts and nisse are usual patterns.
Decorated plates and bowls add to the colours of Christmas. It is common to have wreath prints, flowers or painted nisse dancing around the rim.
Serviettes are also a decorative feature for the Christmas table. Sometimes they are used as a place-mat by opening it out or even a mat for a table centre-piece.
Towels are often red or purple and have heart patterns or embroidery. Toilet paper is also a colourful feature in bathrooms. Scented candles rest on the sink bench or the tub-sill.
Norwegians don’t decorate the whole house with lights and colour is rarely used. White light is seen as more elegant. Christmas lights can be found in front yard trees. Welcome tree lights are usually electric. When guests are expected a thick candle in a tin-can or a classier lantern, is left outside. A pathway of welcome lights can also be made for special occasions. Houses can be decorated with hanging lights that look like snow from balconies. A long wreath with lights can dress front doors. Some houses have candelabras attached to the wall near the entrance. For fun, families make snowball lanterns – snowballs built into a pyramid – or ice sculptures with a welcome tea light placed inside.
Wreaths around doorways or hanging off door knockers are usual. A wreath doesn’t have to be made of fir trees. It is also popular to have moss and red berry wreaths. Light wreaths are also making an appearance.
Welcome statues and figures are popular. In the old days they used to ward off evil spirits but now they welcome Christmas guests. Usual images are nisse, julenisse, reindeer and julebukk.
There are a lot of ‘flag-raising-days’ at Christmas time and flag raising is also used as a welcome. Some houses have a flag pole out the front but most have a wall pole either by the window or door, and sometimes off the balcony. The Norwegian flag is hung at sunrise and brought down at sunset on Christmas Eve, First Day of Christmas, Second Day of Christmas, and New Years Day, not to mention on any birthdays or when special visitors come to the home.
(The Christmas Tree is decorated usually on the 23rd of December – this deserves a whole post of its own ;D)