Some of the gifts that I have received over the years are very much appreciated but a little odd. Norwegian gift giving is one of the phenomenon that makes me remember just how strange Norwegians are. A bottle of wine is a common ‘thank you’ present in Norway (like most other places) but how about a Brazilian potted plant? After being a judge for a dance competition, standing there up on stage with a tropical plant complete with a ceramic pot in the middle of Winter felt a little odd.
Work normally throws a party or pizza night as a ‘thank you’ for a job well done (I’d much prefer a day off) and gives welcome gifts to new employees (being a stage manager I’ve received a leather-man, a pair of leather gloves and some steel capped boots!) Aquavit, the Norwegian made alcoholic drink, is also a popular gift for foreigners.
Friends and family have often made cakes or special cookies to say thank you. But there are a few prized gifts above all others that Norwegians like to give. One time near Christmas an associate of mine gave me a leg of lamb – a whole leg. I was a little embarrassed standing there with a dried lamb’s leg in my arms thinking ‘what am I supposed to do with this?’ A cured leg of lamb seems to be a very prestigious present to give. When you receive one from a Norwegian you know you are highly appreciated. Dried meats and Norwegian salamis such as moose or reindeer are common too. Another worthy gift is a platter of smoked salmon. There is certainly something weird driving home with a ‘thank you salmon’ on your lap. A common gift to foreigners is a woolen jumper with the Norwegian snow print (but I haven’t got mine yet!).
So what do you give a Norwegian for Christmas? What they give you, of course! Norwegians love getting plants and flowers, dried meats (a cured leg of lamb will give you extra brownie points) and alcohol. Norwegians appreciate hand-crafted presents, decorative glasses and plates and vases. For children and babies it is more common to give clothes. For Norwegians overseas anything that is a slice of home, brown cheese, Freia chocolate, marsipan or pickled herring will certainly win favour.
So good luck in getting your Norwegian a present. They can be very tricky to buy for. Two of the hardest people in our lives to buy for is Farmor and Farfar but here are some present winners that we have given over the years: a sterling silver ribbon pin (for holding a Norwegian flag ribbon on special occasions like 17th of May), pepperkaker cutters (in Norway reindeer, pigs, hearts and stars are standard so we gave kangaroo, koala, possum and echidna ones), a special bowl for grøt, garden gnome, a traditional wooden mug with a bush turkey handle (they are carved out of trees tumours to get its unique shape), decorative sofa pillows and a baking tray stacker.
Have you given a present to a Norwegian that won them over?