Easter Bunch

The Easter bunch or påskeris is an old tradition kept in the modern home.  Spring is here and after a long white winter it is nice to refreshen the house with nature.  In the south of Norway the grass is usually out and the buds are flowering at this time but in the north, we are still covered in a thick layer of snow.  It is hard to see spring in the north as early as April but it is there, it is just hidden, waiting.

The trees have been sleeping for the winter.  In the spring they still look like they are snoozing but underneath all that snow and bark life is flowing, ready to burst out when the sun is strong enough.

The Easter bunch is made of twigs from trees that are just waiting for the first chance to see the new season.  The usual trees to search for are birch and willow.  They have twigs with woody buds on them.

Making the Easter bunch is a whole family affair for us.  A week before Easter, usually Palm Sunday, we take a trip onto the farm and find the perfect twigs for our bunch.  This year we chose birch.  Sometimes we go down to the river for willow.  We look for branches that have a lot of woody buds as this will help to hang more ornaments and will give a surprise for Easter Sunday.

We cut off enough to make a big bouquet, and keep long stems on the twigs to be put into a vase.  We use a knife as it makes a cleaner cut for the twigs are certainly not dry inside to make a clean snap.

Back at home the twigs go into a vase with water.  We have family craft days leading up to Palm Sunday and so get out our handmade ornaments to have a decorating party.

The usual decorations are hanging eggs, feathers and coloured string.  We have little hands in our family so the kids paint eggs and use stickers to decorate.

And, of course, a Norwegian decorating party wouldn’t be the same without cake!

The most exciting part about the Easter bunch is watching it change throughout the week.  In the cold winter snow the twigs lay dormant but as soon as you bring them inside in the warmth and put them in water their life starts to move.

By the middle of the week the woody buds pop open with little green fluffs of freshness from the birth twigs.  Twigs from willow trees pop out a furry ball of green and white fuzz – beautiful and delicate.  As the week continues to Easter Sunday the little leaves open out making a beautiful addition to the Easter bunch.

Norwegians love to bring the wonder of nature into the home for Easter.

Borealis Winter Festival Webcast

After Christmas I have ploughed into a performance production for the Borealis Winter Festival here in Alta, Norway.  Being the creator, choreographer and designer, it has left me little time for anything else.  However, today is performance day and I am happy to announce to our readers information about our live webcast of the Borealis opening ceremony and performance.  You can see the webcast here.


Live video for mobile from Ustream
Live video for mobile from Ustream

If, for whatever reason, you cannot see the stream on our website, go to this ustream channel:

http://ustre.am/IrrI

Vi er Alta (We are Alta)
The show is about the evacuation of Alta during World War II, and the people’s return to their city.  The seasons are what defines us here in the north, and they play an important role in history.  In the autumn of 1944, the people of Alta were evacuated.  Many of them saw their city in flames as they left on boats.  Many families were separated, some fled to the wilderness or to hiding places, others were never seen again.  It was a mild winter with little snow, and this was a blessing for those who stayed behind in Alta to survive.  After the war many of the people of Alta returned to find their city in ruins.  In a true spirit of friendship, people worked together to rebuild each other’s homes.  Together they built the future of Alta.

In our story we follow a boy who was left behind during the evacuation.  We learn about his relationship with nature and the importance of his family.  The show is a dancical using original music developed by local artist Dag-Jarle Nilsen.  It uses puppetry and symbols to tell the story.  All performers are children aged eight to 14 years.  The stage has been sculpted entirely out of ice and snow!

The opening ceremony starts at 19.00 local time and includes a parade of flags from the representing countries for the Finnmarksløpet, the biggest European international dog sled race.  At around 19.20, my performance production, Vi er Alta, will start.  I hope you can join me and Alta to celebrate all that winter can offer.

If you want to confirm when the show starts in your own local time you can use this timezone converter:  http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/converter.html 

 

Little Christmas Eve

Little Christmas Eve is the day before Christmas Eve and the day after the darkest day of the year.  It is a day of decoration, specifically of the Christmas tree.  Up until this day Norwegians have been preparing for Little Christmas Eve with decorations, often home-made, and tree selection.

Our day started with a hunt in our forrest for the perfect Christmas tree.  Spruce trees are most often used as they are thicker and have that Christmas tree shape (however, there is a debate in Norway whether a pine tree is better as it doesn’t shed as much).  We were on the lookout for a gran, a Norwegian spruce.  These trees do not naturally grow in Finnmark, the ones we have have been planted by Farfar a long time ago.

On the way we got to check out the frozen pond in the back forest to see if it was skate-worthy.  It was even perfect for snow angels!

We found the right tree and Moose got out the bow saw.

The sheep had to be occupied with a treat as they were a little too interested in all this tree-business.

All our trees are too big for inside so we had to downsize our selection by cutting off the top, though it is still an impressive 220cm.  It was a well rounded tree with lovely cones still attached.

With our bare tree in the living room it was time for another family workshop.  Christmas workshops are a tradition in Norway to make decorations and prepare for Christmas.  We have had several workshops making breads, pepperkaker and wreaths.  This time we made traditional heart baskets, painted pine cones, pepperkaker hangs and paper-chains as well as something from Australian tradition – bonbons.

The kids had fun decorating the tree and are proud to show off their crafts.  Now the tree is all set for julaften, Christmas Eve, where we will dance around the Christmas tree and lay presents for family and friends.

Primstav: Winter Solstice

On the 22nd of December is Winter Solstice.  It can also be on the 21st of December depending on the turning of the sun, however, the day of the 22nd is considered the shortest of the year.  The 13th of December used to be considered the shortest day when the Julian calendar was in use.  It wasn’t until around 1700, when Norway adopted the Gregorian calendar, that the shortest day moved to the 22nd of December.  The farmer’s primstav mark for this day was a sun wheel.

This day had many rules and customs but the superstitions of this day have primarily stayed with Lucia Night due to the calendar displacement.  In Norse time it was customary to have a bonfire at each solstice to celebrate the sun and invite protection from evil.  According to tradition all kinds of evil powers would arise at the turning of the sun.  The most important rule was that one should not do work with objects that turned such as spinning wheels, driving a horse and carriage and grinding. It was thought that at the moment the sun turned, water could turn into wine then vinegar and then return to water again, but this happened so fast that no one could see the change.  Brewing beer at solstice wasn’t wise because if the evil spirits got into the beer it would run out before Christmas.  Animals that had got their horns stuck could break loose at the moment of the turning sun but they needed to be quick otherwise they would remain stuck.  The women would stay up all night baking for Christmas and the servents recieved one cake each.

From this day it was mandatory to observe Christmas holiday, or peace, which generally lasted for three weeks.

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