From Julebukk to Halloween

Julebukk is a long Norwegian tradition from likely before the Viking era.  Today julebukk is about children dressing up in costume during romjul, the time between Christmas and New Years, and visting family and friends, singing carols and receiving gifts and treats.

You can read more about julebukk from our Christmas pages.

However, sadly, the tradition is slowly dying out because of modern habits.  Traditionally in Norway Christmas starts on the 24th of december, Christmas eve.  Celebrations began on this day, as did the set up of the Christmas tree and the consumption of Christmas food.  However, because of international influence, Christmas celebrations now start a lot earlier with work Christmas parties beginning as early as November, and the Christmas tree and decorations making early appearances in stores and homes.  Christmas concerts, lighting of the Christmas tree, St Lucia and Advent add the pre-Christmas activities.  Christmas day has now become the grand finale of celebrations, not the first day of Christmas, as tradition.  Everyone is already partied out, sugar-filled and full-bellied.  And so, instead of gearing up for julebukk after Christmas day, the romjul period has become a time of rest and quietness to get over Christmas before New Years.

Another celebration has been infiltrating Norway; particularly stronger in recent years thanks to the up-selling opportunity for shops.  Halloween.  This is still seen as an American tradition in Norway but since the early 2000s Norwegian kids have been pushing for it every year.  They want the extra opportunity for free sweets and the chance of being a little naughty (the trick) is a draw factor.  Shops now advertise halloween costumes and sweets, especially halloween buckets and pumpkins, (pumpkins are not a tradition in Norway and do not tantalize the average Norwegian palate).  They are imported just for decoration and carving.  Norway has even come up with their own translation for ‘trick or treat’: ‘knask eller knep!’, ‘godteri eller lureri’  or ‘digg eller deng’; the latter meaning ‘treat or beating’.  This American tradition comes at the perfect time of year when the cold and darkness sets in, between the autumn and Christmas holidays.

However, there is no such excitement from kids or stock support from shops during romjul for julebukk.  Halloween is certainly cramping julebukk’s style.  But take heart – there is a revolution brewing!!!  I have seen a lot of chatter on facebook between my Norwegian friends about revolting against Halloween and bringing back julebukk.  This meme has been going round for a little while now, it is a poster that you put on your front door saying: No, to Halloween, Yes, to julebukk.  Come back at Romjula:


Today, to my delight, I discovered a facebook support group to bring back julebukk ‘Out with Trick or Treat and in with julebukk‘ (translated).  The amazing thing is that they have 123,000 ‘likes’; that is nearly twice the population of Finnmark county!!  The page has been up since 31 October 2011.  There must have been something that happened on that day to initiate the quiet revolution.   The page author states her reason for the page in one of her posts (with a topical subject of how other cultures are diluting Norwegian traditions) :

To those who think it’s hypocritical to dislike “trick-or-treating” when we have so much other American [traditions] in our everyday lives: That’s why it is so important for us to maintain our Norwegian traditions. If we trade all our traditions for American ones that we see in movies and on TV, we will lose some of our identity. Imagine how boring the world would be if everybody did the same thing… That’s why it’s so exciting to travel the world – to experience the traditions of different countries. A lot of our traditions have been diluted over the last few decades, which I think is a shame. I’m not promoting USA-hatred or hyper-conservativism, just a desire to keep cosy Norwegian traditions, and not just go along with all the purchasing pressure that comes with “new” and “foreign” traditions. I believe, for instance, that immigrants in Norway would find it very exciting if suddenly there was a bunch of kids at their door singing Christmas songs… (translated)

Til de som mente at det er litt hyklersk å mislike “knask eller knep” når man har så mye annet amerikansk i hverdagen: Det er jo nettopp derfor det er viktig at vi også holder på våre norske tradisjoner. Hvis man bytter ut alle våre tradisjoner med amerikanske tradisjoner vi ser på film og tv mister vi også litt av vår identitet. Tenk hvor kjedelig verden ville blitt hvis alle gjorde det samme hele tiden… Det er jo nettopp derfor det er så gøy å reise rundt i verden også – å oppleve ulike lands tradisjoner. Veldig mange av våre tradisjoner har blitt veldig utvannet i løpet av de siste tiårene, noe jeg mener er synd. Det er ikke snakk om USA-hat eller hyperkonservativisme, men et ønske om å holde på koselige norske tradisjoner, og ikke å jatte med alt kjøpepresset enkelte “nye” og “fremmede” tradisjoner fører med seg. Jeg tror for eksempel at mange innvandrere i Norge også ville synes det var kjempegøy dersom det plutselig sto en haug med unger på trappa deres og sang julesanger…

Yes, us immigrants would love to be visited by julebukk!!!

Gratulerer med dagen! 2013


The 17th of May is celebrated as Norway’s birthday.  On this day in 1814 the Norwegian Constitution was signed and Norway declared itself a country.  The phrase ‘Gratulerer med dagen’, directly translated to ‘congratulations with the day’, is the expression used when greeting and wishing people a happy national day.  The same phrase is also used when wishing someone a happy birthday.

So, Gratulerer med dagen!  Norway has turned 199 years today!


Tromsø Gold



Tromsø is an exceptionally beautiful place.  The city in on a small island connected to the mainland by bridges and tunnels.  Standing on the west side, beautiful sunsets fall over Whale island, Kvaløya.

Polar Bear Spotter Wanted


There has been a bit of  buzz lately on the internet about a job advert offered in Svalbard.  The advert reads: Assignment as a Polar Bear Spotter.  Unfortunately numerous English language posts fail to see the seriousness of the job.
cnsnews. com
mother nature network

The news reports make a farce out of the unusual job offer but, in fact, the position is a necessary post for Svarbard.

Knowing the real dangers of such a job, the Norwegian reports are a little less jovial:  Nordlys

There are only 2600 people living on the archipelago and about 3000 polar bears.  When venturing outside the settlements it is a requirement to either carry a rifle or have a trained spotter with you, who carries a rifle.

There is a real danger in the Svalbard wilderness.  Two years ago a raging polar bear attacked a youth camp with British teenagers.  One 17 year old was killed and four others serverly injured.  A survivor of the attack said ‘I heard a crushing sound which later turned out to be my skull as the polar bear locked its jaws around my head’.  He managed to get away by punching with bare fists in the polar bear’s face (normally you wear gloves in the Arctic).  Both the tour guides were injured in the attack but one of them managed to get his rifle and shot and killed the polar bear.

In March this year a polar bear was shot while trying to break into a cabin.  Just two weeks ago a polar bear attacked a dog team near the sound tip of Svalbard.  No one was injured but the polar bear was shot at point blank range.  So the job is actually life threatening and requires more than someone with a ‘loud voice’ to scare off the bears, as said to be quoted from the Governor of Svalbard in the news articles.

As there will be a research party documenting the hunting cabins around Hornsund, which is outside the safe area, an experienced polar bear spotter is needed.  The job requires someone with experience with outdoors and recreation in Svalbard, experience with polar bears and weapons and satisfactory conduct (meaning no drinking during the watch).  The job is only for three weeks over summer.

So before you apply to your dream get-away summer job in the exotic Arctic with cuddly polar bears, make sure you are armed guard material that can fight against the world’s largest land predator.


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