Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Illustration by Finnish painter Rudolf Koivu

Today, December 23, is Lille Juleaften, Little Christmas Eve, in Norway. Norwegians take great delight in Christmas, and are only too happy to begin celebrating it early and extend it way beyond Christmas Day. In this post I'm sharing my Norwegian Christmas decorations. Since I do not have a digital camera, and haven't figured out how to use my new scanner, the illustrations you will see here are from the Internet. I will also show some Swedish and Danish decorations. I recently found out I have a Swedish ancestor among many Norwegian ancestors, and my husband, in addition to being half Norwegian, is also of Danish descent.

"Brita Med Juleapplen"
("Brita With Christmas Apples")
Brita (or "Apple Girl" as she is also known) has become a symbol for Scandinavian Christmas. Famed Swedish painter Carl Larsson often used his children as models for his work, and this painting is no exception. He dressed his daughter Brita in this costume for a painting he was doing for the cover of a magazine. I have this painting as a mini flag/wall hanging, and also on mother-daughter aprons for Kristen and me. I got them when she was about five years old. How I wish I had had someone take a picture of us wearing them!

"Lefse Girl" tile by Suzanne Toftey

In the past, I have given my sister and Dan's niece a number of these Norwegian tiles/trivets designed by Suzanne Toftey for Christmas. However, for many years I myself only had one tile. But this year, I gave myself permission to treat myself to at least one tile a year. Each tile in the series features a Norwegian child or children with a Norwegian Christmas delicacy.

Toftey also created a series of plates featuring the nisse, or Norwegian house sprite or gnome. In this plate the Julenisse (Christmas nisse) sets out a juleneg, a Christmas treat for the birds.

It wouldn't be a Norwegian Christmas without the julekirv or Christmas woven heart. It can either be a two-dimensional ornament for the Christmas tree, or made into a three-dimensional basket to contain Christmas goodies. The red and green version you see here is the traditional color combination for Christmas, or it can be red and white or created from the colors of the Norwegian, Swedish or Danish flags.

The Julenisse can also take the form of a Julebukk, or Christmas Goat. This straw goat is beloved of both Norwegians and Swedes, who call it a Julbok.

These angel chimes, a cherished memory of my childhood Christmases, can be purchased very inexpensively. The heat from the candles causes the angels to rotate and strike the chimes to produce a light tinkling sound.

Lovely Danish cutouts like the one above are delicately made and must be handled and stored very carefully from year to year.

To be a true Norwegian, one must have some sort of decoration painted with Norwegian rosemaling, a form of tole painting. The name is derived from the words "rose painting."

The Danish Bing and Grondahl and Royal Copenhagen companies each issue a Christmas plate every year. I have only two, which I purchased the first year we moved into our house 26 years ago. That year, my mother-in-law exclaimed during a visit, "Those are terribly expensive!" For some reason, her comment prevented me from ever purchasing another one. How I rue that decision. I have spent way more money over the years on much more foolish and expensive things than these!

Speaking of expensive decorations, one is the Swedish wooden Dala horse, above.

Another expensive decoration is the Swedish electric candolier, above. Because I only recently learned that I have a smattering of Swedish in me, and because of the price, these two decorations are only on my wish list so far.

Another kind of decoration that can be expensive are these Norwegian figurines. However, I have a similar, knock-off set purchased for very little at Wal-Mart!
Now that these decorations have been placed around the house, let's proceed to the Christmas tree:

All Norwegian Christmas trees MUST have painted red wooden hearts

and woven straw ornaments.

A nice addition to a Norwegian tree is an ornament made from Hardanger, a Norwegian cut-work embroidery.

Other painted wooden ornaments are also a must on the Norwegian Christmas tree.

Finally, a true Norwegian Christmas tree will have real lit candles (or electric in modern times), apple ornaments (I use flocked apples purchased in sets of a dozen) and flag banners. I was told by a Norwegian relative that the flag banners are supposed to go up and down, whereas I had wound my Norwegian flag banner round-and-round like a garland, as shown here. Since this illustration provides me some validation, I'm leaving my banner as is!

All the decorations are set out, the tree is decorated and lit. All that is left is to turn down the lamps and say, "Glaedelig Jul og Godt Nytar" ("Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!")


Janet said...

This is such a lovely post. All the Swedish and Norwegian decorations are just great. I remember having the little angels spinning above the candles....my mom had them and later I did too! My kids always liked watching them.

Have a Merry Christmas!!

JoAnn ( Scene Through My Eyes) said...

How very sweet of you to share these wonderful traditions with us. I have had an angel chime and loved it - until it fell to pieces. I might just get another. We used to make the woven hearts in grade school in Alaska - lots of Norwegian influence there. Thanks for the great post.

Miss Robyn said...

wishing you a wonderful christmas Julie xo - I love the angel chimes, I have seen them here in shops but don't have one.

Now, after Solstice, you can look forward to the warmth returning.. here in Woodford today, Christmas eve, it is misty and cold... maybe tomorrow I will have a white Christmas xo

Shopgirl said...

Merry Christmas Julie, may your heart be Merry and all around you Bright. Love your post, always do.
Love, your Mary

Laurie said...

Merry Christmas Julie, I hope you have a wonderful, magical day! We always had the angel chimes when I was growing up ~ I haven't been able to find any down south!

Kate Robertson said...

Merry Christmas Julie,

I too loved the post. I used to do hardanger embroidery so this brought back memories.


Mary said...

Julie - thanks you for your continuing friendship across the miles.

Very best wishes for a beautiful Christmas and a healthy and happy New Year.
Hugs - Mary.

Lila Rostenberg said...

The angel chimes were always a great favorite for me! I also have red wooden hearts which I love hanging on our tree!
Merry Christmas again!

LW said...


What a wonderful post……

Wendy Lawton made a doll inspired by the Panting Brita With Christmas Apples.
I have to take some pictures and send them to you; she comes with a blue painted trunk and a Dala horse. It is a cute little set.

I adore Carl Larssen paintings and could spend hours looking at his work…
I also love Hardanger, something I always wanted to learn to do, but just never found the time…

I hope you have a wonderful 2009...


Greenconsciousness said...

I really enjoyed seeing all the decorations we can make for Solstice. I liked those little wooden evergreen trees. I WANT that straw goat.

Perfect timing for these pictures. I am Wishing you a Merry Winter Time.

Annie Jeffries said...

I remember having candle powered angel chimes when I was a child. I have not thought of them in years. I MUST look around and see if I can find one to start using next year.

Anonymous said...

Lovely Lille julaften images. We have alot of the things shown here :-)

Merry Christmas to you.