The painting above shows a Norwegian stabbur, or storehouse. Sore Plassen only had a barn and not a stabbur, as far as I can tell, but many, many Norwegian farms did and do have them. On the pole atop of the stabbur you can see a julenek (definition below).
In ancient times, Christmas in Norway was a mid-winter feast - a festival of lights marking the transition from the dark winter to spring and summer. In the 900s King Haakon I decided that the heathen custom of drinking Jul (Yule) was to be moved to December 25th, in honour of the birth of Jesus Christ. Gradually, the pagan feast was Christianized, but the name Jul was retained. Norwegian Christmas is thus a mixture of ancient heathen and Christian traditions.
The children tumble in, only to stop short, awestruck by the sight of the tree, aglow with the light from real candles, and with the neatly wrapped gifts heaped underneath." (Vera Henriksen, Norway Info)
"NOW IT'S CHRISTMAS AGAIN" BY CARL LARSSON
It wouldn't be a traditional Scandinavian Christmas without the Norwegian Julenisse or the Swedish Jultomte. Legend has it that nisse and tomte were mischievous domestic sprites who resided in the pantry or barn. They were responsible for the protection and welfare of the farmstead and its animals, especially the horses. The original nisse and tomte were about the size of a young child. They had an enormous capacity for work but would not tolerate anyone's interference. It was believed that a clean and orderly home or farm was an indication that these elfin presences resided there.
A NISSE WAITING FOR HIS PORRIDGE
(Will the kitty get it instead?)
The present-day version of the Julenisse or Jultomte is very different from the legendary gnome. In modern-day Scandinavia he is more like St. Nicholas or Santa Claus. He is is portrayed as an older, good natured, adult-sized man with a long white beard and a red hat and suit. He carries a sack of toys on his back, visits children in their homes on Christmas Eve and always asks, “Are there any good children here?” ("Er det noen snille barn her?")
JULTOMTE AND HIS JULBOK
Scandinavian children today still leave a bowl of porridge (julegrøt) with plenty of butter (nisse are greedy for butter) out in the barn or in the house for the Julenisse or Jultomte on Christmas Eve. It is said that if the nisse is pleased with his gift, he will treat the family well. If not, he will play tricks on them!