Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Let the Christmas festivities begin!

Christmas Tree at Maihaugen
resplendent in hand-knit ornaments
Pappa and Greta by the tree,
ready to brave the brisk outdoors
Saturday seemed to be the official kick-off of the Christmas season in Lillehammer. Maihaugen, the open-air museum, hosted a Christmas market as well as several activities for children around the grounds. In the late afternoon/early evening was the opening of Christmas Street, the main pedestrian shopping district in downtown Lillehammer, complete with a nisse parade, led by the Nisse Far, a small brass band, and a variety of festive oversized dancing animal heads, not unlike Chinese dragons. It was a brisk day, around 10F/-12C, for most of the day, but we were well prepared. The events at Maihaugen were scheduled both in and out of doors, and we stopped inside for several snack breaks throughout the day.

Julenisse spotted outdoors!
Lunching on grøt (rice porridge)
Our day began around 11:30am, with the Maihaugen parking lot already filled to capacity. We visited a few of the historic cabins, decorated to celebrate a 1700s Christmas and a 1890s Christmas, and then spotted a small gathering of julenisser among the rocks, where baby goats had been leaping only a few months earlier.  We then headed indoors for a quick lunch of risengrynsgrøt (rice porridge with butter, cinnamon, and sugar) and waffles. That sat pretty well with the kiddo, and if it hadn’t, the next event on the agenda would have improved any sour mood: pepperkaker baking (gingerbread cookies). A long table was filled with more children in hand-knit sweaters than I have ever seen, and the women running the event kept an efficient schedule of doling out chunks of dough, rolling pins, cookie cutters, onto a cookie sheet, into the oven, quickly cool on the racks, and into a little wax paper bag. Afterwards I thought we could likely skip that event next year, as making gingerbread cookies at home will be a far less hurried and thus more enjoyable event. But, I must admit that having that bag of cookies on hand was rather nice to have as the day progressed.

Cutting out pepperkaker cookies
The day at Maihaugen concluded with visits to the animals in the barn and a fair amount of time in the 1930s village where a number of artists were selling their wares. I had high hopes for the Christmas market, as some friends spoke very highly of it, but I was a little disappointed. New England had its fair share of “craft fairs” that my craft-minded friends and I dubbed instead “crap fairs”, and this market was not without its share of that (although a smaller share, to be fair). Still, Norwegians love their Christmas elves and decorating with hearts this time of year, two holiday themes I have not, and will not likely, entirely embrace. So, after one last snack to warm up our insides, we headed downtown for the Christmas parade.

Mmmm, waiting for the cookies to cool
We timed our arrival to Storgate well. The nisse parade was about to start, and we only had to wait a few minutes before a parade of body-less decorative horse-heads and people dressed in elf-like costumes came spinning and twirling down the street. They were followed by a throng of people, many of whom were carrying lit torches--even rather young children! Mixed into this throng of people was a small brass band playing Christmas carols--"Joy to the World", if my memory serves me correct. We followed the parade down the street to a large Christmas tree which seemed to be already lit upon our arrival. At that point, the two adults voted that we were hungry (while the lone child was nearly asleep) and it was time to ditch the festivities and go get pizza. We believe the parade marched around downtown and lit two more Christmas trees, although I think it will be another year before we find out for certain. 

All in all, a fun-filled, exhausting day, and we all arrived home toasty warm.

Riding the tractor
Shopping in the 1930s village
Downtown Lillehammer in pre-parade excitement

The parade: a blur of people, lights,  and song

As if we needed an additional reminder that
we are living in a foreign country: small
children are trusted to carry flaming torches
in large crowds of people

The post-parade blur of people and lights.
Quite the festive scene!
Our own very tired (but warm!) nisse


  1. Wow, it sounds like you had a fun filled day. :)

  2. I think the Julebrus rule is mostly Lars', and his family's. I know some other Norwegians that are strict about waiting until the first (I think it never used to come out in stores before then) but a lot of others don't care as much and drink it when it is available in October!

    Also, if I REALLY wanted to drink some of that deliciousness before I am sure Lars could forgive me. ;) But it's fun to play along and I think it makes it all the more special!

  3. Looks like a fun day! It's funny you mentioned the child with the torch because I notive stuff like that all the time here and Im constantly telling Henrik "That is a health and safety disaster!" having worked in a British School for the last 4 years and Im so used to the British way of being very over protective!