Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Faroese Christmas - Gleðilig Jól

Well it is Christmas time again. (And as usual we are behind on getting things ready.) But I thought I would share some of the traditions that I grew up with. Now while I was looking for images and additional information I found out that many of the traditions that I thought were exclusively Faroese are celebrated throughout Scandinavia. This may be partially because we all share common roots. As far as for the Faroe Islands they were settled in the 9th century by Vikings mainly from common day Norway. The Faroe Islands were under Norwegian rule up until around 1380 when Norway entered the Kalmar Union with Denmark which evolved into Denmark taking complete rule. So as you can see the Faroe Islands has a lot of influence from other Scandinavian countries. And since the Faroe Islands is still a part of the Danish Kingdom, Denmark has a large influence on Faroese culture. I know for my mom she was 15 or so until they started teaching Faroese in the schools. (She always said that she could read Danish better then Faroese.) Another fact is the Church of the Faroe Islands didn't become independent of Denmark until this year. I guess what I am trying to say is that many of the traditions that I grew up with are shared by many Scandinavian countries.

The beginning of the Christmas season always started in our house with the Advent Calendar. I do not remember a Christmas without one. If you have never had one or know what they are, they are countdown calendar. Starting on the 1st of December we would open a window that would reveal an image or message about Christmas. The calendar would countdown to Christmas Eve. The days quite often would be hidden within an image of Christmas so it was always a game with us kids to see who could find todays window before the other. Today many of the windows are filled with candy. This was always something that as kids we looked forward to. Today we have passed this on to our kids but also to our nieces and nephews. It something that kids of all ages look forward to.

Some of decorations are unique to Scandinavia. One of them is the Julnisse. They are mischievous elves that tradition says needs to be bribed with Rice Pudding so they wouldn't be up to their tricks on Christmas Eve. So one of the things that many do is decorate their house with paper cutouts of the Julnisse. It was one of those things as a kids we loved to do because we could put them anywhere in the house. So they would hang on shelves, plants or any other place we could get them to stay. It wouldn't be Christmas with out those little guys around the house.

Now for the Rice Pudding that was mentioned. This is a traditional Christmas treat. This was always eaten on Christmas Eve or when we had guest over at this time of the year. The trick to this was that there was always an ONE almond put in the pudding and who ever ended up with the almond would get a little prize. Now mind you, you were never suppose to say anything until everyone had finished their helping of pudding.

A BIG part of Christmas like with most cultures these days is the Christmas tree. Now many things are the same, the lights, the garland, the angel on the top but there were a few touches that we always added that made it different and always made our trees stand out from others. We would put baskets on our tree. We had many different kinds but the most popular was the red and white heart baskets. My mother told us that when she was growing up that the baskets would be filled with candy and that when people would come over to visit that as they left the kids would get to take one of the baskets off the tree as a parting gift. Being in America we never had enough baskets to give away so that tradition was never carried over. The other item that would always be put on the tree were the flags. They are a string of flags that would go from the top to the bottom. For most of my life they were Danish flags but then the Faroe Islands started making ones with the Faroese Flag on them. I was even able to get some with the United States flag on them. So today my tree has an array of Danish, Faroese and United States flags on them. These items are a part of Christmas that I couldn't live without. If I have nothing else on my tree, I need to have the baskets and the flags.

Now that I have explained a little of the traditions that go on in a Faroese American Christmas I better finish this and get myself to bed so that I can get some sleep and finish the decorating of our house. I still need to get a tree and with a new puppy in the house I am not sure how we are going to keep her from eating the tree and all its decorations. If any of you have any suggestion pleases let me know.


Kristie said...

I was just discussing today with a friend how we dont feel very "christmas-y" this year. Its good to see someone does.

Anonymous said...

I must say how impressed I am with your blog and the christmas spirit it instils in me. Well done!

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Anonymous said...

Dear Ogie,
I am writing to you from the United States. I am writing a book on probability theory in the news. One of the chapters in the book deals with a probability problem involving nisse. We want to use the figure that is shown in your blog. The name of the file that contains the figure is called nisse.gif (it's the one with the nisse holding a cat). Do you know where this picture comes from and who holds the copyright? We are interested in obtaining permission to use it in our book. Thanks.

Charles Grinstead

P.S. The best way to respond is by email to the following address:


(This is the email address of one of my co-authors, Laurie Snell.)

nikki said...

i just found your blog and enjoy reading about your culture and life. my relatives (5 generations past) come from Denmark. so i feel this is a little taste of home for me. Thanks for sharing.
I love the idea of baskets on the Christmas tree - Will be doing that next year. Would you be willing to share your recipe for Rice Pudding - it looks so good!
thanks Nikki

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