Nisse of Norway (Norwegian Santa)

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I: informant, R: roommate M: me

I: So it’s a Christmas tradition, like, so we have Santa but it’s not that kind of Santa, it’s like a little gnome

R:*laughs* Gnome?

I: No yeah it’s like, not very tall, its like a little dwarf situation going on, but you leave out like porridge for him Christmas Eve so he doesn’t come and like um mess with your house or like tie you up or something

R+M: *laugh*

M: I love that!

R: *inaudible dialogue…* kidnapping at times..

I: no no yeah you have to please,, it comes from farm…farming, I think, so like farmsteads. So we would have like, they would be like caretakers of your, like they would take care of your animals and like watch out for your farm and stuff and then you left out food for them and we still do that. Cause I think you leave cookies and milk in the US?

M: Yeah

R: But that’s for Santa 

I: But it’s the same kind of situation, except you do it to like you know give a gift for your like uncle gnomes or whatever

M: yeah that’s so cute

Context: This is a practice that my informant has been doing since he was a little boy. The Norwegian legend of ‘Santa’ is different and thus their offering and practices are different as well.

Analysis: The Norwegian’s legend of ‘Santa’ is very different from the American telling, showing multiplicity and variation in the lore. The origins of these gnomes came with the Norwegian farmsteads wherein these gnomes would be responsible for the success or failure of the farms so in order to please the caretakers- as in many other cultures- offerings are made. In this case, porridge. In the US we offer milk and cookies and good behavior in exchange for gifts. These gnomes come around the winter solstice/ Christmas time, which is another common occurrence; folklore and celebrations often to be align with the solar calendar which can be representative of the life cycle.

For another version of this legend see: Varga, Eva. “The Nisse of Norway.” Eva Varga, 4 Nov. 2013,