Tag Archives: winter solstice

Nisse of Norway (Norwegian Santa)

Main Content:

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, evavarga.net/the-nisse-of-norway/. 

Modern Practices of The Winter Solstice

Informant: I researched it and made it our own, and it changes constantly every year, but that’s to be expected. I’ve always done solstice when we were out here (America) because we were otherwise going back to England for Christmas and we didn’t want to go schlepping (moving) all the presents back, so we starting celebrating this.

Interviewer: So what is it that you do for the solstice?

Informant: I go out in the late afternoon and I pick Bay Leaves, Oak Leaves, and Ivy Leaves and I wash them and then I put them out to dry in the last rays of the sun. Traditionally I’m making pork and prunes on that day, so I put that on to cook. It is the first night we light the yule log. I build a fire in the fire pit, using what remains of last year’s log. We start around the fire making wishes with the leaves I left out to dry and throwing them into the fire. When we come in to eat, we eat take a light from the fire and light a candle then carry that light to the table where we’re eating. You are bringing light into the darkness. My husband also made me a yule log table decoration with fire candles in it for the five of us in the family.

Interviewer: You mentioned wishes with leaves, what kind of wishes do you make?

Informant: I can show you, I have it written down.

[Informant returns with a red book]

Informant: This is where I record all the big events that happen to my family every solstice. Here’s the wish list.

[Written information on a standard white piece of paper]

These leaves have been washed clean and dried in the last rays of the sun. Splash them with whatever you’re drinking and drop them into the fire with a wish. This is a time of giving so your wishes should not be for yourself but for the good of others.

For friendship, fidelity, and affection

For luck, also strength, endurance and vigor

For health and Protection
This is also a time for letting go, making amends or saying farewell.

Write your regrets and resentments on a slip of paper and toss them into the fire.