Some families have different cultural backgrounds, so after they come together, they find ways to honor both traditions.
This is the case with today’s story. Vanja, a Norwegian, and Dave, and American, have found ways to merge their roots and traditions into a special Christmas celebration for their family.
When I was a child I always went to bed early December 23rd and woke up Christmas Eve super early to a fully decorated tree with all the presents underneath it.
Our stockings were filled with candy and small gifts. We wore pjs until 3 pm, ate our candy and watched julemorgen (A Christmas TV program for kids), tre nøtter til askepott, reisen til julestjernen and Disneys julekavalkade.
My mother would work in the kitchen making pinnekjøtt. At five we would all be dressed in our nicest clothes and listen to sølvguttene “sing Christmas in.” Right after, my brother would read juleevangeliet (the story of Jesus’ birth) before we ate.
As kids we were always quick to finish dinner, anxious for the arrival of julenissen (Norwegian Santa). Around 6 or 7 we would clean the table and soon we would hear a knock on the door.
Santa came with presents, and he would get an aquavit before he went on his way.
After he left we would open all the presents one by one. My mother always brewed her own beer and an alcohol-free version for the kids. We played with our toys and could stay up for as long as we wanted.
Those childhood memories remain and I am thankful to get to pass many of them on to my daughters. But while some things remain the same, some have also changed. I’m now married to an American, and our international family has enjoyed finding fun ways to merge our traditions and make them our own.
Some things are a bit more American: we decorate our tree the day after Thanksgiving – much earlier than most here in Norway! And we have an elf that visits our house daily throughout December.
But we also do a lot of the same things as when I was little. We open our stockings and half the presents under the tree on the 24th.
Our Christmas Eve dinner is a blend of America and Norway, as we have both pinnekjott and pork steak. And the girls are always anxious to see if julenissen/Santa will come!
On the morning of the 25th we wake up to more gifts, only this time it’s just us in our pjs! We Skype our family in America, and watch Christmas movies all day.