A few days before Christmas A and I headed back to Oslo. We were getting ready for our very own first Christmas together. Being a family-person, I always had big Christmas celebrations, many people coming over, having dinner together, playing games, just being merry together, fun, arguments, too much to eat and what ever else you need, to have a true Christmas party but this year was different. This year it was just A and I – a first.
So when we got up early the 24th, I made some coffee and sat down in the living room. A came running in and asked me if we could open presents – NOW. A thought it’d be a good idea to combine our cultural traditions – and put aside our differences – of celebrating Christmas Eve and Christmas Morning and created a pre-Christmas morning. Best idea ever btw. So we sat down in front of our Piss-mas-tree and exchanged gifts. Santa-Christkind-Norwegian-Style brought me wonderful slippers and a bunch of art materials and A’s Santa brought him a couple of champagne glasses and a calendar-of-love (closely related to the book of love…).
We then had some breakfast together and played some games, watched TV, watched movies, enjoyed our day and waited for evening to come. We had plans to celebrate it at the activity house, with all the less fortunate people, which for us was very extraordinarily fortunate. Around 3.30 we left our apartment and headed down to the city. Both A and I were extremely excited. WHAT did we sign up for? Norwegian food? Norwegian traditions? Norwegian people? Can we handle it? That was for us to find out. On the way downtown we suddenly had the realization that the trains might not run all night and that by the end of the night we might have to take a cab to get home, so A told me, if he’d give me the hairy eyeball, it was time to go, just to be on the save-traveling-home-side.
As we entered the house we were greeted by a horrific smell of pinekjøtt. Dried and salted lamb, boiled in hot water and then cooked in the oven for another century or so. Seriously? Is that what you call food? I don’t think so. But A, being very polite person choked down the food and topped it off with a smile. Occasionally we would made some ‘mhmmmm’ sounds which was paired with a little ‘how can I spit this out without anyone seeing it?’ whisper. We washed the food down with some gløgg, a very very very sweet hot drink infused with raisins and nuts and some other things I blended out, Norwegians just drink that to keep warm at Christmas. Needless to say that neither A nor I went for seconds on neither the food nor the drinks. There were about 30 people, all of them dressed nicely and all of them having big smiles on their faces. We all genuinely enjoyed the company (which so far was the only thing we really enjoyed). We had some good laughs, some wonderful conversations, some jokes were told and all in all it was just wonderful to be surrounded by such caring people. And then: dessert. Now, I don’t know how many of you ever heard anybody say ‘let’s go and have Norwegian food, I know this really good Norwegian restaurant, right around the corner’ but I never heard anyone say that, not even in Norway. So you can imagine my face as I choked down some cloud berries. Something Norwegians are particularly fond off, they also are very secretive about there whereabouts and if it were up to me, it might as well stay that way. Cream and tasteless berries. To one of these A is allergic and the other one is just not what you would call delicious.
No surprise here – no seconds either. However we ate all the displayed chocolate, pepperkakene (= ginger bread) and all the other sweets that were put out. And then, the highlight of the evening: the dance around the Christmas-tree. What you need: a Christmas tree in the middle of the room, and 30 people holding hands and a sense for music. What you do: hold hands, walk either one or the other way around the Christmas tree and sing. What we did: laugh. It was just such a bizarre experience, not knowing the lyrics to the songs and walking and laughing and singing and making some hand gestures to the songs that were sung. Needless to say, we had a one-of-a-kind-blast. By the end of this both A and I were just genuinely happy and merry (and made a mental note for a new tradition we wanted to keep). After some quiz-games A gave me a long look, which I interpreted as, ‘I really love it here, let’s stay longer’ but what actually meant ‘let’s go home before we miss our train’. The good news was the public transportation was still running, the bad news was our train needed another 30 minutes before it would get here and we were stuck in the terrible cold. Somehow we made it home, somehow we made it through the day, somehow we survived our very first Christmas all by ourselves and somehow I know with certainty that Norwegian food will never ever, in my life time be on my Christmas dinner list, ever.