Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve

It's the morning of Christmas Eve. As usual, I'm up early, since sleeping in seems to be a thing of the past for me.

I just made my daily list of things to do, and, thankfully, it's not long. I've already made lots of the yummy stuff that we eat at Christmas - gingerbread cookies, candy cane cookies, pretzel cookies, Mexican wedding cookies (my absolute favorites!!), English toffee and fudge. I need to make the Rice Krispie treats, vacuum and wash the floors. I also have to make a quick trip to the mall with Espen, since he hasn't gotten gifts from more friends than he was counting on and has to buy a few more things. He and his friends are pretty in to getting each other things, but luckily that trend hasn't reached the 4th or 2nd grades. Although, he's paying for these gifts with his own money, so I shouldn't complain.

Today is the official Christmas day in Norway, but it doesn't start until the afternoon. It's acually a regular work day until 12:00. Gaute won't be going in, though, and most people who have somewhat flexible hours don't work today. Most people take the whole next week off. The week between Christmas and New Year's actually has its own name in Norway - Romjul. Both the 25th and 26th are official holidays. We're heading up to our cabin on Thursday and will be probably be there until January 2nd.

Today will be the same procedure as last year, and as every year. This afternoon, we will put on our party clothes and at 3:00, we're off to church. I am quite the hypocrite, I know. It's fun to go to church in Norway on Christmas Eve, though. They have three services, at 1:30, 3:00 and 4:30. Each neighborhood has its own local church - Norwegian Lutheran Church, the state religion. The church is packed on Christmas Eve with all of our neighbors, everyone all dressed-up. The service consists mostly of everyone singing Christmas carols, and it's a nice start to Christmas Eve.

After that, we will go up to Kari and Grim's (Gaute's parents), where dinner will be almost finished. Grim will take us down to the basement where we will be served glogg (a type of spiced cider, with and without wine) and gingerbread cookies. Then, it's back upstairs again for the special ribs most Norwegians eat for Christmas, as well as Christmas meat balls and sausages, accompanied by homemade sauerkraut, boiled potatoes and the BEST brown gravy, ever. I'm not a huge carnivore, so I usually eat lots of gravy with potatoes and sauerkraut. And the rice cream which is served for dessert. There's always a scalded almond in the rice cream, and whoever gets that gets a marzipan pig. Last year, Johan won! And he was happy, because, like Anders and me, he thinks marzipan is manna from heaven.

After that, it's time to start opening some presents. While Christmas Eve IS Christmas in Norway, the 25th is still the REAL Christmas in our family. So, on Christmas Eve, we just open the gifts from Gaute's family, and none of the presents that we have given each other. Also, the Norwegian Santa Claus, julenissen, stops by with some gifts for the kids. Unlike Santa Claus, julenisse shows up at the door with a sack of presents and personally passes out the presents to the kids. For some reason, the kids think julenissen, although he is wearing a mask, looks a lot like Grim. Not that they want him to stop showing up, though. The American Santa Claus, though, who comes at night, is real, according to Anders and Johan. Espen is no longer a true believer, however.

In between opening gifts and greeting julenissen, we eat a large number of the delicious cookies that Kari has made. Full is not an adequate description of how I feel by the end of the evening.

At around 10 or so, we head back home, so that the kids can get in bed before Santa shows up. Everyone opens their official X-mas eve packages. Pajamas every year, but exciting nonetheless. Then the kids hang up their stockings and arrange a platter of cookies for Santa (with a carrot for the reindeer). And, as they say, the rest is history....

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