How Norwegians Celebrate Advent

Advent is a Christian religious festival which marks the coming of Christ. In Norway there are many traditions connected to Advent, and Norwegians have different ways to celebrate and cherish this time of the year. Here’s a few of them so that you can understand better how Norwegians appreciate Advent.

christmas advent star 2

Light a Candle

Advent starts on the last Sunday of November, and lasts until the 24th of December. It’s a time of the year with little daylight in Norway, and one needs some extra light to shine in the darkness.

In many Norwegian homes you’ll find an adventsstake (Advent candle holder). This is a candle holder with four candles on it, one for each Sunday of Advent. The candles are meant to shed light the same way that Jesus lit up the world with his presence.

Angel Chime candle holder

On the first Sunday of Advent, family members gather in their houses and light one candle. After lighting it someone will say the following:

Så tenner vi et lys i kveld, vi tenner det for glede
Det står og skinner for seg selv og oss som er tilstede
Så tenner vi et lys i kveld, vi tenner det for glede
Tonight we light a candle, we light it for happiness
It stands and shines by itself and for us who are present
Tonight we light a candle, we light it for happiness
The next Sunday you’ll light two candles, the third Sunday three candles, and on the last Sunday you’ll light all four candles. Here are also the verses that we say for Sunday number two, three and four:
Tonight we light two candles, we light them for hope & happiness
They stand and shines by themselves and for us who are present
Tonight we light two candles, we light them for hope & happiness
Tonight we light three candles, we light them for longing, hope & happiness
They stand and shines by themselves and for us who are present
Tonight we light three candles, we light them for longing, hope & happiness
Tonight we light four candles, and let them burn all the way down
For longing, happiness, hope and peace, but most of all for peace
on this little earth, where all the humans lives

Advent Candle Holder

Traditionally the Advent candle holder was a wreath made of spruce, decorated with white candles and purple ribbons. If you go to a church in Norway you’ll discover that it is still done this way, sometimes with purple candles.
However, in most Norwegian homes you’ll find the candle holders in many different shapes and colors. I own several, but one that I light every year is this Angel Chimes candle holder.
You can find nice Advent candle wreaths and holders on Amazon or Etsy.
Advent Candles wreath
Photo: Jonathunder, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Colors on Advent Candles

For the colors of the candles some prefer white and some prefer red (for Christmas). Some might want to follow the Christian tradition which is having a white candle on the first Sunday of Advent. The white candle is the festive color of the church and sets the tone for joy and expectations for the time to come. On the next three Sundays the church uses purple candles. This color symbolizes repentance, the spirit, seriousness and penance. This is after all a time for fast and penance for the time until Christ comes.

Advent Calendar

advent calendar chocolate
Photo: Lumentzaspi, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

A great way to make the countdown to Christmas is an Advent calendar. More or less all kids in Norway will have a calendar, but quite a few adults as well as it brings back good childhood memories, or perhaps its a good excuse for a little piece of chocolate every morning.

What’s in the calendar however is not the most important. The most important is that is covers all the days from 1st to the 24th of December. You could say that it should start on the Sunday of Advent, but since this differs every year between November 27 and December 3, it typically always starts on the 1st of December.

Check out these fun chocolate Advent Calendars on Amazon.

The calendars are opened in the early morning of each day of December. If you have kids this is a great way to get them out of bed. They come in a multiple of forms, from simple paper calendars with small pieces of chocolate, to more elaborate ones with a little present wrapped for each day of December.

In Norway, adults can even buy beer calendars in the store, all though its probably advisable to open those a bit later in the day. You might want to check out Etsy for a wide range of different calendars.

Advent Clove Calendar
Clove Advent Calendar

A traditional fun calendar that you can easily make yourself is a nellikkalender (clove calendar). This is basically an orange with 24 cloves pinned into it. Every day, beginning on the 1st of December, I remove one clove. For Norwegians this is a cozy countdown to Christmas Eve.

The origin of this calendar is not so cozy though. It was believed back in the middle ages that if you carried around a “pomander” you would not smell the plague, and if you did not smell the plague it could not infect you. How this evolved into an Advent calendar seems uncertain, but a clove calendar is still very popular in Norway today.

Advent Star

Advent Star

During the Advent season Norwegians will bring out their Adventsjerne or Julestjerne. This is an advent star (Christmas star) that people hang up in their windows. It’s a great decorative element both for those inside the house and for those on the outside who can enjoy plenty of stars hanging around in peoples windows.

For many there is nothing that brings the Christmas spirit more than lighting the star when you wake up in the morning, or turning it on in the evening. It’ll hang as a beacon, reminding you that Christmas and brighter days are ahead.

Etsy got a bunch of nice stars, and I really like this one. Or Check out some nice paper stars on Amazon.
I hope this article gave you some ideas to how you can cherish Advent the way that Norwegians do. Please share it with anyone you might think would be interested.
Ha en fin Advent! Happy Advent!
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Hei Hei! I’m Pål. Your travel guide to Norway.

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One Comment

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