Aquavit, rakfisk and smegma-rice: The pros and cons of Norwegian Christmas.
When (if) foreigners think of Norway, they might picture moose, fjords, mountains, wooden shoes (wrong), the people Hitler wanted to live (right), and Christmas.
From an outsider’s view, something about Norway is inherently festive, and I was excited to experience Christmas here for the first time. Is Oslo Christmas the best Christmas?
I wasn’t sure what I was drinking out of a tiny elven goblet, but it was bringing me to new levels mentally. A small sip of Aquavit was like swallowing a spicy potato, giving me the courage to publicly try out my Duolingo vocab (“Jeg liker vann”, “Gutten spiser et smørbrød”).
CON: (THE EXPLANATION OF) RAKFISK
The first course of Christmas dinner was rakfisk, salty trout that was apparently fermented for months underground, I think. Something like that. I don’t remember, even though the history of this dehydrated blob was explained to me by five different people.
The rakfisk itself was alright, but I couldn’t fully enjoy it because of the unsolicited and incredibly dull history lesson.
I usually eat ribs from a rack of 12, using my hands and wiping excess barbecue sauce on my pants. So eating one ribbe at a time with a silver fork and knife kind of made me feel like a damn queen. Using utensils to eat a single rib: Elegant as hell.
I’m used to a Christmas dessert buffet including gingerbread, cheesecake, pies, and at least three cookie options. I look forward to dessert. So after a fantastic Norwegian meal, I was slightly disheartened to receive a bowl of what looked exactly like smegma.
Drowning it in a mysterious red sauce only made it worse. Riskrem, despite its name sounding like “ice cream,” is anything but.
PRO: CHRISTMAS MARKETS
The Christmas market that’s nestled in the Norwegian folk museum was authentic and adorable. I loved warming my hands over a fire outside a barn while a group of Norwegian children squaredanced in bunads. In Chicago, our market is basically in a concrete gutter.
Many thousands attend, all at the same time, and the goal is to beat tourists out of the way with your Macy’s shopping bags until you get to the front of the line to purchase a $14 miniature ceramic boot.
CON: GREY SANTA
I’ve seen a decent amount of stores, Nille being the main culprit, with merch depicting Norwegian Santa as a tall, thin man wearing a grey jumpsuit. Super confusing marketing strategy, in my opinion, as athletic Santa seems to be 10x creepier than bulbous Santa.
I just feel like I want children to sit on fat, jolly Santa’s lap. I don’t want them going anywhere near fit, business casual Santa.
Overall, I think the hype about Norwegian Christmas is justified. It’s the little things – the gløgg with nuts and twigs at the bottom, the unprofitable heaps of marzipan, the children running around with Poisoned Snow White-esque red candy apples – these are the things that make Christmas here uniquely charming.
It was the perfect experience before maxing out my visa and getting kicked out of the country. I can’t wait to celebrate next year, if the government let’s me back in.