John, outbound to Norway

Well today marks another completion of the earth’s orbit around the sun, and I feel it is a good time to write about my Norwegian holiday experiences. I will begin with Christmas. Christmas is an even bigger occasion here than in the states, much to my surprise. The Christmas spirit really became noticeable in the middle of November. My town put up a large Christmas tree in the middle of the city center where it stands surrounded by shops decorated in lights and streamers. Christmas music could be heard through most of the “downtown” district, adding to the atmosphere.

The decorating of the city was accompanied by the appearance of the delicious soda called “Julebrus” or “Christmas soda.” It tastes very sweet, almost like candy, but it was very good. There are some other special Christmas foods as well, the most shocking example has to be lutefisk. This Christmas dish consists of dried fish that gets soaked in lye for a few days, and then baked. Yes, I ate it, and yes, it was terrible. I got a round of applause from my table when I managed to choke it all down.

The Christmas activities went into overdrive when winter break began. My host family and I spent the first days driving from town to town, visiting friends and family. All this family time culminated to Christmas eve, which is the most important day in the Norwegian holiday season. This is the day on which gifts are opened and salted sheep’s rib is eaten. It was another big day for family, with about 14 of us crowded into my host grandparents’ apartment, opening gifts, playing games, and just having a good time. On Christmas morning we awoke to the most exciting gift of all (for me anyway), snow! We ate a long breakfast, and then took a trip to the mountains for an afternoon of sledding, snowball fights, and snowman building. This was the most special part of it all for me, having never experienced a white Christmas.

Then of course came New Year's. The time in between Christmas andNew Year's was spent relaxing and recovering from all the excitement of Christmas. I also made the switch to my next host family. New Year's was also rather exciting. There are almost no firework regulations here, so things became quite loud and colorful. At midnight, we stepped outside to see the town light up with hundreds of less-than-safe fireworks, and set off a couple of our own.

I could keep going on about how amazing it was to spend the holidays in such an incredible country, but I’ll leave it here. It was a truly magical time. Godt nyttår alle sammen!