This year 2019, Ålesund is decorated for Christmas from 1 of December, the first day of Advent. Ålesund buzzes with people doing their Black Friday shopping. Christmas trees are lit and streets decorated in the city center during the first weekend of Advent. In these weeks you have plenty of opportunities to catch a Christmas concert or Christmas market.
During Advent, it is common for companies and groups of friends to have pre-Christmas parties, in Norwegian called julebord. The julebord crowd fills up the city’s restaurants and clubs, making the weekend nightlife quite busy in this period.
The old Norwegia traditions!
Before we kept the Gregorian Calendar, December 13th was the longest night of the year, the Winter Solstice. Adoption of the new calendar in 1582 changed dates around, and now the winter solstice is a little later (December 21 to 23). Saint Lucia day is a pleasant combination of Christian and secular celebrations of the returning light.
Historically Norwegians considered what they called Lussinatten the longest night of the year and no work was to be done.
From that night until Christmas, spirits, gnomes and trolls roamed the earth. Lussi, a feared enchantress, punished anyone who dared work. Legend also has it that farm animals talked to each other on Lussinatten, and that they were given additional feed on this longest night of the year.
Lucy is largely a secular event in Norway and is observed in kindergartens and schools (often through secondary level). However, it has in recent years also been incorporated in the Advent liturgy in the Norwegian Church.
For the traditional observance of the day, school children form processions through the hallways of the school building carrying candles and hand out Lussekatt buns. While rarely observed at home, parents often take time off work to watch these school processions in the morning, and if their child should be chosen Lucia it is considered a great honor. This day the procession usually visits local retirement homes and hospitals.
The traditional Norwegian version of the Neapolitan song is, just like the Danish, not especially Christian in nature, the only Christian concept being «Sankta Lucia». Excerpt: «Svart senker natten seg | i stall og stue.
« Solen har gått sin vei, skyggene truer.» — «The night descends black | in stable and living room. | The sun has gone away | the shadows threaten.»
Living in Scandinavia, one can understand why celebrating the winter solstice was important. In a region that has what is known in Norwegian as “mørketid” or, “dark time”- the winter solstice is the pinnacle of the long nights and short days. Winter solstice means it’s over. The darkness has reached its peak- the light is returning- slowly, yes- it’s still winter yet, but the light is coming back. Lucia has brought faith, hope, and a reason to believe in good things to come.