Winter in Norway is full of events. From December through February, voyagers coming off Norway cruises can experience an exhilarating share of culture, from mini Gingerbread cities to jazz festivals to the Nobel Peace Prize. There are a wide variety of festivals throughout the chilly season, so if you're exploring the coast on the MS Fram, be sure to celebrate, on board or on land.
Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony (Olso, December)
Every year on December 10, the most prestigious prize in the world is awarded in Oslo City Hall. The date marks the anniversary of Alfred Nobel's death, and as stipulated in the will of the inventor and international industrialist, the Nobel Peace Prize is presented by the Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee. Their Majesties the King and Queen of Norway, the Government, Storting representatives and an invited audience will be in attendance. Later the same day, the Norwegian Nobel Committee hosts a banquet in honor of the Laureate. If you're on a cruise during this time, you'll definitely hear buzz about this premier award ceremony.
Gingerbread Town (Bergen, December)
A beloved tradition in Bergen, students from kindergarten and elementary schools design the world's largest Gingerbread town year after year. You'll see miniature houses, cars, trains and ships made from real gingerbread. In Norwegian, the event is called Pepperkakebyen Bergen. Since Christmas in 1991, locals and visitors alike gather for this famous, lighted and delicious little Gingerbread City in the center of the city.
Drekkedagsnatta (Kongsberg, December)
The history of Drekkedagsnatta traces back to the 1600s, when the miners spent long days deep in the mines for nearly the entire year. But on December 22, they would emerge from the mines for their Christmas holiday, marching toward the church parade wielding torches. In the church they communed with family and friends, enjoyed wine and partied - and to this day, a national celebration takes place as the people of Kongsberg march down from the mine hills to commemorate their forefathers.
Christmas Market (Oslo, December)
If you cruise through Oslo in the weeks leading up to Christmas, you're bound to see a handful of Christmas markets, a popular facet of Norwegian towns up to the day before Christmas Eve. One of the most renowned is the Christmas Market in Oslo, which occurs during the first two weekends in December. Get ready for more than 120 stalls selling seasonal food, arts and crafts, and Christmas decorations.
Northern Lights Festival (Tromsø, January-February)
The Northern Lights Festival is a music-filled bonanza. The first lights festival took place in 1988 and featured classical music. Over the years, the fest has expanded to present an eclectic list of performers, soloists and major orchestras, including St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, the Peking Opera and all of the Norwegian symphony orchestras. Additionally, artists such as Håkan Hagegård and Leif Ove Andsnes have graced the stage. Music lovers on Norway cruises might love a pit stop at Tromsø during this time all while watching the sky blaze with different colors.
Tromsø International Film Festival (Tromsø, January)
Established in 1991, Norway's largest film festival boasts five screening venues including an outdoor cinema in the heart of the city. More than 300 screenings from around the world will be viewed, and the catalog features a selection of shorts and documentaries from the Films from the North program, as well as special screenings and other events. Underground shorts will play alongside feature-length movies by big international names, marking a great opportunity for film buffs to rub shoulders with directors, cinematographers and fellow fans.
Polar Jazz (Longyearbyen, Svalbard, February)
In the world's northernmost jazz festival, the most preeminent jazz performers and well-known musicians from Norway hit the stage for four nights of concerts. Previous programs have been headlined by captivating artists such as Kaiser's Orkester, Maria Mena and the Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain. Polar Jazz invites not jazz lovers but also music appreciators of all genres who want to thaw their ears with warming tunes.
Ice Climbing Festival (Rjukan, February)
It's no coincidence that the city of Rijukan hosts this chilly, adrenaline-filled festival. Rjukan has the tightest concentration of frozen waterfalls - there are more than 170 of them with a 12.5-mile radius. The event, generally held in the middle of February, will pack speed climbing competitions, lectures by renowned climbers and the Reel Rock Film Tour. There will also be guided night climbs, gear testing, social climbing events and more. Those looking to sprinkle a little extra thrill to their trips can swing by this exciting fest.
Røros Fair (Røros, February)
For five days in February, Røros Fair transforms the city of Røros into a lively marketplace bubbling with foods, dance halls, rest farms, and raffles and bazaars. Røros, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has played host to its fair since 1854, allowing visitors to step back in time with traditional draws. Attracting 75,000 visitors annually, this fest is among the largest in the region. Here you can sample some local fare, see how old-fashioned crafts were performed or even go on a sleigh ride.