Spend quality time together and try something new: hike the ice shelf of Antarctica, watch thousands of penguins, view the northern lights, try reindeer or Norwegian cheese, or create a new holiday tradition. Why not experience a special holiday this year and discover new cultural traditions in Norway, or feel the wonder of an Antarctic summer and celebrate the true spirit of peace on Earth and triumph over adversity in the fragile, other-worldly landscapes of Antarctica?
Winter Traditions and Customs in Norway
If you visit Norway during the holiday season you’ll have a chance to experience how another culture celebrates the season. The sparse daylight this time of year only adds to the unique ambience of this beautiful country. Families slow down to gather around the fireplace or a candlelit table and celebrate the holidays in their own Norwegian style.
Jul, or ‘jol’, is the Norwegian name for the period of the year that extends from mid-November to mid-January. Jul is the time when the Norwegian people focus less on work and put more emphasis on spending time with loved ones, relaxation, and leisure.
As with all cultures, food is central to these celebrations. Hurtigruten’s Norway Coastal Kitchen celebrates Norwegian cuisine, and the food you eat is just as important as the nature you explore and the excursions you join. Visiting 34 ports on our Coastal Voyage gives us an exceptional opportunity to get fresh produce from local suppliers every day, and we serve food based on the season’s best ingredients. Enjoy the taste of the season and the taste of nature!
What better way to celebrate Jul with your family and loved ones than on a winter voyage in Norway?
Julebord is a Thanksgiving-type meal that can take place any time leading up to Christmas. Julebord celebrates Norwegian cuisine with dishes such as svineribbe (Norwegian-style pork ribs) and lutefisk, which are served with large portions of potatoes, sauerkraut, bacon, mashed peas, and rice pudding.
St. Lucia’s Day
In Scandinavia, St. Lucia’s Day, December 13, marks the beginning of the Christmas season and originally coincided with the winter solstice, known as ‘yule’, the shortest day of the year in the old Julian (or Roman) calendar, which preceded the Gregorian calendar we use today. St. Lucia honors a Christian martyr but is celebrated as a festival of lights with a procession of girls holding candles and wearing white dresses with red sashes and singing traditional songs being led by a girl wearing a crown of candles on her head. This celebration is meant to bring hope and light during the darkest time of the year, and combines both Pagan and Christmas traditions.
During the week leading up to New Year's Eve, children partake in an event called ‘Julebukk’, a Halloween-type celebration. Children dress up and knock on their neighbors' doors in the pursuit of candy. Adults are also known to take part in the festivities, only their treat is usually a ‘snap’, a small shot of an alcoholic beverage.
Countdown to Nyttår
Nyttår is the title given to New Year's Eve, and like most countries, it's a time to let loose and break in another year in style. It's a common sight to see plenty of fireworks going off throughout Norwegian villages. On a Hurtigruten voyage you’ll enjoy a New Year’s banquet and dancing after dinner. At midnight there will be fireworks and a toast for the New Year.
Christmas Traditions in Norway
On Christmas Eve on this ship, you’ll enjoy a visit from Julenissen (Father Christmas) and a Christmas Eve buffet with traditional holiday foods such as julegrøt (porridge) and julekake (sweet bread). Here are some other Christmas traditions celebrated in Norway.
At a Christmas feast in Norway, you'll find all sorts of delicacies. From roasted pork belly to Christmas sausages and lamb ribs to plenty of sweet options! Norwegian tradition demands seven kinds of cookies at the Christmas feast, including gingerbread. Other delicious desserts include almond ring cakes, cloudberries in whipped cream, marzipan, and rice porridge with berries.
Christmas Eve in Norway is a big deal. After a big dinner, such as the one shown above, many families go to church. Presents come at the end of the night, sometimes accompanied by ‘Julenisse’, or Santa Claus. ‘Julenisse’ is made up of two words – ‘Jul’, for ‘yule’, and ‘nisse’, for a type of elf or other mythical creature or mysterious spirit. He's different from the Santa Claus we know – he doesn’t bring any presents and is more of a trickster. He wears knee breeches, a pointed red cap, and a long gray beard.
A Gift of Thanks
One of the more modern Norwegian Christmas traditions involves Norway sending the UK a giant Christmas tree to thank them for the aid they gave Norway during World War II. This tree is placed at Trafalgar Square in London.
Special Christmas Events in Bergen and Oslo
Christmas is a special time in Norway. You’ll see charming town squares draped in twinkling lights and trees laden with snow. Here is a small sampling of some of the many things to see and do while celebrating Christmas in Bergen and Oslo, Norwegian-style!
Gingerbread Town – 'Pepperkakebyen', Bergen
In late November through December you can see Gingerbread town – Pepperkakebyen. It’s a wonderful celebration of cooperation and unity, as schools, kindergartens, and individuals across the city contribute to making a miniature version of Bergen. In the past, we’ve seen this event display close to 2,000 structures, including trains and buildings! It’s a delicious and unique sight!
Christmas Fair at the Norsk Folkemuseum, Oslo
If you fly in or out of Oslo, give yourself a little extra time to visit the Norsk Folkemuseum, which hosts a unique and multifaceted Christmas fair the first two weekends in December. At the fair you’ll see decorated houses in the open-air museum. Old houses are moved from all over Norway and decorated according to the traditions and era of the original inhabitants. You’ll also enjoy children's choir concerts and folk dancing. The fair also includes a market, featuring more than 120 stalls selling handmade crafts, Christmas decorations, and Norwegian treats and delicacies. Children can also visit Santa's Workshop!
Summer in Antarctica
For a totally different take on the holiday spirit, consider a trip to Antarctica during the holiday season. The beginning of North America’s winter season is the start of the Southern Hemisphere’s austral summer season, which lasts from November – March. When the polar ice melts, you'll have access to points much farther south than you would during other travel seasons. During the summer season, Antarctica is teeming with penguins, seals, and whales.
The Penguins of the Antarctic
People often think of penguins when they think of Antarctica. And rightly so! Seven of the 17 penguin species on Earth can be found in the Antarctic region, but only the Adélie, chinstrap, gentoo, and emperor penguin are found on the Antarctic continent, while the macaroni, king, and rockhopper penguins are found on the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic islands.
On a trip to Antarctica during their austral summer you’ll see the resident colonies of chinstrap penguins on Deception Island and Half Moon Island, the gentoo penguin colonies at Yankee Harbour, Cuverville, Neko Harbour, and Paradise Harbour, and thousands Adelie penguins on Petermann Island. The huge ice shelves of the Antarctic Sound are home to an estimated half million Adélie penguins. You’ll see penguins in their large, dense rookeries, where penguins mate, nest, and raise their young—some with 180,000 birds or more!
Traveling to Antarctica during the winter and holiday season gives you the opportunity to celebrate triumph over adversity in the harsh, other-worldly landscapes of Antarctica.
Adélie penguins mate from November thru March. Most of the other penguin species breed December thru March. The emperor penguin, featured in the outstanding, moving documentary The March of the Penguins, are the only penguins that breed in the middle of Antarctic winter. Most penguin species mate and breed during the austral spring and summer season. But it’s still a very rough life for a penguin and its chicks. With the Adélie penguin laying its eggs in November and chicks hatching in December, you may get the chance to see opportunity to see these adorable chicks!
Antarctica: the Epicenter of ‘Peace on Earth’
Here’s a different slant on the holidays. It’s a time to cherish the intangibles: love, the joy of family, and peace on Earth. In fact, there is no better place do this in the fragile, unique Antarctic, which embodies the spirit of people working together in the name of scientific research, where respecting the environment and our fragile world is paramount, and where souls, humans and penguins alike, sacrifice for the love of family and the greater good.
The Antarctic Treaty is, in fact, a perfect reflection of the true spirit of 'Peace on Earth'. The Antarctic Treaty exemplifies nations working together to prevent conflict before it develops by demilitarizing the continent. It set the stage for scientific cooperation and was declared to be used for peaceful purposes only.
Before the treaty, seven countries claimed sovereignty over areas of Antarctica and powerful world players such as the US and the Soviet Union didn’t recognize the claims of other governments. At the height of the Cold War, this isolated and uninhabited content might be used for deploying nuclear weapons, and if valuable exploitable resources were found, ownership could get extremely contentious.
On May 3, 1958, the United States proposed the treaty, which provided that Antarctica be used for peaceful purposes only. It prohibited "any measures of a military nature, such as the establishment of military bases and fortifications, the carrying out of military maneuvers, as well as the testing of any type of weapons." Nuclear explosions and the disposal of radioactive waste material in Antarctica were also prohibited.
The treaty was signed by the 12 nations who had been active during the International Geophysical Year (IGY) scientific endeavor of 1957–58 and was entered in to force in 1961. The total number of parties to the treaty is now 53.
Antarctica, the coldest, driest, most desolate continent on Earth is the true physical embodiment of the best values we share as humankind and the very best we can hope for in our complex world. As celebrated at the treaty’s 50th anniversary in 2009, this treaty promotes peace and international cooperation and it recognizes that Antarctica should continue to be used only for peaceful purposes. They recommitted to the protection of the Antarctic environment and the designation of Antarctica as a natural reserve, devoted to peace and science. They also acknowledged that scientific research is at the very heart of the treaty in its role in understanding the climate change and emphasized that human activity in Antarctica, including tourism, is conducted in a manner that promotes the continued protection of the Antarctic environment.
On a trip to Antarctic you know that you are respecting the very heart of these values as Hurtigruten is an active member of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (www.iaato.org), which promotes safe and environmentally responsible travel to Antarctica.
Travel with Hurtigruten to Norway and Antarctica this winter and holiday season on the following amazing voyages: