A Norwegian Christmas in Singapore

Christmas is right around the corner, which means that Norwegians all over the world are running around preparing their homes and families for this very traditional holiday. The prevalence of Christmas lights, food and music in Singapore makes it easy for Norwegians to celebrate the holiday here, although not everything is quite like home.

Unlike most of the Christian world, Norwegians celebrate Christmas on December 24th rather than on the 25th. In Norway, shops usually close by midday on Christmas Eve and everyone gathers at home with their families. Many will have an early afternoon meal of Christmas rice porridge containing one single almond. Whoever finds the almond in his or her dish wins a prize – often a Christmas pig made entirely out of marzipan. In Singapore, most Norwegian companies will close early on the 24th, so it is definitely possible to stage the porridge-event here as well. The marzipan pig might be a bit of a challenge to find though.  

By 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve, families are usually all dressed up and ready for the celebration. The next few hours are either spent going to mass and placing candles on family graves, or eating candy and watching Christmas movies on TV (or both, if you’re efficient enough). Here in Singapore, the Christmas mass at the Norwegian Seamen’s Mission is very popular, with several hundred people crowding in to sing Christmas songs and listen to the story of Jesus. The tropical climate and the view of the rigs at West Coast port definitely add an exotic touch to the event, and so does not having to wear five layers of clothing.

Whether you’re in Singapore or Norway, the big event of the evening is the Christmas dinner, and this is where Norwegians are extremely particular about their traditions. Most families will either serve sheep ribs (pinnekjøtt), pork ribs (ribbe), fish treated in lye (lutefisk) or salted codfish, usually along with an assortment of potatoes, sausages, sauerkraut, peas, bacon and yellow turnip.

Thanks to globalization, Norwegians in Singapore are able to get hold of all of these ingredients without too much hassle. Even the Aquavit, a flavored Norwegian spirit made from grain or potatoes, will be present at many dinner tables in Singapore this evening, as it is supposed to be essential for the digestion of the heavy Christmas food. And if you’re struggling to get the pork ribs crispy enough or the lutefisk edible at all, you can call the Norwegian “Christmas food emergency hotline” to get some advice. It is open all through December and staffed by experts in the field of Christmas food.
After dinner, the evening proceeds with cakes, cookies, candies and the opening of presents. On December 25th, you will find most of the Norwegian population outdoors skiing or going for walks and trying to make up for all the eating they did the day before. So don’t be surprised if East Coast Park here in Singapore is particularly crowded this day. 

The Royal Norwegian Embassy in Singapore wishes you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


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