The one thing people should know about Norwegian Santas is that they have a sweet tooth and will only visit homes where they find a generous portion of dessert on the kitchen doorstep.
Berit Koskin’s parents knew that and observed the ritual religiously while Koskin was growing up in Stavanger, Norway. Each Christmas they set a large bowl of rice pudding outside the door for Santa. They explained to Koskin that if the pudding remained untouched, it was a clear indication that Santa, Nisse in Norwegian, had no intention of visiting them that year.
Lucky for Koskin and her two siblings, there were always plenty of farm cats skulking around the countryside who were more than happy to lick the bowl clean.
“The pudding was a way to lure Santa into our home. We’d put the pudding out the night before so he’d be more inclined to come by the next night and give us our gifts,” Koskin explained. “We’d begin celebrating Christmas on what Americans call Christmas Eve except we called it “Little Christmas Eve.” Our Christmas would last three days.”
After setting out food for Santa, Koskin and her family would eat their own bowl of pudding and compete to find the single nut that was hidden in the dessert.
“We’d get lots of gifts, but the person who found the nut in the pudding got a special prize which was just the greatest thing imaginable,” Koskin said. “Of course, in order to find it we had to eat all our pudding.”
When Santa arrived on the scene, on Little Christmas Eve, he carried a large bag of gifts slung over his shoulder and distributed them to the children gathered around him. Santa, Koskin noted, wasn’t exactly easy on the eyes.
“Norwegian Santa is often portrayed as a troll,” Koskin said, displaying an odd-looking “baby” Santa with an unusually fat face and a white beard. “Our Santas are pretty ugly. We just happen to have lots of trolls in Norway. They live in our mountains.”
After Santa completed his business and the children had thoroughly explored their gifts, the feasting began – not to end for another three days.
“We’d eat lots of nuts and a fresh pork roast, the entire leg of the pig actually,” Koskin said. “And lobster, lots of lobster and shrimp. We love seafood.”
Later in the evening, Koskin and her family would drink coffee and eat cookies and further examine their Christmas loot.
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