Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Lille Julaften

There is Christmas Eve, and then there is Little Christmas Eve --- Lille Julaften. In Scandinavian tradition, December 23rd is celebrated with as much enthusiasm as (Big) Christmas Eve. In fact, when I was there in the early 1960's, the Christmas season did not start until Lille Julaften. It was then that the stores put up decorations and people thought about shopping. Away from home at sixteen, I had begun to think that Christmas simply would not come to Aalesund, the small city in Norway where I was living.

Ah, but it did, on Lille Julaften. Up went the Christmas tree, spiraled with tiny white lights, long before they were the fashion in the United States. No gaudy glittering glass globes, but instead tufts of white cotton, looking not the least bit like the snow balls they represented. No candy canes, but instead garlands of tiny paper Norwegian flags. The tree was cool, pure, and perfectly beautiful. The final enchantment came when we joined hands, walking around the tree, and singing Christmas songs.

So tonight I wish you a sweet and simple, joyous Little Christmas Eve, wherever you are.


  1. Thank you I had forgotten you were there. I can just imagine that tree as you described it well.

  2. As if that were not special enough,on First Christmas Day (Foerste Juledag)we went to our grandmother's house where her tree, flanked by buckets of water, was decorated with cotton snow,flags,and unlit candles. We, several generations in national costume, joined hands while the tallest man lit the candles. It was as breath-taking and breath-holding as it sounds. The circle of the family walked one direction for one verse of a Christmas song, then counter-clockwise for the next verse. Every once in a while, we all hopped.

    The candles lasted for one song, the memory forever.