Friday, July 18, 2014

Christmas in July... in Norway!

Please join my friend Anita, here... as her viewers share their European adventures, in person... or in their dreams. Mine have included both. 

Take a little break from the summer heat and enjoy... Christmas in Norway. I am sharing a blog from a few years ago...


Tromso, Norway...

Way up in the cold frozen northern part of Norway, beyond the arctic circle, is where my Christmas traditions began, in the childhood home of my mother.

In her words, as she shared this story with women's conferences and church groups all through her life, and as I read them tonight on these now fragile sheets from her journal...

"Let me invite you to take a trip with me to the land of the midnight sun, to my country, Norway. We will fly over the top of the north pole, but you won't see much there, only snow and frozen land, and finally, after landing in the capitol city of Oslo, we board a small plane and fly much farther north to Tromso. Now I invite you into our large old home to share Christmas with us...

My father was the mayor of the town, and there were 7 of us children, and a constant flow of guests coming and going. Christmas came like a bright light every December, and we children were filled with expectation and excitement and we all pitched in to help shine the copper pieces that hung on the walls, and bake the never ending sheets of cookies that went in and out of the oven. All month the cookie baking continued and they began to fill the jars and tins, which were stored up in the attic.

For days, leading up to Christmas Eve, friends and neighbors would drop in and visit each other in their homes, bringing their cookies and baked goodies, and their children. They would sing Christmas carols together and no one seemed to be in a hurry.

We celebrated each day as 'tiny Christmas', until Christmas Eve finally arrived and all the planning and baking and cooking was almost finished. All the children were scrubbed in a hot steam bath in town, and our braids froze on the way home. The shoes were lined up to be polished, the goose was filled with apples and prunes and ready to bake, and the last excited secrets were whispered between us as we wondered with expectation what would be in the boxes. The gifts and the Christmas tree were decorated and kept in the large parlour where NO ONE was allowed to go until Christmas!

I remember as a child hiding up in the attic about 3 or 4 in the afternoon and listenting to the church bells ringing in Christmas. I hadn't yet come to know Him, whose birth I was about to celebrate, but I stood by the window, looking out at the blinking lights and boats in the harbor, and I knew that God had sent Jesus to be born at Christmas, and I worshipped in a child's way, Him who I didn't yet know.

And then suddenly, the bells started from one church, then from another, and soon together they joyously chimed all over the city as they rang in the news 'Unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord"...

Now me...



When I visited Norway more than a year ago, we had to fly that same route from Oslo far to the north, into Tromso... There, on the main street of this most picturesque and beautiful city, was my mother's family dry goods store. When we were there, we saw the building, it has been modernized, and like many things that have changed, the new isn't nearly as wonderful as the original! (This photo isn't the store, but looks like it...)

In northern Norway, during the winter months, it was not only cold and piled high with snow everywhere, it was also dark. One of the most cherished memories she shared were the lights, all around Tromso, in homes, in the windows, in the stores and on street lanterns, tiny dots of light made the whole scene like a dream. Candles and lights were always part of our growing up Christmases in California, and I still love them.

Side note on the attic in her home... During the winter, they hung their washed sheets in the attic to dry and they were as stiff as boards from the cold frozen temperatures. My mother did confess to playing among those sheets and if I know her... there was probably some peeking and snooping along the way as Christmas came closer!

At her dad's store in town, each window was decorated with a different Christmas scene. She said they covered all the windows with brown paper while they got busy and created a picture for the people of the town. When the windows were unveiled, people came from all around excited to see what this year would bring. Each family had candles which they lit as they viewed the now gleaming window scenes. One window depicted a cozy warm home with a fireplace with a Christmas tree and candles glowing everywhere, one might be a candy store scene or a church choir... it was magical to the children to be part of such a tradition.

Then Christmas Eve finally arrived...

The whole family bundled up and headed out into the snow to their large 'state church', for the Christmas Eve service where by candlelight they joined together singing Silent Night and heard the familiar scriptures read. Finally they all headed back home for the feast ahead and 'the gifts'...

As the final preparations were put together and the goose was browning for the last few minutes, my mother would take a quick walk through the empty snow piled streets with her father, and pass by the lovely homes where they could often watch through the windows at the people singing and walking around their Christmas trees, hands joined, in a circle, babies to grandparents.

After the feast had been devoured, her father read the Christmas story one more time from Luke, and prayed with the family. Then they all shook hands, wishing each other a Merry Christmas, she said their was a lot of handshaking with 7 kids and all the relatives. Then they each sat in one place until every gift tag was read by her father and distributed, before anyone could open a gift. And then, the papers and ribbons flew!

I can't sing or hear Silent Night, without thinking of Norway. It's a funny thing, but I have tears in my eyes, good tears, as I write this and remember Christmas in Norway, even though I was never there in December. The memories and stories and the twinkle in my mother's eyes as she shared her December dreams of long ago, are as real to me as if I had been there myself. When she met and married my dad, and followed him to America to begin life as a preacher's wife, all that was familiar and dear to her was left behind in her beloved country, but she instilled it in each of her 3 children with great joy. She kept her traditions going in our home as I grew up.

I am keeping that love for Norway alive in my heart and in our home...

 

31 comments:

Debbie Petras said...

Sonja, I'm so glad I'm the first to leave a comment on this post. I too am keeping that love for Norway alive in my heart and in our home!

I could almost feel as though I was there in Norway as I read these words. My parents tried to keep the traditions alive in America. We would hold hands and sing as we walked around the Christmas tree at the annual Sons of Norway parties.

One day I hope to return to visit Norway. I went once many years ago but the desire is still strong in my heart especially since I keep in touch with my relatives through Facebook. I even connected with someone who lives in Sumstad (which is my maiden name).

Much love to you sister Sonja,
Debbie

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Oh dear sister Sonja, I love what you did here. You took us out of our summer mode and placed us in another season, place and time, then brought us back to YOUR reality and have yet again shared a most enchanting place. Living here in Minneapolis where the Scandinavian heritage is so pleasant, I've become more curious about this part of the world. Thank you kindly for participating in this party! Please enjoy all the other links during the course of the week, and GOD BLESS YOU and the memories of your life! Anita

Vee said...

Ahhhh, Sonja, what a story you have brought to life. Be sure to bring this around again to thrill us at Christmastime. Are you writing a book of your dear mother's story? What a fabulous read it would be!

Catherine said...

Beautiful. Blessings, Catherine

Sharon said...

So very lovely, Sonja. It's so special to have these memories, and to pass them on to future generations. I hope you're telling these stories to your grandchildren! Both of my grandmas were from Scotland, and I really wish that I had asked them more questions about growing up there. I have a few stories, and some old photos, and these captivate me. I hope to travel some day to Scotland, and explore my *roots*!!

Thank you for sharing this today. It felt like a holiday in my heart as I read about these precious traditions.

GOD BLESS!

"Create Beauty" said...

A beautiful heritage your mother has left for generations to come!

Thank you for sharing your family's Christmas in Norway!

~ Violet

Barbara said...

I so enjoyed sharing your Christmas in Norway! A perfect post for Anita's Simply Irresistible party.
So nice to meet you !

Luisa María Benito said...

Hi Sonja!

I loved your story, how you tell and photos.
I enjoyed both this Link Party as the people I'm discovering. like you.
  are so far, but, we seem so close!

From Madrid .... ...
Luisa
personally selected products

Luisa María Benito said...

Hi Sonja!

I loved your story, how you tell and photos.
I enjoyed both this Link Party as the people I'm discovering. like you.
  are so far, but, we seem so close!

From Madrid .... ...
Luisa
personally selected products

Marijke said...

Really nice story of a cold day in december... we have in Holland a heat wave around 35 degrees I hardly can breath so hot so.... your snow is lol very welcome!
groetjes van Marijke

www.bij-marijke-thuis.blogspot.nl

petalspapersimplethymes said...

Oh , Sonja! Thank you so much for sharing Christmas in Norway with us! I just loved reading your mom's words as she shared her childhood Christmas memories! Your words echoed the wonderful family stories! I had tears in my eyes, too! I will always remember your mom's special 'tiny Christmases.' I am always fascinated by Christmas traditions from other countries. I'm so happy to know your family traditions from Norway. Heartfelt thanks! ♡Dawn

Angelsdoor * Penny said...

Dear Sonja,
So nice to meet you... I so enjoyed reading of your Christmas in Norway.. I feel this would make a wonderful little book. The first photo is just breathtaking...
Thank you so much.. You are a beautiful addition to Anita's European link party.
blessings,
Penny

La Contessa said...

Loved reading your STORY.......its beautiful.
Anita sent me!
Where in California did you grow up?I'm in Northern California.I shall SUBSCRIBE to your blog!

Linda P said...

Lovely story Sonja...The pictures are beautiful. I am in California too, living in northern CA. now.
Coming over from Anita's linky party.

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

SONJA! Hello! Thank you for coming over to visit today, and for participating in this party. Again, your share is a surprising detour from the sunny beaches that we all love of Europe, but I am so much enjoying the little corners of northern Europe as well. How I love the Norwegian culture! ENJOY YOURSELF! Anita

The Good Life | Healthy Living said...

Sonja, I am so thrilled to finally make it down the list to your blog! My fiance's family is from Norway and we are going there for our honeymoon. I have experienced the American version of a Norwegian Christmas and it was so charming! I cannot wait to experience it in Norway.

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

These are beautiful memories. Magical, really. I'm so glad to take this Christmas trip in July.

Constance said...

What a heart warming Christmas and family history in Norway that is, thank you for writing about it like that, you have a gift for making things come alive with your words!

Debbie said...

As soon as I started reading this, I remembered it. I don't know if you posted this since I have been a follower or if I found it reading through your old posts one day. I just remember loving it then and loving it just as much this time. My favorite part is the description of the town with the decorated windows. It sounds like something out of a storybook.

If I can squeeze in more computer time, I would love to read more of the posts in this theme. I have never been to Europe so vicarious adventures are right up my alley.

Draffin Bears said...

Hi Sonja,

Lovely to discover your blog and I really enjoyed your post of Norway.
Christmas time sounds so special and what a wonderful time growing up and thinking of all the happy memories.thanks for sharing
One day I would really love to visit Norway - it is on my list.
Happy week
hugs
Carolyn

Luisa María Benito said...

Sonja!!
T
hank you very much for coming to visit today!

has been refreshing to see a holiday with snow, again, because now in Madrid we have about 40 degrees. Yes, we are in the pool every day!, Hopefully soon reach the beach! hehehehe:)) but in the meantime, I read you cool and see your blog. Wonderful!

thank you very much for your kind words.
spends a great day!
Luisa

speedyrabbit said...

this is on my list of places to visit as well,even if I am a hot house flower,xx Rachel and Speedy

Mary Jo Matsumoto said...

Dear Sonja, what a beautiful post! You made me feel for a moment what it must be like in Tromso. I have not been to Norway but I would love to spend some time there. So glad to have met you via Anita! I'm also part of her party and hope you will stop by.

xo Mary Jo

Carol Z said...

Lovely post and so enjoyed seeing Norway at Christmas. Thanks so much for visiting Buttercup's and please stop by often.

Denise said...

So nice to meet You Sonya.I'm so glad You visited My post and left Your comment,which lead Me to Your most wonderful post that touched My heart. I usually skip long post that have much to read,but I couldn't stop reading about life for Your Mom at Christmas in Norway-So enchanting.I'm going to be Your newest follower Dear Sister In Christ.Please come back and visit Me any time :) Denise

DREAMS ON 34th STREET ~ French Bread & Family said...

Good morning, Sonja!
I was so ready to land in your dream destination of Norway!

I feel honored to hear your Mother's words as she chronicled your family's history.

The Northern corners of Europe are the heart of Christmas tradition.
Thank you and your Mother for it's safe keeping!
~Lynne
withLove!

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Dearest Sonja! How marvelous of you to come today and to reflect on this most amazing week-long journey, together! I tell you, the dear women who follow my blog and who jump on board with my ideas are just gems in my crown. YOU INCLUDED! I so love what you did here, taking us to NORWAY! I must go there one day, for I love the people. Blessings dear sister! Anita

Fete et Fleur said...

How lovely! A Christmas in Norway looks romantic and peaceful. What a wondeful place to celebrate the holiday. Thank you for sharing this gorgeous winter wonderland with us.

; )
Nancy

It's me said...

A little bit late but......Wonderful post ...great party !!..thanks for Anita !!!..love Ria...x !

Robyn said...

What a heartwarming post, Sonja! I have often wanted to visit Norway and your description and lovely photos were such a treat! Thank you!

Felisol said...

Dearest Sonja,
Such beautiful memories transmitted from your mother to further generations of children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren. It's really a pity that so few Norwegian-Americans spend the time of Advent and Christmas in december in Norway.
My mother would always praise the Lord for his wisedom, sending the white snow in the darkest month of the year. I know you are busy celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas with your own family, so I do understand, but even so, maybe for once you might try??? I also think than when the Norwegian Americans some home to the Old Country, they are only shown familiar buildings, fjords, artworks e.t.c. What you have written about is what cannot be told by a guide in a couple of hours. It has to be experienced. Thank you for delivering Norwegian Christmas in July.