Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Scandinavian Christmas

Our move to Colorado last fall put us at quite a distance from our East Coast family. Celebrating holidays on our own has compelled us to start our own traditions. I am half Danish, so we have been investigating the Christmas customs of Scandinavia. Andrew isn't at all Scandinavian, but he is just as interested. He says this is because, "There isn't any place more Christmassy than Scandinavia!"

One enchanting Danish tradition is the story of the Jul nisser or Christmas spirits. They are small like elves, bearded with a red cap like Santa, but unlike these better known American characters a nisse is full of mischief. If you do not leave them their customary bowl of Christmas Eve rice pudding they can be trouble! Nisser (pronounced "niss-uh") are also found in Norway. In Finland these are known as the tonttuja, and in Sweden they are the tomtar.

When Andy's parents were here, his mom brought these supplies for she and the girls to make their own nisser. She is amazing with craft projects, and when she heard about our Scandinavian Christmas, which we began last year, she jumped right in. After seeing nisser just like these in a Pottery Barn catalog for 20 dollars a piece, she collected supplies to make our own.

Then she and Zoe sat at the kitchen island and glued the felt to plastic cups. They used small close pins to hold the felt while it dried. Next they glued on the wool for a beard, which came from Andy's aunt's farm in Virginia. After the wool, they attached the hats, and finally the nose and black felt feet. Aren't they cute?! This morning we made one more and set them up on our shelf, beside the sticks we collected.

We have also purchased a few books which are already becoming our family tradition to read in December. They are written by Astrid Lindgren, who you may know from the book, Pippy Longstocking. These books are from 1961 and 1963, and they are so full of charm. One book prominently features the nisse, and is titled, The Tomten . The other book is more of a peak into Christmas in Scandinavia, through the eyes of the children in Noisy Village. It is called Christmas in Noisy Village . Both books contain delightful illustrations.

If you fall in love with these books as we have, you may also consider The Children of Noisy Village , and Happy Times in Noisy Village . They are wonderful children's novels, suited for any time of year. The writing style reminds me of Eloise, if you are familiar with those books, which I grew up reading with my mom. The girls just love to curl up on the couch while we read these to them in the evening after dinner.

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