Today it is -4C where we are, up on the hills outside of Oslo. We are about 150m above sea level so it always tends to be a bit colder here than in the city centre near the fjord. Yesterday it was bitter at -9C but snow fell and the temperature rose overnight. It’s just a dusting of snow sitting on top of crispy frost, so it’s pretty. The kids and I love being out in the dark early morning when streetlights are still on, it looks like someone has dispersed a generous helping of silver glitter everywhere as the frost glistens in the light. Anna and Elsa should appear from behind a frosted tree somewhere and blast out a song, that would really complete the picture.
The sun comes up at about 8.30am and sets again circa 3.30pm. So there is daylight, for anyone who is wondering. Winter days here tend to have a mix of white skies looking like they are ready to explode with snowfall and when they do eventually, they give way to bright open blue cloudless skies with sun glaring down on the snow. It’s a lovely place to be for winter. The short days don’t bother me at all. We were always grumbling about going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark in the UK (and Ireland) and and the ill effects of never seeing any daylight. There are no such grumbles about winter here except amongst immigrants maybe, what would be the point of wasting your energy complaining about it. The attitude here is to embrace it and enjoy the benefits that long winters bring like wood fires, snowmen, crisp air, sledging and skiing.
Also, the roads and public transport systems operate as normal regardless of the weather so people don’t associate cold snowy weather with “hassle” as we do elsewhere. Kids have little to no chance of having ‘snow days’ at home here. Equally, grown-ups have no reason to stay home from work due to trains refusing to move in the snow or gridlocks on roads, wrong country for that. To someone like me who grew up with any sort of inclement weather causing near catastrophic infrastructure problems like cancelled trains and buses, schools closures and power outages, it’s impressive.
On our first visit to the doctor here, she told me in no uncertain terms that all of us needed to take Vitamin D from September to May. Even if there is a lot of winter sun, we are too far north to have decent levels of vitamin D so the sensible thing is to take supplements. She explained that the kids needed it to develop strong bones and we grown-ups needed it to hold on to any strong bones that we have. It made we wonder why we don’t have the same standard medical recommendation in Ireland and the UK for the winter months as I don’t think the sun is much stronger there in winter. It would surely be worth it to help prevent even a few cases of rickets or osteoporosis but hey, I am no expert.
With only 10 days to go to Christmas, the excitement and build up here is the same as many other places across the globe. Christmas lights on streets and buildings, Christmas trees in homes, school concerts and Christmas work parties. Julemarkeder or Christmas markets are very popular here and they have all of the charm of those in Germany. This is where to go to buy handmade woollens, a year’s supply of salami or of course good old glogg or glühwein which is great for warming the body and soul.
One lovely Christmas tradition at our local barnehage (kindergarten) here is julefrokost or Christmas breakfast. This is where parents and kids gather around a roaring campfire in the darkness at 8am in the morning, drinking homemade soup that’s warming in a massive pot over the fire. In many other countries I can think of, any such parent event would be held indoors with the heating turned up and warm cups of tea and coffee at the ready. Not here in Norway, the whole attraction is to enjoy the cold by keeping warm around a campfire, and of course drink chunky vegetable soup while you are doing it. It’s character building stuff surely. I came away from it last week with a strong smell of burning sticks off my clothes that made me feel like I had just lived a little.
Santa comes to Norwegian kids too of course, in the form of the julenisse. He looks like Santa, talks like Santa and you need to be good to reap any benefits from the good man. He comes on the eve of Dec 24th and actually hand delivers toys to kids. So they get to meet him and shake his hand and fib straight to his face that they have of course been good.
One thing we didn’t foresee when moving here was our lengthy discussions on the rights and wrongs of Santa’s different rules for different countries. How can it be that he wants to MEET Norwegian kids, whereas our kids were always told about a much more antisocial ever fattening fellow who only wants to come in the dead of night, drop presents, gorge on mince pies or cake and take off again with Rudolph and the gang. And if you try to get a look at him, you might end up getting nothing because the big man will be reeeeeally grumpy.
Anybody got a good answer for that one? All suggestions welcome and gratefully received….