One of the things I learned about Norway, is the folks really like the outdoors! They love the clean, fresh air, the farm life and simple living. Another Norwegian tradition, with an unknown origin (although they have ideas about it) is the sharing of the julenek, or the sharing of grain, as a Christmas feast for the birds, The first written reference to the tradition was in 1753, when a prominent clergyman, Erik Pontappidan, described it as the “Norwegian peasant’s hospitality to the birds, as he would invite guests into his home. An un-threshed sheaf of grain is placed on a pole against the barn door.” Others placed the last sheaves of the harvest on fence posts or away from the barn to keep the birds from the grain stored in the barns.
Many priests in the 1700’s denounced the tradition as a pagan custom, which would suggest the tradition goes back to pre-Christian times. In the folk tradition, the sheaf was said to predict the following year’s harvest. If the birds flocked to the sheaf, it meant a good harvest the next year, but if few birds came and ate only a little, famine or a bad harvest would follow.
The custom became popular, particularly in the mid 1800’s and julenek artwork became very popular on Norwegian Christmas cards, wrapping paper and gift tags, as a symbol of Christian generosity.
Today, many Norwegians believe, that if you scatter birdseed outside your doorway on Christmas morning, thus including the birds in your feasting in your home, it will bring good luck and cheer to your home the following year.
Now, gates and doorways are included in the decorating for Christmas. Straw decorations are left so the birds might eat, to honor the birds and beasts that witnessed the Birth of Christ! I hope you have enjoyed my Nordic Christmas Traditions!
I wish you all a Merry Christmas! See you next week in a new spot in Norway!