Tom asked me in the comments what Norwegian Christmas porridge is.
Strictly speaking, it’s not Christmas porridge, just like pumpkin pie isn’t Thanksgiving pie, but some things are more associated with a holiday than not. And so it is with the foods I’ve bought in handy-dandy pre-made single-servings:
On the left is “rømmegrøt”, sour cream porridge, also eaten in the spring, but then accompanied by a big pretzel and various jerkied meats. For Christmas, it is served by itself. It’s heavy food. I’ll be sprinkling cinnamon, sugar and raisins on it, probably on Christmas day.
In the middle is my Christmas dinner, according to the traditions of western Norway. Here, we eat dried and cured sheep’s ribs with mashed turnips (kohlrabi), boiled potatoes, and a bit of the grease from the ribs. The ribs are called “pinnekjøtt” because they are traditionally steamed over birch sticks (“pinne”); the drippings are often saved to use on lutefisk, another seasonal food. I see that my package also includes a bit of sausage from Voss, “vossakorv”. Yummy! I have a couple of bottles of Christmas ale to go with the meal.
On the right is the Christmas porridge. I associate rice porridge with Christmas, as do a lot of people. It is served hot with a pat of butter in the middle, sugar and cinnamon sprinkled generously, maybe some milk on it, and an almond. The one almond goes in the main pot and whoever finds the almond in their bowl of porridge gets a surprise gift, usually a marzipan pig. (One commercial on Norwegian TV shows the idyllic Christmas dinner scene totally ruined by grandpa offering a candied apple as the gift instead of a marzipan pig.)
There are a couple of traditional desserts that go with the traditional Christmas dinner. One is cloudberry cream, basically cloudberries and whipped cream, and it is a very light dessert and perfect after such a heavy meal. Another, cheaper and more common dessert is so-called rice cream. It is rice porridge “thinned” with whipped cream and served cold with raspberry sauce. Since I have never really liked raspberry sauce (simply referred to as red sauce in Norwegian), I have opted for the porridge.
Christmas dinner is eaten on Christmas Eve here in Norway. Protege mentions the “eve before the eve” and a uniquely Swedish tradition for it in her blog. Norwegians, too, call December 23rd “lillejulaften” (Little Christmas Eve), and it is typically the day when the Christmas tree is decorated and all the cookies for Christmas are baked. I have no tree (can’t be bothered), but I do like the “warm-up” on “lillejulaften”. Our unique tradition for that day is the the airing of “The Birthday Party”, which is called “Grevinnen og hovmesteren” (“The Countess and the Butler”) in Norway. No “grevinnen”, no Christmas. It’s that simple. And that funny.