Category Archives: Holiday

Christmas Dates

Of course in Norway, Norwegian is the primary language spoken. Unfortunately, some words don’t translate or even transliterate into useful meanings, and this includes the names of the various Christmas dates! It’s kind of the same thing in the US, you can’t inherently know that Christmas Day is the 25th of December, but for the most part, there’s only 2 days you have to know around Christmas time, and their “Eve” variations, so it’s fairly straightforward to remember. But there’s far more variations in Norway, and when trying to figure out what days a store is open, you’ll often only find the terms, not the actual numerical dates! To that end, hopefully this blog post can shed some light on what the different dates are!

For comparison, let’s just list the US days real quick, there’s only 4:

  • Christmas Eve – Dec 24th. This is usually a half day at stores and businesses, if not a complete holiday.
  • Christmas Day – Dec 25th. Christmas presents are usually opened in the morning. Most businesses are closed all day.
  • New Years Eve – Dec 31. Some businesses have reduced hours.
  • New Years Day – Jan 1. Some businesses are closed.

But here are all the dates in Norway: (It’s worth noting that “aften” translates to “Eve”)

  • Lille julaften – (Little Christmas Eve) – Dec 23. This is usually a normal business day, but Christmas festivities often begin during this day.
  • Julaften (Christmas Eve) – Dec 24. Christmas presents are usually opened in the evening. This is usually a half day at stores and businesses, including grocery stores. Some stores are closed the whole day.
  • Første (1.) juledag (First Christmas Day) – Dec 25. Virtually all stores and businesses (except normally Sunday open ones like small convenience stores) are closed. Any store that is open likely has reduced hours anyways compared to normal.
  • Andre (2.) juledag (Second Christmas Day) – Dec 26. If a store was closed on First Christmas Day, it’s likely still closed today. Stores that were open on First Christmas Day may have extended hours compared to the day before, but may be reduced compared to normal.
  • Tredje (3.) juledag (Third Christmas Day) – Dec 27. This is not celebrated in modern times, but until 1770, was also a public holiday.
  • Romjulen (No good English translation, literally “space Christmas” or something) – Dec 27 – Dec 30/31. This is the “space between” Christmas and New Years. Some stores have different hours than normal during this time, but by and large you can expect normal operating hours. Technically, Romjulen includes Dec 31, but Dec 31 is also a special day on its own.
  • Nyttårsaften (New Years Eve) – Dec 31. This is usually a reduced hours day at stores and businesses, though not usually quite as much as on Christmas Eve.
  • Nyttårsdag (Sometimes called Første (1.) Nyttårsdag, New Years Day) – Jan 1. Most stores are closed on this day, or at least have reduced operating hours in the case of small convenience stores.
  • Days after: Some stores have reduced or increased hours on Jan 2. Most stores return to normal hours by Jan 3.

In general, these dates assume that the holiday is not on a weekend. If the holiday also happens to fall on a weekend, then the hours may be further changed, but you’ll need to consult each store’s hours. In any case, the names of the days and which number they fall on do not change.

Syttende Mai

Syttende mai, or the seventeenth of May, is the Norwegian national holiday. It is Norway’s Constitution Day, the day that Norway’s Constitution was signed into law.

The Constitution of Norway was signed at Eidsvoll on 17 May 1814. However, during this time, Norway was in a union still with Sweden, and the King was reluctant to allow celebrations during this time. For several years during the 1820’s, it was even totally banned by the King. After the Battle of the Square in 1829,  however, the King removed the prohibitions to ease tensions.

In 1864, the day became more established as a national holiday with the creation of the children’s parade. At first, only boys were allowed in the parade, but in 1899 girls began to be allowed as well. The parades take the children through the community, often making stops at homes of senior citizens and war memorials. The parade in Oslo features over 100 schools, and the royal family greets the parade goers from the balcony of the royal palace. Many people will wear bunad during this day, which are traditional cloths of Norway.

The 17th of May is a very inclusive holiday, and everyone becomes a Norwegian on that day. No matter where you are from, whether or not you live in Norway, you are encouraged to grab a Norwegian flag and fly it proudly.