A big part of Norwegian Christmas traditions is the food, and often we repeat the same dishes every year. ‘Ribbe’ (pork ribs), with the traditional sides like sweet and sour red cabbage, is the most popular dish in Norway; according to Matprat, 9 out of 10 Norwegians have this on the dinner table Christmas Eve. The next most popular plate is ‘pinnekjøtt’ (salted and dried lamb ribs).
Fish doesn’t dominate on Christmas Eve, but it’s still tradition to have fish during the holidays. Norwegian fish is also popular abroad for Christmas. While Norwegians go hardcore and choose ‘lutefisk’ (fish preserved with lye) or ‘rakfisk’ (trout or char, salted and fermented for two to three months, or even up to a year) during the holidays, bacalhau and smoked salmon are bigger hits elsewhere. Compared to other countries, Norwegians don’t eat a lot of Turkey during Christmas. But for New Year’s Eve, this is a favorite.
Ribbe is the most popular Christmas dinner. It consists of ribs from pig, and is very fatty. In the old days, this Christmas meal should give energy for the rest of the winter. There are several side dishes to the “Ribbe”. Most common is sauerkraut, patties, white sausages, and potatoes.
Lutefisk is dried cod that has been soaked in a lye solution for several days to rehydrate it. It is then boiled or baked and served with butter, salt, and pepper. Some people like it, but one rarely eats it more than once a year.
Pinnekjøtt is made from ribs of lamb or mutton that has been salted and dried. It is served with mashed kohlrabi and thick sausages.
Smalahove is made from a sheep’s head. The skin and fleece of the head is torched, and the head is salted, sometimes smoked, and dried. This dish is normal in the western part of Norway.
Julegrøt is Christmas rice porridge with an almond hidden inside. Whoever gets the almond, wins a marzipan pig.
Traditional “ribbe” with the usual sides like saussages and red cabbage.
The traditions are different across the country, and these are the estimates made by Matprat.no about who eats what and where:
Oslo: Ribbe 57 %, – Pinnekjøtt 26 %
Eastern Norway: Ribbe 76 %, – Pinnekjøtt 17 %
Western Norway: Ribbe 20 %, – Pinnekjøtt 73 %
Middle Norway: Ribbe 66 %, – Pinnekjøtt 31 %
North Norway: Ribbe 40 % – Pinnekjøtt 52 %
Notably, not all eats the traditional Christmas food, some also opts for the more easy solution such as Grandiosa, the favourite frozen pizza with Norwegians. Lately vegetarian options has also become more popular. Either way, food continues to be an important part of Christmas.
Christmas is also a time for sweets and cookies, and “kransekake” and “krumkake” are two of the most popular ones. Leading up to Christmas, many Norwegians make their own gingerbread house, which is decorated with candy and crushed and eaten after Christmas is over.