As I write this composition on what Christmas means to me and my way of celebrating it, I am
trying to describe all those feelings and emotions that spell Jul or Christmas for me. It can be
the small slice of that decadent fruit cake I used to hope to get more as a child or thinking about
the backgrounds and histories of all the old churches in my city in India, imagining their stories
when visiting them. From there to becoming a wide-eyed, culturally shocked grown-up person
the first time I saw Christmas trees decked on full display in a shopping mall, along with tonnes
of other decorations, glitter, and festivities. And then to learn to enjoy the famous risgrøt (rice
porridge) while eagerly waiting to find that almond in my portion and sip away some soothing
gløgg at the Julemarked or Christmas market in Oslo and surrounding. And marveling every
single time about how beautiful everything looks decked in red, green, fairy lights, and snow.
Christmas, for me, signifies a beautiful melange of cuisines, cultures, people, and traditions.
Some things that I grew up learning, a few that I picked up on the way from different cities and
people, and then some customs and cuisines that made the way in my family's and my life.
My husband and I have always made sure to celebrate every possible festival and occasion that
we can, and it's been such a wonderful thing because then our son is as excited for Jul as he is
for Diwali. And that's the beauty of the world today; it's well-connected, easy to explore, put
down roots in your place of choice, and gives you enough leeway to adapt and blend in old and
new celebrations. And this move entails learning a new language, carving a career, raising a
family, and celebrating festivals with a blend of something new and old.
Shocked and in awe
Yet, it feels like yesterday when our family of three relocated to Oslo, Norway, from the bling
and buzz of Asia. I was a trailing spouse on a career sabbatical and a relatively new mother
who arrived in Norway in the middle of winter in February. I was shocked and in awe of the
snow and how pristine and cold everything seemed. Towards the end of my first year in Oslo, I
witnessed the subtle yet sublime Christmas celebrations, polar opposites (pun intended) of their
Asian counterparts. There were no themes or glamorous malls with sets or huge displays, and
simplicity serenades you when you frequent the Nordic Julmarkeds. These markets are so
beautiful they genuinely feel like a living-breathing surreal postcard, where you have warm
bonfires, ice skating rinks, tonnes of fairy lights, Christmas cheer in red, green, and golden
colors, giant wheel, fun booths, food, and oh! so much more. They are a delight to see when we
have snowfall in Oslo. Then it truly becomes a wonderland in a Norwegian winter, where
everything is white, magical, and pristine with hues and shades of celebrations, happiness, and
warmth. These markets also become spots for prompt social gatherings and impromptu meets
and greets. With an occasional candy apple in hand, you& are bound to run into friends,
colleagues, and acquaintances because visiting these beautiful attractions is very Christmasy
and diverse too.
Some of our fantastic friends invited us for Christmas dinner. While others made sure we could
be a part of Julebord (Christmas table/Christmas dinner) - something I hadnt participated in
before. But these small efforts by others gave us a comfortable insight into Norways way of
observing and celebrating Jul. Before we knew it, my family and I felt we were not homesick in
Oslo, and we were home in this city with new rituals and traditions.
I have acquired the taste of Norsk gløgg with spicy undertones and a generous addition of
almonds and raisins while indulging in occasional marzipan chocolate, savoring the sweetnessof almonds
and sugar that essentially mean Christmas. But the part that has always stolen my heart has been the
Christmas Barnahage (kindergarten) celebrations like Luciefeiring (Saint Lucys Day) and Julavslutning
(Christmas Closing). Nothing transcends the enthusiasm of small children and their spirits to celebrate and have fun!
Jul or Christmas also means gratitude to me. Gratitude exemplifies another beautiful year, good
health, and the opportunity of being in a good space when the times have not exactly been rosy
for everyone around. It is also the time to reach out and say hello or meet the people my family
or I might not have seen in a while.
My family and I have also picked up the Norwegian way of going to hytta (cabin) and soaking
into nature while exploring on hikes or simply enjoying our time together as a family doing
recommended activities or merely staying in by cooking a meal together. I remember my last
Julferie (Christmas Holidays) at Geilo, where my son skied like he was born with skies, and I
was beyond thrilled to go hundekjøring (dog sledding) in the snowy terrain of the mountains
and lakes. One of the most memorable things to do is to me. The charm and thrill were beyond
words, but the pictures may do justice to the experience. You slowly realize when to move to a
Scandinavian country like Norway that there is so much to do, learn and explore. And also,
there is no bad weather, only bad clothing!
Another thing I like to do around this time is look for activities that can be done as a family and
are creative. One year it was painting, then some other time, it was paper snowflakes, and this
year it has been making greeting cards for the elderly. My husband and I always try to keep the gifting small
and thoughtful so that our son appreciates the consideration and gifts. Then, of course, he has his way of
thanking everyone by sending them small audio or video messages accompanied by handmade thank you
cards. Another important reason for celebrating Christmas, or any other festival, is that it allows a
family or a person to connect, out in thoughts and efforts to meet or greet and gift and then
acknowledge. No matter how technologically advanced humans become, the beauty of saying
hello or thank you will always remain unsurpassed. On the lighter side, Jul also means getting an advent
calendar, funny Christmas jumpers, and clicking endless goofy pictures for that one perfect Christmas greeting card portrait.
Christmas reminds me that even though hope might be bleak at times, things can seem dark,
and in despair, there is always a twinkle or a light waiting to be held on to. It is about not giving
up, showing up, and holding on to each other, so the world becomes a better place. Thats what
festivals are supposed to do; they are not solely about money, presents, or commercial
merchandise. More like they are about uplifting everyone around you while making the most of
what is available and helping those in need. Its also about braving cultural and linguistic
barriers and understanding each other tradition-wise and by their perspectives. In its infinite
wisdom, Christmas symbolizes mercy and love, which are incomplete without patience and
tolerance. Something the world needs a little more of today. And since we live in an age where
we even have multiple options to order a single cup of coffee, we can undoubtedly be non
judgemental and kind to everyone. After it is the season of spreading joy and cheer!
Kriti Surjan Thepade
Kriti Surjan Thepade is a meditation instructor from India residing in Oslo. She has work experience in print, tv, and radio for almost 15 years. As an avid writer, her favorite subjects to write about are - politics, culture, food, and travel. When not writing- she likes to bake, photograph, and read. Kriti strongly believes that growth comes when you help others to flourish as well.