Lille Julaften and “The 90th birthday – Dinner for One”

Christmas in Norway is THE big Family Holiday. At no other time of the year will there be as many families spending time together as now.

“Lille Julaften” is the day before Christmas in Scandinavia. In Norwegian “Lille” means small, “Jul” is the word for Christmas and “aften” is the word for evening.

Jul comes from the norse word “Jól” or “Jólablót” which is the name for the earlier, heathen celebration of the midwinterday in the Nordics, and now for the Christian holiday and the celebration in memory of the birth of Jesus Christ.

Each year on the Lille Julaften, according to Norwegian christmas traditions, there a few things that just has to happen to get into that christmas spirit.

One of those things is that we make a rice porridge for dinner / evening meal. This porridge is served warm and 1 almond is placed in the porridge. The person that finds the almond in their plate wins a marzipan pig (don’t know where the marzipan pig comes from, but its probably from the tradition of having pork ribs for dinner on Christmas eve). Rich amounts of this porridge is made and the leftovers will be used for dessert on Christmas eve.

Another tradition is that at 9pm the short film; “The 90th birthday – Dinner for one” is shown on television. It is also known as The 90th Birthday, or by its corresponding German title, Der 90. Geburtstag. It is a comedy sketch written by British author Lauri Wylie for the theatre in the 1920s. German television station Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR) recorded a performance of the piece in 1963, in its original English language.

The sketch presents the 90th birthday of elderly upper-class Englishwoman Miss Sophie, who hosts a dinner every year for her close friends Mr Pommeroy, Mr Winterbottom, Sir Toby, and Admiral von Schneider to celebrate the occasion. (Note that the plot has nothing to do with New Year’s Eve, as is often incorrectly stated. There is a “Happy new year” toast, but this is purely a reference to Miss Sophie’s anniversary.) The problem is that given Miss Sophie’s considerable age, she has outlived all of her friends, and so her equally aged manservant James makes his way around the table, impersonating each of the guests in turn.

Miss Sophie decides on appropriate drinks to accompany the menu of the evening, consisting of Mulligatawny soup (Miss Sophie orders dry sherry), North Sea haddock (with white wine), chicken (with champagne), and fruit for dessert (with port) served by James, and so he finds himself raising (and emptying) his glass four times per course. That takes its toll, increasingly noticeable in James’ growing difficulty in pouring the drinks, telling wine glasses from vases of flowers, and refraining from bursting into song. Even before the alcohol begins to exert its influence, he has trouble avoiding the head of a tiger skin lying on the floor between the dinner table and the buffet.

The crucial exchange during every course is:

James: The same procedure as last year, Miss Sophie?
Miss Sophie: The same procedure as every year, James!

After the dinner, Miss Sophie indicates to a very drunk James that she wishes to retire to bed, to which James responds:

James: By the way, the same procedure as last year, Miss Sophie?
Miss Sophie (delightedly): The same procedure as every year, James!
James: Well, I’ll do my very best!

Now, For me, there wont be a proper Christmas without these traditions :D Christmas still arrives no matter what, but it will feel like something is missing.

Like the white snow which we haven’t gotten much of this year.
We did have a snowfall, but that snow mostly has melted by now.

However, peace has settled by now and it is time to go to bed. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve.
I’m just as exited as my two smaller sisters (4 and 10) ..

Merry Christmas folks and Wishing you all a very happy Holiday season!


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