Julebord events, or “Christmas Table” as it translates into in English, take place pre-Christmas all over Norway and have seriously taken off in the last few decades. They usually are arranged from the last week of November going well into December. The term refers to a party, either a private or corporate gathering, where people get together and enjoy Christmas food, often served on a buffet table. The dishes are usually both hot and cold, and a variety of traditional and more modern plates. More likely have you heard of the Swedish “Smørgåsbord”, and julebord is similar in style. Classic holiday foods like ribbe (lamb chops or mutton ribs), risengrynsgrøt (rice porridge), lutefisk (dried and salted fish in lye – I will come back to this dish in another post), smoked salmon, liver pate, egg dishes and a variety of charcuterie most likely will be placed on the table, but also more contemporary dishes such as turkey can be seen. There will also be a myriad of desserts, ranging from all sorts of cakes, puddings, custards and cookies.
Another theme which exists is called juletallerken meaning “Christmas plate”, where everyone will be served a composed plate of food instead of serving themselves from a buffet. On the plate will be the traditional foods you get on Christmas eve, consisting of pork belly, mutton ribs, boiled potatoes, mashed rutabaga, lingonberries, meat patties and sausages (yes, not low calorie foods!!). Many times the Julebord will be arranged at public restaurants, and is the preferred serving method in this instance.
The idea behind the Julebord is that the pre-Christmas period should not only be about stressing around buying gifts, cleaning and decorating the house, baking the 7 different required cookies, etc. but also to sit down, relax and enjoy a nice evening with friends. Frequently, however, this turns into a booze filled party that lasts well into the night and most people don’t remember much the morning after…
The history of Julebord dates all the way back to the Middle Ages, when it was common to leave the food out during the entire Christmas holiday so that poor people and passersby could feed themselves. Leaving a dish out for Santa Claus the night before Christmas was also customary.
These days, the Julebord is usually an event that employers will put on for their employees, to gather, and more often than not, consume a TON of alcohol. Every year, newspapers will blast stories about people getting wasted and hitting on their co-workers, breaking out into fights, cheating on their spouses, and dirty dancing with their bosses, leading into more provocative acts that I won’t detail here… My thoughts on this is that Norwegians are so reserved and quiet the rest of the year, the alcohol really loosens up all inhibitions and it can escalate to unknown heights with enough “akevitt”!
This might be the only time where Norwegians are “allowed” to make idiots out of themselves, or blame their outrageous actions on the alcohol.. it’s socially acceptable and almost expected behavior during these evenings.
Not sure how much this blog post had to do about food – but that was exactly my point. Despite the decadent tables with abundant food, the alcohol seems to be the highlight every time during the Julebord.. Most Norwegians are well off and can afford to eat whatever they want year round, but with alcohol still being regulated by the state monopoly, alcohol continues to be regarded as “forbidden fruit”…
Check back in the next next few days for the recipes of all the traditional Norwegian Christmas dishes, as well as resources to where you can located hard-to-find ingredients!