Christmas Card Traditions

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Did you know that the tradition of giving Christmas cards started with the Victorians? In fact, a lot of our modern day Christmas traditions started in the Victorian era. But in those days most of the Christmas cards were still homemade, just like most of the gifts were.

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The tradition of giving gifts goes back a long time, and in Norway we hear about the Vikings offering gifts to allying chiefs in order to establish and maintain good relations between the different clans. Even today, gifts, but perhaps even more so, cards, are used for the exact same purpose!

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We send and receive Christmas cards from people, often extended family members, we haven’t heard from or met in perhaps even decades! In my family, my mother still gets Christmas cards from aunties she hasn’t seen in 30 years! It is just a way of saying: I haven’t forgotten about you and we are still thinking about you. And isn’t Christmas just the best time to do that!

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Most of the Christmas cards we send and receive today are store-bought ones, maybe even finished written ones with: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year printed on the inside. But in my family, my aunties still make their own cards, and it so lovely to receive a handmade card every year!

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When I was little I simply loved postcards, you know the ones you don’t need an envelope for, and my granny had whole stacks of them lying around, and I would spend hours leafing through them, looking at the pictures and reading the greetings. My favorite ones were the old-fashioned Christmas postcards, like the ones you see in this post.

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A lot of us have today converted to e-cards and e-greetings, and perhaps it is for the best, at least for the environment, but I still feel that there is something so soulfully heartwarming about these hand-written Christmas cards, something that is just not there in these fast-forwarded e-greetings. Perhaps it is okay to keep a few papery traditions.

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Whatever form of greeting you choose, I think it is, like always, the thought that counts, just telling someone you haven’t forgotten about them and that they are still a part of your life is all that matters.

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Some of us go through life without having any close relations, or even caring friends, and I think Christmas is just the perfect time to reach out to someone who needs a friend. Perhaps you can play the Christmas Card fairy this year and send cards to everyone in your neighborhood! You don’t have to sign them, you can simply write: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Christmas Fairy. How much fun wouldn’t that be! Just imagine the look on people’s faces when they receive a card like that, and think, it was you who put that smile there!

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No matter what you choose to do this Holiday Season, I hope you will not forget about the meaning of it: to love and cherish one another unconditionally.
Enjoy yourself!

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The Scandinavian Nisse

Midthun
Art by Kjell E. Midthun

Did you know that the way Santa Clause looks like today; his boots, top hat, coat and even his long beard is inspired by the ancient legends of the Scandinavian nisse?
You see, nobody had really seen santa clause, so when they wanted to put his picture on Christmas cards and in books they had to use their imagination and try to imagine what he looked like. To spark their creativity they looked towards Scandinavian folklore for inspiration. And there, hidden among trolls and elves and various underlings, they found the little Scandinavian nisse.

svein solem 4
Art by Svein Solem

The Scandinavian nisse, or tomte, as he is called in Sweden, is quite different than Santa Clause. He is very tiny, and lives either in the forest or on a farm, or sometimes even in the mountains.

svein solem pinterest
Art by Svein Solem

The forest nisse lives under the roots of trees or in hollow trees. You might sometimes spot these forest nisse abodes in nature, you might see a tiny opening leading underground, or a little hidden pathway into the hollow of a tree trunk. The forest nisee gathers berries, nuts and fruits in the autumn to fill his pantry for the harsh winter. The forest nisse’s purpose is to take care of the little animals in the forest and to help them if they are hurt or if they can’t find food in winter. Sometimes the forest nisse can be mistaken for a mouse and be caught by an eagle, an owl or a fox, but when they discover that it is in fact a nisse and not a mouse they have caught they immediately let the nisse go and apologizes sincerely.

skanidsk.com svein solem
Art by Svein Solem

The farm nisse lives on people’s farms. He helps take care of the farm animals. If the farmer is nice and gives the nisse rice porridge topped with lots of butter, sugar and cinnamon on Christmas Eve,
the nisse helps him take care of the farm. But if the farmer doesn’t believe in the nisse and consequently doesn’t give him his rice porridge, the nisse may play a prank on him, like stealing his washing from the cloth line or switch the sugar with salt, or he might even leave the farm if he gets angry enough. Every Norwegian knows that if you want to run a successful farm you’ve got to have a happy nisse helping out!

svein solem 2
Art by Svein Solem

There is a third kind of nisse, the mountain nisse, but very less studies have been done about this particular nisse. It is only recently the stories of this very shy nisse has come out in daylight and been told to children. Some say that the mountain nisse’s top hat is blue instead of red like the farm nisse and forest nisse. This is probably to blend in more with the mountains. The mountain nisse’s life purpose is to make sure that the air is clean and crisp, as well as to make the blue hour, the hour before sunset and sunrise, during the winter season.

K. Midthun
Art by Kjell E. Midthun

The nisse can live as long as 300 years. He marries if he falls in love, something that only happens once in a lifetime for a nisse, and it is not always the nisse girl chooses him!

Nisse Couple - Svein Solem
Art by Svein Solem

In Norway children grow up with stories of the forest nisse, the farm nisse and the mountain nisse. So instead of giving Santa Clause milk and cookies on Christmas Day, children in Norway prepare rice porridge for the nisse and leaves it for him outside the house on Christmas Eve. And of course the porridge has to be topped with lots of butter, sugar and cinnamon.

The legends of the nisse dates back to ancient pre-Christian times, even before the Vikings, and is a treasured part of Norway’s and Scandinavia’s rich cultural heritage and folklore.

To know more about the artists, please see these links:
Svein Solem: http://www.sveinsolem.com/nisser.html
Kjell E. Midthun:https://www.facebook.com/pages/Galleri-Midthun/111736875585437