How Norwegian Traditions Work

Norwegian Food and Drink

Norway's climate and location inform its culinary choices to a great extent -- there are no piƱa coladas here, but plenty of meats and seafood with distinctive preparations that originally kept them preserved over long winters. The country's ample coastline also make fish a popular dining staple; one particular delicacy is boiled cod, which is commonly eaten on Christmas and is served with boiled potatoes. In fact, most meals in Norway (but especially traditional ones) include boiled potatoes.

When it comes to red meat, reindeer is a popular option -- especially covered with lingonberries, which look almost exactly like cranberries but aren't quite as eye-scrunchingly tart. Norwegians also warm up with the national dish, faari-i-kaal, which is a peppery mutton stew served -- surprise! -- with boiled potatoes [source: Frommers]. Another common Norwegian food is gjetost (also spelled geitost), a kind of goat cheese that's produced when whey curds are cooked down to a smooth, spreadable cheese. Slightly sweet with a hint of caramel, it's often spread on thin, crisp rye crackers -- another Norwegian specialty [source: Fankhauser].

Alcohol is strictly regulated by the Norwegian government, but of-age residents and visitors can enjoy a broad selection of beers, ciders and meads (honey wines). Akevitt (also spelled aquavit), a potato-based, caraway-spiced liquor that was originally matured in casks aboard Viking ships, is another Norwegian specialty. While the legal drinking age is 16, you have to be 18 to purchase alcohol [source: Hanson].

Food is also an important part of Norwegian celebrations, and none more than Christmas. At a Norwegian Christmas feast, you'll have your pick of hearty meat dishes, any number of fish options and a smorgasbord (literally) of sides. Dessert is frequently riskrem (rice pudding mixed with whipped cream) or kransekake (a pyramid-shaped almond ring cake). Norwegian tradition also dictates that every Christmas table should include seven different kinds (called the Seven Sorts) of home-baked cookies for maximum hospitality [source: Innovation Norway]. You may be tempted to book your plane ticket now, but read on to learn more about Norwegian holiday celebrations.