A Dad's View: Scandi Christmas
His children are set on Christmas in Norway, can Tom Dunmore dissuade them with threats of the more outlandish traditional dishes?
'Did you buy an Advent calendar?’ I ask Lise. ‘I’m making one,’ she replies.
‘Ordered it last week.’
‘Done the first two. Five to go.’
I look up from the to-do list. ‘We’re having seven cakes?’
‘Of course we are,’ Lise says. ‘Eight if you count the English Christmas cake.’
‘Who’s going to eat eight cakes?’ I ask.
‘Cake!’ shouts Erik from the lounge. Well, that answers that one.
Christmas is a challenge for any family – we all have presents to buy, grandparents to placate and elaborate myths to be maintained – but when you’re married to a Norwegian things take on a whole new level of complexity.
‘Does Father Christmas live in Norway?’ asks Ava, as she writes her Christmas list.
‘Weeeeelll...’ I begin, fighting the urge to come clean and struggling to remember which lie I’d already told, ‘...some people say he lives in northern Finland...’
‘Reindeerland,’ interrupts Lise. ‘Santa’s Grotto, Reindeerland, XM4 5HQ.’
I notice Lise has the Royal Mail website open on her phone. ‘Cheat,’ I say.
‘So is Reindeerland in Norway?’ asks Ava. Then before we have a chance to respond, she follows up with the sucker punch, although she knows the answer full well: ‘Are we going to Norway for Christmas?’
‘We can’t, my love. Daddy has to work.’ Ava’s face crumples.
‘But we’ll have a Norwegian Christmas here!’ says Lise. Ava looks unconvinced.
‘That means we get to have Norwegian presents on Christmas Eve,’ I explain. ‘And then English presents on Christmas Day.’
‘Will we get more presents or just half on each day?’ asks Ava, and I quietly curse the efficacy of her primary school teacher.
‘And we’ll get to build a gingerbread house on Little Christmas Eve!’ says Lise, conveniently ignoring Ava’s question.
‘Can we make a gingerbread castle?’ suggests Ava, suddenly perking up.
‘That’s a good idea,’ I say.
‘Hey Erik, we’re going to make a Cinderella castle!’
Lise scowls at me and shakes her head. It dawns on me that as I’m working on Little Christmas Eve, I’ll be leaving Lise to create a staggeringly complex Disney castle out of home-baked biscuits, while looking after two accident-prone children. They should give that a try on The Great British Bake Off.
‘Maybe we could make a Hansel and Gretel house instead?’ I suggest. A box with sweets stuck on it. Done.
‘No!’ exclaims Ava. ‘I want to go to Norway.’
I think about it.
‘Ok,’ I nod. ‘We can go to Norway. You can stay with the nisse, Santa’s naughty helpers, and eat all the traditional Norwegian food. You’ll have rice pudding for Christmas lunch.’
‘And then you’ll have lutefisk, which is cod that’s hung outside for weeks then soaked in lye. It’s basically fish jelly – you’ll love it.’
‘And best of all you can have smalahove. That’s cooked sheep’s head, cut down the middle so it still has one eye and half a brain.’
Ava and Erik start pulling faces of disgust.
‘Or you could stay here and have turkey. Up to you.’ I sit back triumphantly.
‘I want sheep’s brain!’ says Erik.
Looks like we’re going to Norway after all.