Monday, October 31, 2005

Halloween Norwegian style

Tonight is Halloween, a great American tradition my kids and I look forward to all year long. The doorbell has been constantly ringing tonight, and I know there is no way all these kids live in my neighborhood.

Growing up in cold Norway, we did not celebrate this fall great tradition. By the time October 31 rolls around in my hometown of Raufoss, the snow is already up to the eaves and even the reindeer are put away for the winter.

Still, we do have a tradition similar to Halloween. It ocurs between Christmas and New Year's Day, and we call it "Julebukk" (literally “Christmas buck” in English). During Julebukk, children dress up and go door-to-door singing songs in order to earn a candy treat.

In Norse mythology, Julebukk is a goat-like creature. The tradition of being Julebukk-like goes back to Viking times when Pagans worshipped Thor and his goat (and yes my name is a variation of Thor, spelled correctly in my case).

During these Pagan celebrations a person carrying a goat head and dressed in a goatskin would make a surprise entrance into a party--and during the course of the evening would "die" and return to life. During the early Christian era, the goat would transform into a devil-like critter who would appear during times of wild merry-making.

Those were the days in Norway, my friends.

Anyhow, by the end of the Middle Ages, the Church and state forbade the game. Over time, the goat play been replaced by the tamer Julebukk celebrated in Norway today.

(Thanks to my dear sister Tone for the background info. I've been away from home so long, I forget some of the details.)


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