Barneblad: Gratulerer med dagen!

A monthly feature to share with kids and grandkids

Gratulerer med dagen

Photo: Alex Grichenko / Public Domain Pictures
Candles were first put on birthday cakes in Germany in the 1700s.

Brought to you by Lori Ann Reinhall

With the New Year coming, it’s a time of renewal, a time to celebrate life. After all, one of the most important birthdays in history was celebrated just a few days ago, with the birthday of the Baby Jesus. But in general, why do we celebrate birthdays, and what are some fun ways to do it?

Why we celebrate

The celebration of birthdays goes back to old pagan traditions. Before Christianity, many people believed that evil spirits lurked on days of big changes, like the day you turn a year older. Birthday candles were a response to these evil spirits. They represented light in the darkness, a way to communicate with the gods.

The tradition of the children’s birthday party as we know it today started in Germany in the 1700s. There, candles were first put on cakes, one candle for each year of life. This tradition later spread to other parts of Europe.

Your special day

Your birthday is a day to celebrate and give thanks that you were born. But it is not only a day to get presents: it is also a day to show your appreciation for others and all that they do for you. These days, children’s birthday parties can get quite elaborate, but putting on a fun birthday party doesn’t need to break the bank. Creativity is really about creating something from nothing; it’s more about having good ideas.

Have fun with your heritage

Your birthday is a great opportunity to share your heritage with a Norwegian-themed party. The possibilities are endless, but here are a few ideas on how to put on a heritage birthday party without too much fuss and lots of fun!


Photo: Aaron Burden / Wikimedia Commons
Get your coloring materials ready!

1. Decorate and create! This is the time to bring our your treasury of Norwegian knickknacks to decorate your table. Any why not create your own tablecloth? Simply cover it with white butcher’s paper (you can get a roll at a craft store), put out a selection of crayons, and ask everyone to join in. This can be a Norwegian-inspired free draw (Vikings, trolls, mountains, fjords, rosemaling, etc.). One thing for sure, everyone will have a great time!

2. Customize your cake. Cakes and cookies in Norway are the best, and this is a wonderful time to enjoy them. At the top of the list is your birthday cake. You can make it at home, or Scandinavian specialty bakeries offer up wonderful marizpan cakes. Even if you can’t get a Norwegian cake, no problem: you can take any cake and have it decorated Norwegian-style: simply write “Happy Birthday” in Norwegian: Gratulerer med dagen! (which means, “Congratulations with the day!”).

3. Get the norksi goodies. Your Norwegian cookies can be made at home with your family. Krumkake is an all-time favorite, and you can check out for other great recipes. If you’re buying cookies instead, look for ginger snaps and spritz (Danish butter cookies are a close substitute) at the grocery store. You can also find Norwegian candy and chocolates at your local specialty shop or online to put in your goodie bags.

Viking girl

Photo: Bre LaRow / Flickr
Why not dress up like a Viking for your birthday?

4. Dress up for the day. With a themed party, it is important to dress the part. Why not ask everyone to come as a Viking or wear Norwegian national costumes. (Alternatively, if people are coming from different cultures, they can wear their own national dress.) With the recent release of Disney’s Frozen 2, you may also want to dress up like your favorite characters from the movie, which was inspired by Norway.

5. Sing some songs. “Happy Birthday” is the most famous song in the world, and, of course, you will sing it before you blow out your candles. But what about the Norwegian birthday song, “Hurra for deg” (literally translated as “Hurray for you”)? If no one knows it, you can find it on YouTube and play it for everyone at the party: it will add a unique touch to your unique birthday celebration.

These are only a few ideas of how to prepare for your Norwegian heritage birthday party. Use your own imagination and creativity as you celebrate, and most of all, we wish you a very Happy Birthday—Gratulerer med dagen!

This article originally appeared in the December 27, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American.

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Lori Ann Reinhall

Lori Ann Reinhall, editor-in-chief of The Norwegian American, is a multilingual journalist and cultural ambassador based in Seattle. She is the president of the Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association, and she serves on the boards of several Nordic organizations.