The Christmas season takes off at the Glassworks Village
Situated in idyllic surroundings on the south bank of Lake Randsfjord in Jevnaker, an hour from Oslo, is Hadeland Glassverk (Hadeland Glassworks), the glasswork village that produces some of Norway’s most popular design classics, often used at Christmas.
Founded in 1762, Hadeland Glassverk is the oldest industrial company in Norway. Hadeland is the most fertile area in the whole country, a rural landscape, and an inviting fjord, once with timber floating, now with fish jumping. The glassworks are one of Norway’s biggest tourist attractions, with over 500,000 visitors annually.
“It feels like a hideaway from all the Christmas hustle and bustle. Here you can wander among glass, art, local food, and Christmas trees,” says singer-songwriter Unni Wilhelmsen from Oslo. After her concert at the glassworks, she was invited to make her own mouth-blown glass.
When approaching the glassworks village, one sees a tall industrial chimney hitting the sky, surrounded by 20 houses.
“Snow! We are just preparing for our Christmas activities and now we are waiting for snow!” says Caroline Francke Berg, sales and marketing manager. She looks forward to the busy weekends before Christmas with joy. It is just above freezing temperature when we arrive in Hadeland, thereby the possibility of Santa granting her wish is about 100%.
Among activities visitors are offered, are the Christmas market, glassblowing, exhibitions, concerts, and sleigh rides (that is probably why Caroline is crossing her fingers for snow).
A special time of the year
Christmas is a very special time at the glassworks.
“Both staff and visitors are looking forward to these days,” says Caroline. “Christmastime at Hadeland Glassverk creates such a cozy atmosphere. The houses are more than 100 years old, Christmas music is played, both indoors and outdoors, and all of the houses are decorated for Christmas.”
When all the lights are ready to be lit, an announcement is made over the loudspeaker, and all the indoor visitors can come out and watch as a 1,000 Christmas lights are lit. It has a very romantic touch to it.
A centerpiece can be made from any number of things, but here they are in abundance, like Mary, Joseph, and Jesus around the manger, made from glass with a new twist. The Christmas collection from Hadeland Glassverk consists of the Christmas Manger, the Three Wise Men, angels in different sizes, Christmasstars, and a glass ball, kept simple but in bold colors.
The glass Christmas tree, the gran (spruce), is inspired by Scandinavian design traditions. Using forest green and snow white, design manager Maud Gjeruldsen Bugge has given the decor a form and feeling rooted in the Norwegian forests.
Here, you will also find the red-chested bullfinch, popular for decades and a childhood memory for many Norwegians. It feels heavy in one’s hand, bringing the weight of sweet Christmas memories back.
Precautions in place
The coronavirus pandemic has led to the need for precautions at the glassworks village as everywhere else, with restrictions for the maximum number of guests allowed inside at the same time. Special guards put in place for COVID-19 are helpful, as they remind people to keep their distance if needed.
“This year, there will be no fireworks, but there are 1,000 Christmas lights instead!” says Caroline. “We have a nissehus (Santa’s House) with a live Santa. During the weekends, Santa Claus comes with nissebarna, the ‘Santa children,’ and then there is an opportunity for sleigh rides.
“This helps create a Christmas atmosphere that both we and the visitors enjoy. Parents are welcome to photograph their children with Santa, at a 1-meter distance, of course. And we have horse-and-sleigh rides every weekend!” she says.
So, while it won’t be possible for the kids to sit in Santa’s lap this year, there will be no lack of fun and merriment.
A walk through the village houses
The houses, like Glasshytta (The Glass Hut), are full of mesmerizing glassblowing experiences. The past is represented with a barn, a pig sty, and even a chicken coop. Then comes the Porselenshus (The Porcelain House), Honninghuset (The Honey House), Kokkestua (Chef’s Kitchen), Interiørhuset (The Interior House), Lys og tinnstøperiet (The Candles and Pewter Foundry), and Kongekjelleren (The King’s Cellar), today a museum that got its name when King Olav visited in 1987. The room was originally a cellar below the barn. Each of these houses is an adventure to visit.
Entering through the doors of Glasshytta (The Glass Hut) is like stepping into another time. It is the pulsating heart of Hadeland Glassverk. You can move around, visit the workshops, and watch the glassblowers in action. You can blow your own glass ball ornament for the Christmas tree, an exciting opportunity not to pass up.
“If you can inflate a balloon, you can inflate glass. Children from the age of 4 can do this,” says Caroline. “You can also shape and color your own candle.”
The 100-year-old blowpipe is still used in much the same way as before. If you blow a honey pot, when it has cooled, it can later be filled with fresh honey in the Honey House.
And once again, strict health precautions are in place. As blowing requires forcing your breath, all nozzles are sprayed with surface disinfectant and are thoroughly cleaned.
“Our 100 employees wear clean clothes and face shields, and everyone who blows glass is registered,” says Caroline.
This is also the place where Wilhelmsen made her beautiful wine glass. With a chalk in her hand she drew the shape in an enlarged format right on the cement floor. She was then walked through the glassblowing process before, which she shared on her Facebook page.
The Porcelain House also offers the best of the many treasured items from Porsgrund Porcelain Factory, founded in 1887, always with a factory discount. You will also find known brands from neighboring countries: Kähler from Denmark, Rörstrand from Sweden, and textiles from Finnish Lapuan.
New among the houses is Høvdinghallen (The Chief’s Hall), a big market with a Norwegian microbrew and food from small-scale producers from all around the country. The kitchen department is home to Norway’s largest factory outlet, with porcelain from Porsgrund’s Porcelain Factory, as Porsgrund Porselænsfabrik now is a part of Hadeland Glassverk. Glass and porcelain are often available at factory prices, and the gallery holds a special sale a few times every year. Here you can learn about setting the perfect Christmas table with glass, porcelain, textiles, utensils, decorative items, and much more.
A few stairs up and you will find a hidden treasure, an interior design shop filled with pillows and blankets, bed linens and towels, candles and lanterns, baskets, and vases.
Marianne, who is in charge, smiles.
“We sell mostly pillows and lanterns. Nice little items people buy to make their homes look nice,” she says.
They are things that help make the dark season koselig (cozy).
Norgesglasshuset (The Norwegian Glass House) is also a jam factory that sells Norgesglass of all sizes, loved by millions. Norgesglass is a common name for glass jars for preservation of jam and pickles, produced at several glassworks from 1902 to 1978. A total of 75 million items were sold. The design was picked up in the United States but originated from Yorkshire. In 2014, Hadeland Glassverk started making not only jars, but bottles with their own screw caps with “Norway” printed on each. Most Norwegians own at least one.
You can get a glimpse of them when arriving at Oslo Airport. In Norway Bar, 4,230 jars are transformed into lamps, and they even lamps, which impressively adorn the ceiling. Guests are served both food and drink from Norgesglass at the bar.
There is no need to wander about hungry or thirsty in the village either, as hot pancakes with ice cream and jam are available, as well as coffee and smoothies.
Finally: The beginnings
From 1765 until the 1850s, the glassworks at Hadeland mainly produced bottles, pharmacist glasses, medicine glasses, and drinking glasses for household use.
In 1852, Ole Christian Berg took charge of the glassworks, and the company underwent rapid development. Production was redefined to consist of smaller crystal items and included everything from wine glasses to bowls, dishes, and vases.
During the 1920s, Hadeland began to develop their own designs. Previously both Høvik Lys and Høvik Verk were a part of Hadeland Glassverk, and in the 1950s and ’60s, Hadeland Glassverk was one of Norway’s largest suppliers of light fixtures.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the company had begun to realize that they could gain a competitive advantage by investing in their own design. As early as around the turn of the century, a separate drawing office was established at Christiania Glasmagasin, a large department store in Oslo, where glass and lamp domes were designed.
Atle Brynestad bought the company Christiania Glasmagasin AS from the descendants of Harald Berg in 1986. The acquisition meant that Hadeland Glassverk also became part of Brynestad’s business activities. Hadeland Glassverk is today a company in the 3 Norske AS, owned by Brynestad.
I asked about the most popular traditional items sold at the glassworks.
“Porsgrund tableware with Santa Claus plates has a long tradition and is among the oldest,” Caroline says.
The latest news is that Hadeland Glassverk is now blowing their own light fixtures of beautiful, colored crystal balls, with orders going out all over the world. Head of design Bugge, designed the popular “Glass Sphere” lighting series, hand-blown and cut by talented artisans at the glassworks, using 250-year-old techniques. Bugge’s unique designs have been purchased by Norway’s National Museum and the Oslo Cathedral.
Among other new items many of us would like to find under the Christmas tree or give as a gift, is the pendant. Glassblower Peter Kopor has made a collection of pendants with soft, organic shapes inspired by the nature around us.
“This glass jewelry is only sold in Glasshytta here at Hadeland Glassverk,” says Caroline.
And there is the popular mouth-blown cognac pipe with its enchanting shape. If it is put on top of your coffee cup, the temperature will be exactly right. The famous Marius design from sweaters, mittens, and hats are now printed on cups, glasses, and other items, as tradition meets modern design.
Martin Johansson is a fifth-generation glassblower. His great-great-grandfather Joacim Johansson came with his family from Sweden to Hadeland in the 1860s and ’70s. Joacim’s son, Johan Wilhelm Johansson, became a glass master and has a reputation for being perhaps the most talented master in Hadeland’s history. In turn, Johan’s son, Willy, became a very productive designer and became famous both at home and abroad.
“My grandfather was artistic director and designer from 1947 to 1988,” says Martin. He talks while he spins and shapes a glowing mass of glass, while the flames lick and the sparks fly. “We push boundaries and work in teams. We have a fast pace, so we must be a close-knit gang. The creativity and love of the subject has culminated in a separate art glass series consisting of a vase and a bowl. The series is named ‘Ina,’ after my wife,” he says.
The American connection
Hadeland Glassverk had strong ties to Den norske Amerikalinje A/S (Norwegian America Line) in its time. Close to 1 million Norwegians emigrated between 1865 and 1930, most of them on the ships of this company.
When investor Petter Stordalen built a new boutique hotel in the center of Oslo last year, it was named Amerikalinjen. The building was once the shipping company’s headquarters. Hadeland Glassverk had produced glass and lighting for Amerikalinjen for more than 60 years, and when the hotel opened in 2019, the reproduction of champagne glass and lighting began once again.
Bugge and the general manager of the Amerikalinjen hotel, Wilhelm Hartwig, brushed the dust off several classics in the archive for the glassblowers to reproduce. They have also produced mouth-blown cocoa-brown-colored glass spheres in with brass-colored light fixtures hanging in the bedrooms and dining room, ceiling fixtures in the hallway, and the hotel’s exclusive champagne glasses.
A destination for all seasons
Visitors come to Hadeland Glassverk from all over the world—the Nordic countries, Europe, North America, and Asia—throughout the year, and you can place an order at any time.
“Our visitors find that every season has its own charm!” say Caroline.
She believes this year will offer the best Christmas atmosphere to be found anywhere in Norway, and she claims she is saving the best for last, as she proudly announces that she will inaugurate an indoor ice rink open to people of all ages. “Skates can be rented here,” she says, as Norwegians will glide into the Christmas season with style at Hadeland Glassworks.
Perhaps it is Wilhelmsen who best describes the Hadeland holiday experience: “It feels like a place to breathe, a place to escape big malls and Christmas stress.”
I have to say I couldn’t agree more. Hadeland is an escape from the ordinary into the extraordinary—a magical Norwegian winter wonderland filled with the beauty and joy of Christmas.
Facts and fun links
How to get there:
• One hour by car from Oslo.
• Bus service from Oslo or Gardermoen
Airport to Hønefoss, with a connecting bus to Hadeland Glassverk. You can contact route information 177 for more information on bus departures.
• Train: The Christmas train runs three weekends before Christmas as a special offer.
• Christmas centerpiece décor
• Online outlet (in English)
• YouTube video of mouth-blown cognac pipe
This article originally appeared in the Dec. 11, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.