This year’s Juleroser carries on a beloved tradition
“Christmas roses” welcome in the season
This year’s Juleroser—Christmas Roses—Norway’s bestselling julehefte begins with “the language of the bells.” In the introduction, this year’s editor, the beloved actor and singer Herborg Kråkevik, talks about childhood traditions that she still holds dear.
“I always had to turn on the radio on my phone at 5 p.m. to hear the bells from Berlevåg in the north to Lindesnes in the south.
“I sat down in the middle of all the cooking and remembered my old grandmother’s hand that held onto mine as a child, there on the stool in front of the Tandberg radio in Hardanger,” she writes.
Over the years, the Christmas magazine Juleroser has become a beloved part of the holiday atmosphere in many homes around Norway.
“Christmas is filled with emotions, and a little art always does some good, whether it’s music, literature, or visual arts,” says Kråkevik.
The most beautiful magazine of the year comes out every Christmas season. “The name “Juleroser” was first given to the literary julehefte published between 1811 and 1944. With the relaunching of Juleroser, the publishing house Samlaget and Story House Egmont have once again taken up the over 100-year-old tradition from the time when the Christmas booklets were the first big events of the season in Norwegian homes. The 2022 edition of Juleroser is the eighth in the series in a new era for this genre.
“It was the publisher Ernst Bojesen who first came out with Juleroser in Copenhagen in 1881. The popular magazine then spread to all of Scandinavia. My parents collected the old issues. They were always put out in our living room at Christmastime when we were growing up. We had to open them up with reverence, because they were delicate and had to be handled with care. They looked old, but the stories I read in them—like all art— seemed new and relevant. I remember wondering why such beautiful magazines weren’t made any longer, and I wished that many more people besides me and my family would be able to hold these booklets in their hands every Christmas,” Kråkevik recalls.
Nowadays, Norwegian Christmas editions are often cartoon books, but they have a long history. Toward the end of the 19th century, more of them contained artistic elements, inspired by Bojesen. In 1892, Juleroser took on the subtitle “Skandinavisk Juleblad,” or “Scandinavian Christmas Magazine.” In the 19th century, these publications were considered to be “modern.” In contrast to earlier Christmas issues, they did not only contain religious content but were also filled with motifs taken from folklore and National Romanticism, with pictures of the nisse, the Norwegian Christmas elf, Christmas trees, and presents for the children.
The year 2011 set a record for the number of Christmas magazines in Norway with 61 titles. After that, the publisher Schibsted scaled back and Egmont Kids Media started to dominate the market. The number of yuletide publications stabilized at around 40 titles, of which around half were Norwegian cartoon books. In 2014, 42% of Egmont’s Christmas booklets were produced in Norway, the three largest being Pondus, Knoll and Tott (The Katzenjammer Kids), and Stomperud, with a circulation between 160,000 and 190,000 copies. In 2018, Donald’s Merry Christmas, a booklet of Norwegian comics with President Donald Trump as the lead character, was also a surprising success.
This year’s Juleroser is a beautiful magazine that combines short stories and art full of Christmas atmosphere from both Norway and Ukraine. It is the work of Ukrainian artist Olha Pilyuhina that adorns the front cover with a tapestry-like image.
Music is also an important element.
“One of the goals of Juleroser is to get Norwegian artists to create modern Christmas songs. We have now received eight original songs since we started the julehefte in 2014. Janove’s song is a jewel in the collection, original, touching, and completely his own – as Janove is too,” says Kråkevik, who wanted to see a renewal of Christmas traditions.
The new Christmas songs can be heard on Spotify. Kråkevik believes that even those who cannot read Norwegian can still enjoy the magazine’s “art exhibition,” as they discover classic and contemporary art from Norwegian and international artists.
Juleroser contains both beautiful and sensitive contributions from some of the leading writers and visual artists of our time, such as Herbjørg Wassmo, Karl Ove Knausgård, Jon Fosse, Brynjulf Jung Tjønn, Morten Krogvold, Odd Nordstoga, Nina Lykke, and Ørnulf Opdahl, and, as mentioned, Janove Ottesen, the leading member of the alternative band Kaizers Orchestra simply known as Janove.
Janove, who these days plays his concerts on a grand piano, wrote the Christmas song “Carnaby Jul” with Trond Bersu and Kristoffer Bonsaksen from Highasakite. Both the sheet music and lyrics can be found in the magazine. The song is about Christmas from a child’s point of view, as the little one takes in the big city with all five senses, all the time holding onto mother’s hand for safety.
Bells continue to ring in lyrics of the song “Stroke of a Bell” by Ulf Nilsen, and Morten Krogvold has photographed the freedom bell at Akershus Fortress in Oslo, which was a gift from Norwegian women in Brooklyn, N.Y., in connection with the dissolution of the union with Sweden in 1905
But why just these authors?
Kråkevik explains: “I think there are many of us who need something with some content at Christmastime, when we are otherwise bombarded with junk, with the pressure to consume, the materialism. Strong literary and art experiences can be a counterweight to the emptiness that can be easy to feel when our sweet, childlike expectations are not always fulfilled. That’s when a beautiful julehefte can be a good thing to have. And for some of us, maybe it can be a replacement for what we are missing. For me, the highlight of the holidays can be when an author puts something I know to be true into words. All those who I have invited to write for Juleroser have this ability.”
The official launch of Juleroser took place already in November in Universitetsgata in Oslo, with gingerbread cookies, coffee, and conversations about Christmas roses, literature, art, Christmas, and traditions with Cecilie Seiness, editor at Samlaget.
And for music lovers, “Christmas rose songs” are available on CD, with well-known voices such as Aurora, Odd Nordstoga, Anne Grete Preus, and Herborg Kråkevik with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra.
In 2020, Grappa released music for the album Juleroser, and in 2021 Barnas Juleroser, which you can find on Spotify and other online music sellers.
For 2022, Kråkevik has sent out invitations for “Christmas Rose Evenings” full of Christmas atmosphere in 16 Norwegian cities, the last taking place on Dec. 21 at Grieghallen in Bergen with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, a special Christmas choir, and many celebrity guests to create a special holiday atmosphere.
Yes, this year’s julehefte begins with the sound of bells ringing in Christmas—and the bells ringing for Ukraine. The sound of the bells is a Christmas-red thread in Juleroser. Already in her introduction, Kråkevik reminds us about this with the expression “Christmas is for everyone.”
“The church bells are ringing for us, no matter if we have a good or problematic or indifferent relationship to the church. The sound of the bells follows us all our lives, and finally, they will call us out of this time.
“The bells that the churches house are something that binds people together, regardless of belief and time. They wake us up and can make us lift our gaze and look beyond ourselves while at the same time we feel the sound deep inside.”
All images courtesy of Samlaget
Translated by Lori Ann Reinhall
This article originally appeared in the December 2, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American.