Barneblad: Make your own norsk julekort!

A monthly feature to share with kids and grandkids


Image: Wilhelm Larsen / Wikimedia Commons
The first Norwegian Christmas cards showed nisser in humorous, human-like settings.

Brought to you by Lori Ann Reinhall

These days, in Norway and America alike, Christmas greetings are often sent online, with electronic Christmas cards and greetings. Over the years, they have become more elaborate, with music and animation, and it’s fun to see what will arrive each year.

But is there anything more special than an old-fashioned card that you can hold in your hand? There is the excitement when you open the envelope, you can share it with your family and friends, and then you can continue to enjoy it on your dresser, desk, mantle, or wherever you choose to display it.

Did you know that Christmas cards were invented in England? A businessman named Sir Henry Cole wanted to send out greetings, but he no longer wanted to write letters. He got the idea to hire an artist named John Callcott Horsley to create the first Christmas card, depicting scenes of Yuletide (Christmastime) merriment. The year was 1843, and the new idea took hold.

The first Christmas card, or julekort in Norwegian, was printed in Bergen, Norway’s second-largest city. By 1900, it was common to send julekort.

From the beginning, Norwegian Christmas cards were a little different. In other parts of Europe, religious scenes were popular. But in Norway, the Christmas gnome, nisse, was featured. The first julekort showing a nisse with his pointed red cap was drawn by the artist Wilhelm Larsen. Nisser appeared in some very funny settings, often doing things that humans would be doing on a Christmas Eve or during the season leading up to it.

As a Norwegian American, it seems only natural to continue in the tradition of the Nisse Christmas card, and what is more fun than making your own? Here are are few tips on how.



Image: Lori Ann Reinhall

1. First things first: find some paper for your card. Plain white paper, the size your parents may use in their printer, will work just fine.

2. To get a little weight for your card, fold the paper in half, and then again into fourths.

3. The next step is to find your artwork. Here are some possibilities:

• You can do an internet search for “nisse” and find an image there. You may find something you’d like to print out (ask an adult to help you, if needed). Or use our friend Nils Anders!

• Trim the image, or even around its outline.

• Paste your image on the front of your card.


NAW Nisse

Image: The Norwegian American
The NAW Nisse

• Draw and color your own nisse based on the drawings you’ve seen. This can be as elaborate or simple as you like. The nisse figure is not so hard to capture. You can think of his cap as a long triangle, his face as a circle, his body as a bigger circle, and his beard as another triangle. But don’t forget: nisse’s cap must be red!

4. The next step is to write your greeting inside the card—in norsk, of course! Here are the two essential phrases (it may be a good idea to use both languages):

• Merry Christmas = God Jul!


God Jul!

Merry Christmas!

This article originally appeared in the November 16, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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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.