You are on page 1of 5

RELIGION The Norwegian-born Viking Olav Tryggvason was baptized as a Christian in London in 994 C.E.

Soon afterward, King Olav brought Christianity to his homeland, converting first the leaders and later the farmers. In 1536, the Reformation came to the area, with the consequence that a greater emphasis was placed on personal faith. In 1814, the Evangelical Lutheran religion was named the official religion of the state, but the constitution also guaranteed freedom of religion. The pietist movement, which was particularly strong in the country in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, posed an alternative to the state church and contributed to an individual sense of religious commitment unmediated by the clergy. The state church subscribes to a belief in God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. The main religious holidays celebrate belief in the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ. Other religious groups such as Roman Catholics, Pentecostalists, Seventh Day Adventists, Baptists, and Methodists, receive state subsidies. In recent years, immigrant populations have brought Islam to the nation. Religious Practitioners. The king is the head of the state church, which employs a system of bishops and priests in the administrative structure. Local priests hold religious services and perform baptisms, confirmations, weddings, and funerals. The king appointed the first woman priest in 1961 and the first woman bishop in 1993. More than seventy nationally organized Christian voluntary organizations reinforce religious beliefs and practices. Those organizations also carry out missionary work at home and abroad and help with youth work and welfare. Rituals and Holy Places. During the medieval period, the holy shrine of Saint Olav in the cathedral at Trondheim was a destination for pilgrims. In the contemporary period, 87 percent of the population belongs to the state church. While about seven million church visits are recorded annually, many people are more likely to be found on ski slopes or hiking trails than in church on Sunday. Religious services in the state church occur weekly and on the major religious holidays, including Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension, and Whitmonday. Death and the Afterlife. According to the doctrine of the state church, souls reside in heaven with Jesus after death. After the funeral, the body of the deceased is cremated or interred in a graveyard, usually adjacent to a church.

CONFIRMATION For hundreds of years the Lutheran state churches of the Nordic countries had held the key to adulthood with their confirmation ceremonies, in Norway compulsory by law until 1912. Every youth was to be interrogated by the parson to see if he or she understood and shared the dogmas of the church. If one did not, one did not have the right to marry, to wear adult clothes or to do adult work. But it was not only a religious tyranny exercising its prerogatives, it was also a proud occasion for the family and the youth concerned, a tender and joyful celebration of coming of age in the local community, which struck deep roots in traditional popular culture.

With religious liberty, modernisation and secularisation, those outside the church felt a need for a new celebration, equally emotionally satisfying for the participants, but based on new knowledge of the world, and the new ideas of the "good life", freed from religious dogma. The first civil confirmation in the Nordic countries took place in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1915. It was held by the fiercely named "Association Against Church Confirmation", which a few years later became "The Association for Civil Confirmation". Today it is still celebrated (very small scale) each year by the Danish labour movement's organisation for youth and children, DUI.

BURIAL PRACTICES Begravelse was the term used for the traditions and ceremonies associated with a persons death and burial. It is interesting to surmise what these entailed by looking at the changes in the laws over the years. The extensive liturgy and ceremonies were trimmed down and many of the old customs were done away with after the reformation. Soul Ringing (Sjeleringing): The practice of ringing the church bells as soon as the person was dead to send the deceaseds soul into heaven was forbidden. However, this was practice was continued in some places on the west coast of Norway until the 1950s. Wake (Likvake): The wake, or the watching over the deceased, most likely began as a somber affair. But when food and drinks were served it turned into a party with dancing. There were attempts to get rid of this practice as early as 1607 and throughout the 1600s. Toast (Gravl): This was a toast to the deceased. The old Norwegian word for this was sjon. The custom was to drink (or offer a toast) to the happiness and success of the deceased at the time of burial which coincided with the regulation to have the burial seven days after the death. The number of days between death and burial was changed from seven to five in 1559 and 1604. The church made a distinction between ceremonious mass and low mass burials. With the ceremonious burial there could be a funeral procession, bell ringing, singing of psalms, casting earth on the coffin, and a sermon. The low mass was done in total silence and was a punishment for law breakers and suicide. In the ceremonial burial there was a procession from the residence of the deceased to the church (likflge). The church bells rang while the body was carried to the grave. They were not ringing for the dead but to awaken the living. The only part the priest had in the burial was on the day of the burial. The minimum he could do was to perform the church rites at the graveside which is called a Committal Service. Literally the translation means casting earth on the deceaseds coffin. After the grave was again covered, the priest could give a short sermon before everyone offered The Lords Prayer. During the priests talk (liktake) an obituary (also called a testament) could be read. Sometimes the talk could be a special document especially in the 1600s. In the towns the students sing during the burial process. This was an important source of revenue for the school. It was obligatory to pay (likpenger) to the church and the church wardens, while the payment of money (begravelsepenger) to the priest was honorary.

The most attractive place for the grave was under the floor in the church, but in 1805 this was outlawed for sanitation purposes. The best place in the graveyard was nearest the church. The poor people were buried on the outer fringes near the walls. People would bury their own dead without notifying the priest. The directive to have the priest involved in the burial was ignored and was repeated in 1751, 1754, and in 1800. As the churchyards were too small in the towns it was necessary to create an assistant church yard away from the church. This was done also for hygiene. In the first half of the 1800s permission was given to have private burial sites on the farms.

TRADITIONS AND CUSTOMS Norway and Norwegians have a number of customs that may differ notably from the visitor's home country. Food, meals and alcohol - Norwegians usually eat a quick lunch (bread, coffee) around 12:00, and leave work/school around 15:30. - Bread and potatoes are basic food stuff in most homes. - Open sandwiches (slices of dark bread with meat, jam or whatever spread) is a the most common way of eating. - Many Norwegians eat whale and find that perfectly OK. (Avoid the topic unless you want a heated discussion.) - Most people eat dinner at home around 17:00 or 18:00. A late dinner (like in Spain) is unusual. - In the country side, some people eat dinner at noon and go back to work after a good nap. - Beer is the only alcohol available in shops at restricted times. Wine, strong beers and spirits can be purchased by the bottle only at the state liqour store (Vinmonopolet) which may not be easy to find. Ask any Norwegian they know how to find them. First time visitors are often shocked by Norway's alcohol price structure.

Manners - Keeping calm and not displaying strong emotions in public are common virtues in Norway. - Despite the emphasis on modesty, Norway mostly has a low-context style of communication. - Although the feeling of being one nation is strong, there are strong individualistic and egalitarian attitudes, being self-reliant and equal is highly regarded. Norwegians are not impressed by titles and formal positions, and are famously direct (getting straigth to the point) and informal. - Authoritarian manners are disliked and will cause disrespect. Boasting is disliked.

- Being punctual is a matter of showing respect. Very important for business meetings (better arrive 5 min too early), generally important even for private appointments, for formal dinners it is acceptable and even customery to arrive some 10 min after the given time. - While informal, Norwegians generally have a reserved body language and may appear as cold or aloof. - It is not customery to bring children to social gatherings in the evening. Bringing children to cafe late at evening can be perceived as child abuse or neglect. - Work and leisure is kept strictly apart. Business partners are rarely invited to private homes. - Norwegians are generally modest and easy-going, and don't adhere to strict codes of politeness. Note however that table manners are important, like thanking the host/hostess. - Words like "sorry" and "please" are not used frequently. Once used, polite remarks are sincere. - Norwegians greet with a firm handshake. Sincere thanks are also by the hand. Cheek-kissing is uncommon except among very close friends (then more like a gentle hug). Formal business meetings are often introduced and concluded with short handshakes. - In Norway, a "sunday walk" is not a 15 minutes walk to the pub, it is rather a 5 hour+ walk in forest and hills (particularly in the country-side, less so in the city). Norwegians take great pride in being sporty and fit. Dress codes - Norwegians are notoriously informal, particularly in clothing. Norwegians don't usually dress smart for work and rather casually most of the time. Although some may dress up for a restaurant visit, casual dress is fully acceptable virtually everywhere. - Norwegians find it perfectly natural to wear sport clothes and rucksack anywhere. - Norwegians generally don't dress very formal. Blue denims are used everywhere. if you somebody with a fashionable suit and tie (in the midle of the day), it is probably a real estate or stock broker. - Norwegians don't hesitate to strip down to bikini or short pants in warm, sunny weather. Don't be surprised to see shoppers in bikinis and short pants only.

WEDDING Traditionally the groom wears a hand-made woolen suit known as a bundas. The bundas has a white silk shirt, short pants and stockings that come up to the calf, a vest and topcoat. The bundas is covered with intricate and colorful designs. Each design is unique to the district of Norway where the groom was born, or where the grooms ancestors came from. Many people think the bundas makes a man look like a Norwegian prince. Groomsmen and the best man traditionally wear their bundas as well. Bundas come in a variety of colors, giving the wedding a traditional as well as colorful look and feel. The bride traditionally wears a white or silver wedding gown. The bride will also wear a silver or silver and gold crown. Dangling around the crown will be small spoon-shaped bangles. When the bride moves her head the bangles produce a melodic tinkling music. Norwegian tradition holds that the music from

the brides bangles will ward off evil spirits. During the wedding reception after the wedding the bride will dance vigorously, the tinkling melody of the bangles will scare off the evil spirits which try to inhabit the happy bride. Tradition also holds that the bridesmaids, dressed similarly (but not the same) as the bride will confuse any evil spirits and further help protect the bride from evil influences. Music is very important at a Norwegian wedding. Often Norwegian weddings will use the traditional Norwegian tune Come to the Wedding and often the happy couple will be escorted out of the church after the ceremony to the music of the accordion. At the conclusion of the ceremony the bride and groom exchange gold or silver wedding rings and the traditional wedding kiss, which symbolically seals the relationship between the husband and his wife. The round ring, with no beginning and no end traditionally represents never-ending love and the kiss historically represents the exchange of a portion of each others souls. A lavish wedding reception follows the wedding ceremony. At the reception there are many, many speeches as guests and family wish the new couple much happiness, and there is a great deal of music and dance as well. The tables at the reception are often decorated with blokaker (layer) cake or with a brudlaupskling wedding cake which is a flour cake covered with a mixture of cheese, cream and syrup. Then, finally, two small fir trees are planted on either side of the door to the couples home as a symbol of the children to come.