Monday, December 25, 2017


My friend Knud in Stavanger sent this photo of nisser. Nisser is plural of the word nisse. While this looks sort of like a nativity set, and I immediately mistook it for one, each of the characters was made to represent mythical Norse creatures. These were made when Knud invited a neighbor child Anna and her brother Magnus into his shop to make Christmas gifts. Knud describes these as follows:
"I suggested it could be used as a Nativity scene, but "No, that would not do," Anna said, "because they are dressed like nisser," and I think she meant it out of respect for the Holy Family.

"A ‘nisse’ is a mythical being in Nordic folklore, and lived in the farm houses, typically in the barn. They were small (no larger than a horse’s head according to some), often dressed in colourful clothing (typically red) and were associated with winter solstice, and then Christmas of course, and ‘Julenissen’ in Norwegian is Father Christmas. They were considered as guardians of the farms and their inhabitants, unless you insulted them of course, which would make them mischievous.

"One way of insulting them was not to leave them any porridge on Christmas eve (traditional part of Christmas meal), and my mother remembered her father putting a bowl of porridge out for the Nisse, and then firing one shot in the air with his shotgun (he shot for the porridge’ was the expression there) to let the Nisse know the porridge was ‘served.’ The shots from the different farms in the valley would be a sign of how far the different families had come in their Christmas meal. Well, that was almost a hundred years ago.

"I just wanted to make that clear, since Anna was so adamant it was not a nativity scene, and she is right, they are nisser."
We in the US might think of these as one would elves. They come in various shapes, ages and sizes, including one here in swaddling clothes and another requiring a cane. They have one thing in common. They each came through the creative mind of a child. The photo was delivered to me by Knud and now by me to you, in celebration of this day.  Merry Christmas.

Make, fix, and celebrate creativity before it slips away.

1 comment:

  1. Merry Christmas to you and your family!