The Norwegian “Nisse”
The Norwegian “Nisse” differs from both the american Santa Claus and the belgian St-Nicolas. In fact, “Nisser” (plural) are mythical elves (or gnomes) coming from a long time before the birth of Christ.
There are several types of “nisser” in Norway. The most known is the “Fjøsnisse” which is a “nisse” who takes care of the animals on the farms.
The “Fjøsnisse” is very short, often bearded and lives in a barn or a stable. He wears clothes of wool and often has a red knitted hat. The “Fjøsnisse” often plays tricks on people. Sometimes he will scare people by blowing out the lights in the barn or he will scare the farm dog at night. You can hear the dogs bark! He can become very friendly with the people that live on the farm, but one should never forget to give him a large portion of porridge on Christmas Eve - or else he will play tricks for example move the animals around in the barn, braid the horses’ mane and tail, and other tricks like that.
Of course we also have a Christmas nisse (julenissen) which in most homes is more or less identical to Santa Claus. The “Julenisse” brings presents to all the nice children on Christmas Eve. He is not as shy as Santa though, since the “julenisse” delivers the presents himself. He does not come down the chimney in the middle of the night.
Before the presents are opened, the family dances in a ring around the Christmas tree while singing traditional Norwegian Christmas carols.