This Sunday, November 29th 2020, was the beginning of Christmas celebrations in most European nations. In Norway, the day was royally celebrated when Her Majesty Queen Sonja surprisingly published a video via the royal family’s Facebook page. The Queen did as millions of people around the world did and lit the first candle out of a total of four candles to mark the beginning of Advent, the countdown to Christmas.
The Queen also had a greeting to the Norwegian people. Her Majesty said: “At the beginning of a different Advent season, I think we need to share light and hope with each other. Today we light the first candle in the wreath here at the Castle. It is my hope that we all have a pre-Christmas period with anticipation and joy!”
The small ceremony was performed in one of the rooms of the private part of the Royal Palace, the so-called “King’s Apartment” on the second floor of the residence. Many now hope that the pleasant surprise will be repeated for the next three Sundays, perhaps with the Queen or other members of the royal family who each light their own candle? We will have to wait and see.
The Royal Family does not celebrate Christmas at the palace. In early December, the King and Queen exchange residences from the Royal Palace to the Royal Cottage called “Kongssæteren”. It is located about 25 minutes by car north of the Oslo city centre itself and offers a fantastic view of the capital. The cabin, which is built in the Norwegian peasant style, was given as a gift to King Haakon at the beginning of the 20th century and here the royals usually celebrate Christmas every year.
Advent is a season of the liturgical year observed in most Christian denominations as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of Christmas. Advent is also the beginning of the liturgical year in Western Christianity. The term Advent is also used in Eastern Orthodoxy for the 40-day Nativity Fast, which has practices different from those in the West. A widespread tradition is to have an Advent-candlestick with four candles. Then you light one candle for each of the four Sundays before Christmas Eve.