Julekort med nisse og grøt

Christmas card with Nisse (gnome) and porridge

  • Title: Christmas card with Nisse and porridge

Christmas Eve is the time when presents are exchanged. The gifts are sometimes brought by Santa Claus (called ‘Julenissen’ in Norway). Presents are also brought by the small gnomes called ‘Nisse’. – Christmas in Norway

A nisse (usually Norwegian) and a tomte (usually Swedish) are similar characters. They are both solitary, mischievous domestic sprites responsible for the protection and welfare of the farmstead and its buildings. Tomte literally means “homestead man” and is derived from the word tomt which means homestead or building lot. Nisse is derived from the name Nils which is the Scandinavian form of Nicholas.

A nisse considers porridge his due and is greedy for butter.  The legend When the Nisse Got No Butter on His Christmas Porridge  illustrates the consequences of tampering with his porridge.

One Christmas Eve a servant girl decided she would play a trick on the nisse. She hid the butter for his grøt at the bottom of the bowl. When the nisse saw there was no butter on his Christmas porridge, he went to the shed and killed the best cow. He wanted to show them he did not appreciate them begrudging him a little bit of butter. He returned to the barn to eat the porridge anyway. When he discovered the butter at the bottom of the bowl, he felt so bad that he walked to the neighbor’s farm, took their best cow, and led her back to the stall of the cow he had killed. – Legend of the Nisse and Tomte

  • Date: 1895
  • Artist: Julius Holck (1845-1911)
  • Publisher: J. F.
  • Owner Institution: National Library of Norway

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