The other day I received a letter in the (snail) mail, it was an advertising letter. Just getting a letter in the mail and even a commercial thing could be a post in itself, but that’s not what it is about. In the advertisement there was a recipe for how to make Christmas dinner ala the Norwegian chef Hellstrøm. The glittering Christmas stress came over me immediately: should have had a shiny star hanging in the window, corners should have been dust-free, Christmas presents wrapped with ribbons and well-written cards, (Christmas cards I can drop, I can just send some nice pictures digitally), seven types of cakes should have been baked and put into boxes, small decorating Christmas elves in various varieties and qualities (some of which are laced around what once used to be a roll of toilet paper, they should have been thrown, but nostalgia hangs over them as a glory and I cannot get rid of them) placed around so they can stare at you with button eyes and a “harmless” smile, ribs ( from a happy pig) purchased, the cabbage to be transformed into sauerkraut ready etc etc etc.

Yes, you probably can feel it too; the stress comes creeping up along the spine and occupies the mental space called the conscience. I should … I should …, I think as I sit laughing at some Christmas party, annoyed that I wear the same red dress again as at the Christmas party last year. Between this year and last year, the climate crisis has seriously entered both “every day” and public holidays, and (bad) habits must be acclimated into a new era.

I am not the first to know the cold feeling we in Norway calls “Julestria” (translated to Christmas stress or fight). It seems like it is part of the sin of inheritance, is it simply biological? According to zoologist Patricia M. Schulte and geneticist Judith G. Hall, traumatic events may affect us genetically. It is at least the case that some events create such strong memories that it both influence a single individual and the collective consciousness (Schulte & Judith, 2018). I am not going to exaggerate the “julestria”, but it is there as a bodily pulse and an intrusive memory, I imagine my mother, grandmother and generations of women wearing a red apron, sweating around in the kitchen. I hear their voices cackle about the cakes that is not as crispy as before, potatoes have been overcooked, rice pudding turns into rice cream, gravy into sauce, and while it is cooking on the stove, Cinderella’s nut becomes a beautiful weeding dress . Out in the kitchen, the pores over their noses have expanded as the hot fat steams out from the pots.

The intangible cultural heritage conveyed through songs and hymns tells about “julestria” more or less poetically – it’s about washing floors, decorating Christmas trees and make sure that you do not end up in a trap. The cultural heritage is like an aura around every Christmas present that is wrapped up and Christmas films that are shown, it assures and emphasizes and promotes that we should not forget that it is Christmas, you just have to make sure to reach it. And not only are you going to reach it, you have to tell about it through pictures shown on digital and social media, so that everyone can see how you filter Christmas stress into Christmas aesthetics.

Still, I can safely say it was so much worse before. If you did not make this and that before the Christmas ale was tasted, which was compulsory, you could be exposed to all sorts of scary and dangerous beings who took you beyond without any return ticket. If you didn’t finish the Christmas preparations before Christmas set in and if you didn’t behave in a specific way, the following could happen: the woman called Lussi could cut off your hand, the Christmas goat could come as an uninvited guest and destroy the entire party, the unseen people (the faery people) could occupy your house and you had to move out to the barn, the sea creature called Draugen could take your cod and throw you to the ice-cold sea, the elf could dance you to death, the dead could invade the church and worst of all, Åsgårdsreia – this pack of drunken people and bad poets could take you and you had to ride with them for the rest of eternity. A folk legend tells about Per, he went out into the sauna after they had sat down to the Christmas Eve table. He shouldn’t have done that. Åsgårdsreia with Guro in the lead came and picked him apart, until he was only small pieces left.

I believe that through generations the memory of these symbolic «beings» has been transformed into seven kinds of cakes and Christmas dinner and Christmas cheer with the smell of cinnamon and mandarins, in short “julestria”. You have to stress for Christmas, it is part of the cultural heritage.

Here is the folk legend about Per:
On a farm the boy Per lived. He was often too fanciful. He was the last one to come in the sauna that Christmas Eve. Per was long gone. They wondered if this was one of his jokes. He should have brought wood for the heat. Per didn’t come.

They decided to look for Per. Several went to the sauna. But when they got there, they heard a deep voice from within. Someone with a rough voice spoke slowly and sung:
“We pick Per in the sauna
We pick Per in the sauna. ”
At first, they thought it was Per who was fooling with them again. But no one entered and they walked away. A little later they went back to the sauna again. They still heard the voice:
“We pick Per in the sauna
We pick Per in the sauna »

It wasn’t until the next morning that anyone entered. There they found Per in small pieces. It was Oskoreia who was tired of his jokes.