There are several Facebook groups for Americans living in Norway. I am a member of one that also includes spouses, and my wife is the American in my family.
The word cosy keeps coming up there. It’s a sort of a joke that makes sense to all members. Norwegians are big on cosy. It drives me crazy because I hear people using the adjective kos/koselig constantly. Everything is koselig, which means that you are very comfortable. It’s the feeling you get when you spend time with your favourite people, but it is also one of the most abused words. It’s like awesome. It used to be that God was awesome, but it doesn’t feel quite as impressive when we also say that “the movie was totally awesome!”
We are generally a positive and naive people. Norway is basically The Shire. All is not well in the land, though. It is estimated that mental health costs us 60-70 billion NOK a year and 500-600 commit suicide every year. Just to give you an idea of how shockingly high that number is, I want to compare it to murder and deaths from traffic accidents. Those numbers were 23 and 118 in 2015.
I don’t know what is going on, but this is not something new. Trolls from the deep forests and the mountains have always been a part of our imagination. We have an old Christmas tradition that is similar to Halloween. During the thirteen days of Christmas it was believed that the veil between the spirit world and our world was thinner. There is also the tradition of the yulegoat that could abduct you if you had not completed the Christmas preparations in time. That meant that you joined the crowd of restless sprits. As if that wasn’t enough we also have a small creature that is associated with Christmas. This is our Santa. It’s not the same, but could be compared to goblin or gnome, and these could be mean as well. My people really knew how to spoil a party.
Those were horrible times, and I’m not especially eager to go back to darker times, but I sometimes wonder if we have lost too much. Norwegians used to meet for midwinter’s sacrifice in January. That had been our Christmas for a thousand years when Christianity showed up a thousand years ago. Imagine how much the light from a bonfire meant when the world literally was dark. We have all the light we could possibly need today. We have more than anyone else in history has had, but the trolls haven’t gone away. Just an observation as we approach advent. The world may seem darker than ever during my lifetime, but there is hope. That’s what advent and Christmas remind us of.