Countdown to Christmas

Now that I’ve finished my exams and we got a big snowfall over the weekend, it really is beginning to feel and look like Christmas here in Bergen! Last week was “dead week” for most people, so it was our chance to get out and explore how this rainy city gets into the holiday spirit!

I had two big items on my Bergen Christmas list: the Christmas Market and the Pepperkakebyen.

I know that Christmas markets are a big thing in Germany, but I’m really not sure how common they are in Norway. I was surprised to see that Bergen was putting one on, and when I went I learned that this is actually the first year Bergen has had a Christmas market! It was pretty small, and I didnt end up buying anything, but I would say they are off to a good start. There was food, handicrafts, and a ferris wheel, and even a bunch of swans in the central pond to add to the festive atmosphere. This being Bergen, everything was safely housed inside big, white tents away from the rain, which I liked because it meant I wasn’t wet or cold while browsing around. They seem to be off to a good start, and I wish them an even bigger and better Christmas market next year!

Bergen may be new to the Christmas market scene, but they are the ruling champions of gingerbread! Every Christmas since 1991, Bergen has been home to Pepperkakebyen, or The Gingerbread City, which they claim is the largest in the world. I believe it. This year, it was so big that they set it up in the basement level of the city pool! All of the structures are built by school children (mostly kindergarten or elementary age), local businesses, or individual volunteers as donations, and include everything from churches to the Bergen airport to boats to simple, little houses. In 2009, a gingerbread tragedy struck when a drunken 20 year old managed to get into the building where the city was housed and smashed all but a handful of houses less than a week before it was supposed to open to the public. The residents of Bergen jumped into action, volunteering their time, talent, and new gingerbread houses, and luckily the day was saved! Pepperkakebyen still opened that year, it was just delayed a little. Shortly after the incident, the accidental city-wrecker came forward with a heartfelt letter of apology to the Pepperkakebyen workers and the city of Bergen.

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