Herring as a Norwegian Christmas tradition

Herring as a Norwegian Christmas tradition

Christmas traditions of various kinds have always had a strong place with the Norwegians, and the food-related traditions are particularly close to their hearts. The old practice of brewing beer for Christmas is not that common anymore, nor is baking all the traditional seven types of cake. Christmas porridge is still a common tradition. Not to forget the pork or lamb ribs served on Christmas Eve. The holiday season is also prime season for fish dishes. The different types of herring dishes served are probably the most common Norwegian food tradition of them all.

Herring is a necessity in most Norwegian households during the Christmas feast, and different types of herring are a natural part of breakfast, smorgasbord, and lunch all around the country.

Herring served at Christmas come in various forms, from the most common types such as pickled herring, spicy herring, sour cream herring, mustard herring and tomato herring, and the more special flavored varieties such as curry, horseradish, rosemary, ginger and orange;  just to mention a few. There is a myriad of tasty flavors! Common to all dishes is that they are often served with coarse bread – and most preferably on rye bread.


Additionally, there are countless versions of herring salads! Typically, each family has their homemade recipe favorites. Herring truly is a natural element of Christmas all over Norway. “There is no Christmas without herring salad”, former Foreign Minister Thorvald Stoltenberg always said.


In our times, one of the best known Norwegian political families – the Stoltenberg’s, has made the herring salad a key element of their family traditions. Our former Foreign Minister, who passed away in 2018, published the book “Herring with Thorvald Stoltenberg”. In addition to many different recipes using the silver of the seas, the book also included the Stoltenberg’s personal herring salad recipe.

However, it was his son, the former Norwegian Prime Minister and current Secretary-General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, who started publishing videos from the family’s herring cooking sessions on social media. This made the Stoltenberg herring salad containing herring, potatoes, beets, pickled cucumbers, apples, onions, and sour cream Norway’s most famous.

Why not invite the kids, family or friends to a cooking session with a new twist and create your personal Christmas herring recipe? Delicious to eat and to give as a Christmas gift!

What is so special with herring as a Christmas tradition?

In Norway, herring has been particularly important for the nation’s development in several ways. Through the lean years after the first World War food was scarce, and some say that herring saved our country both in terms of nutrition and financially. Herring has been an important and powerful driver in the development of our unique coastal culture and economy.

In Stavanger, the population increased tenfold in the period 1815-1875 thanks to the jobs and food provided by herring. The city Haugesund is known as “the herring town” and it is claimed that the city was “built on herring bones”. All over the west coast, small communities were established because of the herring fishery.

The spring-spawning herring fishery reached from Lista in the south to the Møre coast, and in 1864 about 52 000 people in the region worked with herring. Herring has long traditions in Norway, and even though it previously was considered commonplace for the general public who typically ate herring, potato, and flat bread for both dinner and supper. It has in recent times become increasingly common with many more refined & elaborate herring dishes. The herring Christmas traditions remains strong with the Norwegian people.

Even though Romega® might not be a Christmas tradition, we are proud to use herring as our source ingredient. We aim to carry on the Norwegian traditions and further develop the proud Norwegian herring fishery heritage by extracting Romega® from herring roe. Herring is truly a fantastic source of nutrients for everyone throughout the year, but especially at Christmas!

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«Fra storsildfisket: En nats fangst», Ålesund 1920. Foto: Sigvald Moa/Nasjonalbiblioteket