Celebrate The Jul Spirit At Epcot's International Festival of Holidays

We're winding up our tour of the Epcot International Festival of Holidays, and since today is Winter Solstice, there's no better time to talk about the holiday traditions showcased in the Norway Pavilion.

The Mischievous Julenissen Is Associated With Winter SolsticeThe Mischievous Julenissen Is Associated With Winter Solstice

Sigrid is the holiday storyteller at the Norway pavilion, and she explains a wealth of holiday traditions of a modern Norweigan Christmas. However - let's not forget the "Jul" in the traditional greeting of "God Jul." The concept of "jul" was original a period of time for the Norse people, rather than a specific event, it was the time after the harvests were completed, when the cold and dark of the year brought people together in halls to feast, drink, and offer a blot for Gods, spirts, and ancestors. Winter Solstice is a celebratory time in which the sun begins to return, days steadily become longer, and eventually warmer.

Even today the farm families of Scandinavia watch out for a gift-bearing Norse "nisse", associated with the Winter Solstice. This mischievous little white-bearded, ancestral spirit is known as Julenissen. The kind gnome lives in barns and woods in the Norwegian countryside, and it is believed that he is the guardian of farm animals and families. As Sigrid excitedly tells guests of the holiday traditions of food and music, those watching begin to see a spritely figure that Sigrid doesn't seem to notice. The trouble-making Christmas Gnome has his fun with our pretty storyteller as he fills in her modern tales with just enough Jul magic to make her take notice.

Nisse Are Household Spirits Responsible For ProsperityNisse Are Household Spirits Responsible For Prosperity

One of the traditional Jul sweets eaten in Norway is called risengrynsgrot, which is a type of rice porridge that we learn in the show that Julenissen is particularly fond of. From risengrynsgrot a special dessert is made called "Riiskrem" or Rice Cream! If you're a fan of the Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe in the Norway Pavilion, you probably already love this special treat.

To make Rice Cream, whipped cream is mixed into the to the Christmas porridge, creating a slightly sweet and creamy dessert that is topped with a red berry sauce. Epcot's delicious version includes a fresh strawberry sauce. In Norway, big batches of Traditional Holiday Rice Cream has a single blanched almond hidden inside and whoever finds it in a mouthful gets a small prize! Usually the prize is a marzipan pig. Sadly, they've left out the almond at Kringla, but indulging in this tasty dessert is a prize all on its own.

Traditional Holiday Rice CreamTraditional Holiday Rice Cream

Thanks so much to our friends over at the Disney Food Blog for exclusive use of their images. We wish you a very happy Winter Solstice, and a God Jul as well!

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