Karen Koren: I'm dreaming of a Norwegian Christmas, like the ones I know

WHAT to buy for Christmas... it's a nightmare, isn't it? You want everyone to get a surprise and be happy, but there are some members of the family who just cast aside what you've bought them and then, to add insult to injury, drool over some s****y little present worth next to nothing.

Yes, someone has picked just what they wanted, and it wasn't you.

Christmas is for the children, they say, but it's not just children who want to have a good time, and part of that comes from giving the right present.

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There's nothing more pleasurable than watching someone unwrap a gift they are over the moon with. That gift doesn't even have to cost the earth, just be well thought out.

In other words, NOT a 'charity present'. You know the ones. Instead of a gift you get a card that says. 'Thank you. The cost of your present has been donated to save the small, spotted leopard that is about to become extinct.'

Well, I would like to be the one deciding what causes I give to, thank you very much. Such presents might make the givers feel good, but I can't say they make me feel any better.

In fact, that is the perfect example of a misjudged present - the giver is just being a sanctimonious pain in the neck. I would rather they bought me a lottery ticket with the money. Then, if I won, I would give loads to charity.

Don't get me wrong, I give to Cancer Research every month by direct debit and to a child in Africa, so I do my bit, but can't we be allowed to do our bit our way and not through a gift?

Glad I got that off my chest . . . so, what to buy everyone?

As my son's family and the three grandkids are going to the in-laws, I will be having a very grown up Christmas this year.

My whole life we have celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve - that is the traditional way Norwegians spend Christmas. I have kept that tradition alive and it has never been any other way for me.

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We have a Christmas dinner of pork, crackling and sweet and sour cabbage with caraway seeds. Lovely. The starter is rice porridge with cinnamon, sugar and a knob of butter in the middle. There is a blanched almond hidden in the porridge. Whoever gets it also gets an extra gift. We usually let one of the kids get it, but not this year.

After the meal we pull crackers, read the awful jokes and then retire to the comfort of the living room to sing Christmas songs (we really do). Then we join hands and dance around the Christmas tree (we really do).

Sounds crazy, but that is what we have always done... obviously, the songs are Norwegian songs, we wouldn't dance around the tree singing English songs, that would be ridiculous.

We then read the Christmas story, first in Norwegian, then in English. The eldest in the family reads it. My grandfather always read it when I was a child, now it's me as I am the only Norwegian reader left. Then my brother reads it in English. This is to remind everyone why we are celebrating Christmas, it is not just about presents.

I am not a believer, however, I do think that it is a lovely story and we should be aware of why we celebrate Christmas.

Once that is over, presents are handed out, the youngest first and so on throughout the family. That means I am now the one who hands them out - so it's definitely a good idea not to give too much, otherwise it might take until midnight to get all the presents distributed.

While all this is happening of course, there is drinking and the eating of cakes, again, Norwegian cakes, of course.

Can't wait.