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Karneval: Celebrating the Carnival Holiday in Norway

Celebrating the Carnival Holiday in Norway

The Carnival holiday is a major Christian celebration in many cultures around the world. In this article, you’ll learn some Carnival holiday facts and gain some knowledge into how Norwegians, in particular, celebrate this holiday.

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1. What is the Carnival Holiday?

Celebrated by Chrisitan communities around the world, Carnival (sometimes called Shrovetide) is a religious holiday that precedes the Lenten fasting period. This holiday is known for an array of celebrations and traditions, all of which tend to center on the idea of fun, indulgence, and the reversing of social order.

In the past, people relied on stored and preserved food throughout the winter months, meaning that there was little food available once the season ended. It was crucial that any highly perishable food still left over, such as butter and meat, was eaten promptly before the start of spring. To survive the final days of winter, people would finish off all of the remaining food stores, ensuring that everyone had enough sustenance to keep them going until spring.

Over time, this season became the Carnival holiday. Instead of simply eating richer foods to survive the winter, people now indulge themselves in preparation for Lent. This holiday combines elements of Christianity and folktales passed on from the medieval ages.

2. Carnival Dates

Colorful Carnival Mask and Jewelry

Carnival takes place on the final Sunday before Lent each year. For your convenience, here’s a list of this holiday’s date for the next ten years.

  • 2020: February 23
  • 2021: February 14
  • 2022: February 27
  • 2023: February 19
  • 2024: February 11
  • 2025: March 2
  • 2026: February 15
  • 2027: February 7
  • 2028: February 27
  • 2029: February 11

3. Celebrating Karneval in Norway

Child Getting Her Face Painted

Carnival celebrations and traditions vary slightly from culture to culture, but they all share a few common threads. For example, no matter where you are, Carnival celebrations will involve eating some kind of rich food and taking part in holiday Carnival games or activities.

Norwegian holiday traditions for Karneval include dressing up in costumes and attending balls (the most famous of which is the Oslo opernball, or “Oslo operaball“). These balls are similar to masquerades, with many people wearing masks. Children like to dress up and receive candy from people, which is why some people consider Karneval to be the Nordic version of Halloween. Decorated fastelavnsris (“birch” branches) are another common element of the Norway Carnival season, often seen during or after balls.

Another favorite celebration is that of the Fastelavnsbolle, or “Shrovetide bun,” the most popular of Carnival holiday foods. This is a delicious, soft bun that’s filled with either whipped cream or almond paste. Sometimes, Carnival is also called Bun Sunday for this reason. In addition to the Shrovetide buns, other popular Norwegian holiday foods include waffles, pancakes, and an array of other sweet treats.

4. The Birch Tree

Do you know why the bjørk, or “birch tree,” is such a significant aspect of Carnival in Norway?

The birch tree, in folklore, is considered a symbol of many things associated with spring: new beginnings, beauty, adaptability, and fertility. In particular, this tree is often associated with goddesses of love and fertility.

5. Must-Know Vocabulary for Carnival


Ready to review some of the vocabulary words from this article? Here’s the essential Norwegian vocabulary for Carnival!

  • Kostyme — “Costume”
  • Fastelavn — “Shrovetide”
  • Karneval — “Carnival”
  • Oslo opernball — “Oslo operaball”
  • Fjær — “Feather”
  • Fastelavnsbolle — “Shrovetide bun”
  • Kle seg ut — “Dress up”
  • Ansiktsmaling — “Facepaint”
  • Bjørk — “Birch tree”
  • Fastelavnsris — “Birch”

To hear the pronunciation of each word, and to read each one alongside relevant images, check out our Norwegian Carnival vocabulary list!

Final Thoughts

We hope you enjoyed learning about Karneval with us. Do you celebrate this holiday in your country? Let us know in the comments!

If you’re interested in learning more about Norway’s unique culture or Norwegian holidays, check out the following pages on

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