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From ancient times, children in Norway have appreciated the bounty of "Julenisse". According to legend, this mystical, elf-like character visited homes on Christmas Eve and placed tufts of "lucky" barley stocks here and there. The family then would seek these on Christmas morning, hoping for good luck throughout the year to come. As the story evolved and merged with that of St. Nicholas, "Julenisse" expanded his role and began offering gifts on Christmas Eve as well. The straw dolls and figures he brings with him serve as symbols of those original barley stocks, linking today's "Julenisse" to that long-ago Norse character. Here we see the "Christmas Elf" dressed in a red cap and jacket much like those of St. Nicholas. His long white beard and bag of toys link him to that famous character as well...but his pointy shoes with the bells on the tips are distinctive to "Julenisse"! Another traditional Norwegian story says that only the family cat is privileged to spy "Julenisse" upon his arrival, so here we see a kitty happily observing this very special visitor. Holiday observances in Norway begin at the time of the sol- stice on December 21st as they have since ancient times. Cleaning, cooking and other preparations give way to feast, celebrations and gift-giving lasting many days.
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