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A household elf called Julenisse brings the Christmas gifts in most parts of Denmark and Norway. This fellow is a mischievous gnome who lives in the attic or barn and watches over the household pets and livestock during the year. He can only be seen by the family cat. On Christmas Eve, the Julenisse sneaks around the house and hides presents for the children to find. The Scan- dinavian families must leave a bowl of rice porridge outside the door for Julenisse or he might play tricks on them.
Julenisse is usually represented as a tiny creature with a pointy red cap, a grey beard and a smock. His origins are associated with "the Old Man of the Mound", the ghost of the first settler on a farm. Over the years this spirit evolved into the less frightening "nisse" or elves and finally came to be known as Julenisse.
Although the Julemann (Santa Claus) is creeping into Scandinavian culture, the Julenisse are dearest to the hearts of Danes and Norwegians and still play a large part in Scandinavian Christmas tradition.
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