Christmas services are an important tradition for many Norwegians. Across the country, churches are trying to make it easier for people to experience them despite the pandemic.
“Christmas Eve services are unfortunately fully booked,” Kristiansand’s Cathedral website announced.
This Christmas, only 200 parishioners – divided into four services – will be allowed to come inside to hear the Christmas gospel in the cathedral on Christmas Eve.
The Norwegian Directorate of Health has decided that there can be a maximum of up to 50 people in the church at one time.
These are the national rules, but there may be stricter rules in places where infection numbers are high.
In Oslo churches, for example, it is only allowed to have 20 people at a time during Christmas.
“It will be a Christmas with a slightly different tone,” Preses of the Bishops’ Conference of the Church of Norway Olav Fykse Tveit told news bureau NTB.
“There is considerable willingness to try something new. It can provide a different Christmas experience that you can remember for the rest of your life,” Tveit added.
In many places, congregations are now preparing alternative events, such as church walks and outdoor worship services.
It is believed that the risk of infection is lower outdoors, and up to 200 people can gather for such events.
The Christmas service in Nidaros Cathedral on Christmas Eve will be moved outside to Vestfrontplassen, where 200 participants will be present.
Everyone else can follow the service on Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).
Many congregations will also stream services online, in addition to the fact that many churches will hold more services than usual so that as many people as possible can attend Christmas services in their local church.
The church in Spydeberg has chosen a different twist and moves the entire ceremony to their stadium. There, as many as 600 participants can gather as long as they’re seated on fixed seats.
Parish priest Bård Haugstvedt encourages the congregation to drop the formalities:
“People should dress very well. You do not need to wear nice trousers. You should have warm shoes and clothes. After all, this is a place in Spydeberg that is known for cold winds.”
The Christmas service is shortened to just over half an hour so that people do not freeze more than necessary.
Infection control measures
Those who sing hymns must keep at least two meters away from one another.
With the infection control measures that have been implemented, Fykse Tveit believes it is justifiable to visit the church and participate in worship services indoors or outdoors.
For many, it is also important to visit the cemetery on Christmas Eve.
The Fykse Tveit encourages people to be careful there as well and not stand and chat with old acquaintances.
© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today