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The Fabulous Fleece Company Blog

How to enjoy a Nordic Christmas

Thomas Rasmus Skaug / Visitnorway.com

With our favourite addition to Fab Fleece's collection of sheepskins this year being the Norwegian Grey Pelssau fleece - we thought we’d take our festive inspiration from Norway too and discover how Christmas is celebrated there.

After all, Norway has the snowy winter wonderland weather and are experts in creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere with some Scandinavian hygge.

Jul is a special time in Norway with lots of delicious food and fun activities involved. So here’s our lowdown on the essential elements of a Nordic style Christmas.

Christmas kicks off

The festive season usually starts on the last weekend in November in Norway, with the baking of many Christmas cookies... up to seven different kinds actually! These include sandkaker (sand cakes) - shortcakes baked in little molds and filled with jam, jelly or fruit and cream and krumkaker (curved cakes) - a waffle biscuit rolled into a cone shape and filled with whipped cream. There are various other buttery cookie delights and as well as pepperkaker (gingerbreads).

Visiting Christmas markets is a very popular activity and Maihaugen in Lillehammer is one of best ones to visit. Alongside the market you can enjoy sleigh rides and visit historic houses that recreate Christmas as celebrated in days gone by.

Other December activities include going to at least one cheerful Christmas concert and enjoying Julebord parties. You gather together with friends, colleagues or family to eat all day and night. It seems that the main goal for the evening is to get so drunk that you (almost) can’t find your way home!

Little Christmas Eve

On December 23, Norwegians celebrate Lille Julaften, (or Little Christmas Eve), a time when the family comes together to decorate the house and tree, make a gingerbread house, or eat risengrynsgrøt; a hot rice pudding served with sugar, cinnamon and butter.

An almond is hidden in the pudding, and if the almond turns up in your portion, you win a marzipan pig! A Norwegian alternative to finding the sixpence in the Christmas pudding!

Norway is very big on marzipan - one of the manufacturers Nidar estimates that Norway's population of 5 million can get through more than 40 million marzipan figures during the festive season!

Christmas Eve - the main event

The Silver Boys Choir (Sølvguttene) appear on national television for their annual festive concert and at 5pm, church bells ring throughout the cities to announce the official start of the holiday.

The evening will start with a traditional meal - the most popular Christmas Eve dinner is either ribbe (pork ribs or belly), or lutefisk, cod cured in rye and served with bacon, mashed peas and potatoes. Lutefisk is both loved and loathed by Norwegians who largely agree that eating it once a year is enough!

After dinner, people usually hold hands and dance around the Christmas tree while singing carols. Julenissen, or Santa Claus, then comes into the living room to hand out presents. The family and guests then play games, sing and open gifts the rest of the evening.

Rest for romjulen

Romjulen is the time between Christmas and New Year’s Eve when shops are usually closed or have limited opening hours, with Norwegians typically heading to the slopes for skiing and sledding with their families. As unlike the mild UK, Norway actually has a decent amount of snow in most places at Christmas time, which helps add to the seasonal atmosphere.

More Nordic inspired ideas

If like us, you can’t head to Norway to experience these wonderful sounding festivities first hand this year, then you may still be inspired to add some Norwegian touches to your own Christmas - especially when it comes to home decor and cooking.

Head over to Pinterest to see our latest board - A Nordic Christmas - for more ideas.

Wherever you spend Christmas, we hope you have a God Jul!

Cosy up in Coppa Club’s igloos

Everyone loves a spot of alfresco drinking or dining, but at this time of year?! Brrrrr!!! Well, now you can eat and drink while enjoying the outdoors, and keep satisfyingly snug too, inside festive pop-up pods from Coppa Club.

From these timber-framed globes, with sliding perspex doors, you get 360 degree views of your surroundings, while always staying winter warm.

Each igloo has heating and speakers for added ambience and is decked out like a Scandinavian sitting room to create that hygge factor. The decor is designed around a winter woodland theme, with twinkly lights, candle lanterns, evergreen fauna, plus warm blankets and snuggly sheepskins.

That’s where Fab Fleece Co came in, of course! We supplied the finest sheepskins to drape around Coppa Club’s latest trio of pods that have just popped up outside their newest venue in Brighton’s South Lanes. Clustered round the dolphin statue in Brighton Square, the igloos will stay in situ over the winter months.

If you’ve not come across Coppa Club before, aside from the new Brighton club, they have four other venues in their home county of Berkshire plus a London outpost at Tower Bridge. This is where the igloo concept first took off and became a runaway success the past couple of winters, with eight enviable pods overlooking the Thames across to The Shard.

So if you’re visiting London or Brighton this winter, try and grab yourself an igloo experience. The bookable spots sold out super quick after their release in late October, but they still keep open a few walk in slots everyday so you may get lucky.

And if you can’t snag a spot in an igloo, the main Coppa Clubs still offer a very laid-back and inviting place to stop by. Designed to feel like a members club but one that is open to everyone, each venue combines smart dining with more casual spaces for a coffee, cocktail and food.

Open all day, every day, the lounge areas are comfy with sofas to relax in. There's great wifi and plug sockets if you want to use the venue for work meetings or settling in with your laptop. Then when work is done you can gravitate around the clubs' iconic copper bar.

Sounds like our kind of place. Think it may be some time before they open a Coppa Club here in Norfolk though, but we can keep our fingers crossed!

For more information about the latest Coppa Club igloos in Brighton, visit the website: https://www.coppaclub.co.uk/brighton

The making of Granny Greymuzzle

While most Fabulous Fleece customers buy our sheepskins to use rugs and throws in their homes, we sometimes receive orders where they are being using in more unusual ways.

Our fleeces have been ordered to dress characters for theatre or TV - the English National Opera for their production of Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde, or the production team needing costumes for making a Game of Thrones style TV advert for Aldi.

We’ve also had talented makers out there buying a fleece to dress a rocking sheep before. So we were really intrigued to find out about Granny Greymuzzle - a sheep character crowned with hair made from one of our lambskins that was created by York-based artist Jay McGahan.

After initially asking if Jay would mind sharing some pictures and the process of how she made Granny Greymuzzle, we also discovered a compelling backstory behind the character and its creator. It’s an inspiring insight into how 29 year old Jay has used her artistic talents to create a character that helps her connect with an enthusiastic animal-loving community and also cope with her chronic illness.

So over to Jay to tell us more…

"In 2011, I was diagnosed with Degenerative Disc Disease, a spinal condition that causes constant pain in my lower back and lower half of my body. So I had to give up my career as a tattooist as I was no longer able to work. I've seen specialists and had a number of treatments, but there’s currently no cure in my case, so I've had to adjust to life being chronically ill.

"With medication, aids, and regular physiotherapy I'm coping better now, and despite my health issues, I still continue with my art as I find a lot of joy in creating things. However they are mostly hobby projects for myself or my friends because my health means they progress at a very slow pace.

Jay's myriad materials for making her characters

Finding the furry fandom

Before I can tell you about Granny, I'll have to tell you about the furries - in its most basic description, it is a fandom of people who enjoy anthropomorphic characters. That's animals with human like characteristics; a good example is Disney cartoons. The furry community is huge, and heavily driven by people being creative and making up their own characters through art and writing, or even music, videos and costumes.

We have conventions and meet-ups in cities all over the world, and often do entertainment for kids and fund raising for charity. In fact, I recently went to the UK's biggest furry convention 'ConFuzzled' 2019, where they raised over £30,000 for The Vale Wildlife Hospital. It's through this amazing community of artists and animal lovers that I found life-long friends as it's a very supportive group.

I've been a furry since I was around 13 year old and first discovered them on the internet, but it wasn't until my health issues stopped me working that I invested more of my creative efforts into making my own fursuit, which is what we call our costumes.

Creative costumes with many purposes

"Granny for me, is just a fun costume to wear when I go to these sort of events. But for everyone that has their own suit, bought from makers or built themselves, they can mean and be used for so much more.

These fursuits are used for TV and movies, for charity fundraising, general entertainment and performance. Some people even use them to help ease their anxiety and depression by becoming something fun and different for a while. I know that creating Granny and using her has certainly made me happy."

Designing around disability

"I had made some characters before Granny, but I eventually figured out that with my health conditions I needed a fursuit that would be easy and comfy for me to wear, and not look out of place using my cane or rollator.

That's when I came up with the idea for Granny, I designed her specifically around my disability and aids, and so that people would be more likely to treat me gently. People often design their own characters as an ideal animal version of themselves, or an alter ego they can play.

In Granny's case, she's very much a character. Her second name 'Grey-muzzle', is an affectionate term people in our fandom use for older members of our community, so 'Granny Greymuzzle' was the name I based her whole design around."

Finding strength in weakness

"Most people have just been calling her Granny though, since she's the first elderly character that I know of that has been made into a fursuit. And as for why a sheep? I just like sheep, and one of my first stuffed animals as a kid was a big fluffy one that I still have.

The response I got while making Granny's début at ConFuzzled was amazing - what really touched me was how many people said how Granny reminded them of their own grandmothers. One person in particular told me how they too have chronic health issues and they thought Granny was a great idea of how to play off that weakness."

How Granny Greymuzzle was made

"The base is made out of upholstery foam, which I hot glued, carved and sculpted into shape. Then I taped the base up with regular parcel tape, then cut it off and made darts and seams for it to lay flat on paper to make a temporary pattern. The rest is mostly just a lot of hand sewing and acrylic paint.

Granny’s eyes, nails and hoofs were sculpted out of wax clay, which I then molded using silicone and made resin casts of. The part you see out of, the iris and pupil, is acrylic painted buckram. Her eyelashes are made from foam and cut out plasticard. And her glasses are just some metal craft rings and a bit of metal from the DIY store that I haphazardly stuck together!

Lastly, she also has a small 9V battery powered fan inside her snout, which makes wearing her a lot more tolerable, but she's still quite hot to wear! I also have a ice-pack neck scarf that was specifically designed for costume performers to help with the heat."

Wow - the resourcefulness and attention to detail that has gone into this character is astounding. Thank you so much Jay for sharing your personal story - your creativity and determination in the face of such adversity is truly inspiring.

If you’d like to find out more about Jay’s work, please click these links below.

https://www.instagram.com/grizguts
https://www.facebook.com/GrizGuts
https://www.deviantart.com/grizguts

All images ⓒ Jay McGahan.

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