Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Santa Claus Came To Town!

Our pile of presents this year (All fantastic by the way)
December 28, 2015

Dear Family & Friends,

Christmas in Norway is AWESOME. That really is the best way to describe it. It wasn't a white Christmas, but it was definitely memorable. I think that any Christmas away from home, on a mission or not, is something that is remembered. It's different being away from home, away from family, away from the same traditions through the years. Even though I was halfway around the world, I learned something. We can still have an incredible holiday somewhere else, with other people, doing different things. Through all of the changes, during this Christmas season, I was home, with family, celebrating with many traditions that I've come to cherish.

I had the incredible opportunity to be at home here. The church here in Fredrikstad is amazing. They help me feel at home. They are all family here, related or not, we are all a family here. They just accept everyone and love them as if they've known you their entire lives. This ward made a Christmas away from home feel like a special Christmas at home. I'm really grateful for all they have done for me here.

It ended up snowing yesterday! The snow is everywhere now. Now it feels like Winter. We've been walking in a Winter wonderland the last two days. It's been a nice change. Instead of being rainy all of the time, it's just cloudy and white. It's great that I love the snow!
A picture of the river outside of our house.
This previous week was full of dinner appointments and Christmas celebrations. I have to say, everyone in this ward knows how to make some delicious food. I haven't gone home hungry ever here. It's been incredible. Great food. Even more amazing people. All of which was during my favorite part of the year!

I got to Skype my family on Christmas. It was really great to talk with them, share a ton of laughs, and spend some time together as a family. I loved talking with them and seeing how all of them were doing.

The holiday season is an opportunity for all of us to spend more time with each other, enjoying the company, and creating more memories. I love the words to the Christmas song, "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year". One part that sticks out to me is "There'll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago". I love it because I love getting to reminisce during this time of year of all of the fun times I've had throughout the years. We have a great opportunity to share stories, make memories, and enjoy being with each other during this time of year. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and I wish you all a Happy New Year!


Elder Mickelson
Me with a cat I found by our house.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Elder Mitchell and I (with Elder Arveseth photobombing) next to our Bishop's Christmas tree we got to help decorate after some REALLY amazing food.

December 21, 2015

Dear Family & Friends,

Merry Christmas everyone!  So I figured I'd start out and explain a little bit about Christmas here in Norway. I guess it'd be awkward for me to randomly explain in July, so I figured now would be a good time.

Christmas in Norway is practically better than sliced bread, which by the way, you slice your own bread at the stores. When you buy a loaf of bread, it's uncut. So there's a bread slicer at the store where you set the loaf inside of it and it comes out sliced. So because of being in Norway, I now understand why we can compare things to sliced bread. But, Christmas. Christmas in the United States lasts for two days, the 24th and 25th of December, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. In Norway, Christmas lasts for four days, December 23rd - December 26. The first day is Lillejulaften (Little Christmas Eve). The second is Julaften (Christmas Eve). The Third is Første juledag (First Christmas Day). The last is Andre juledag (Second Christmas Day).

Part of me feels that they have four days of Christmas so they can celebrate more... Part of me wouldn't actually be surprised. I think it's a genius idea. Who doesn't want Christmas twice as much? I think that all of us ought to begin celebrating Christmas for four days. Norwegians definitely figured out Christmas!

This week was incredible! We were SUPER busy With traveling and appointments and meetings. But, it made for a fantastic week! I want to share one experience we had this week. Elder Mitchell and I were preparing what to teach before we had our appointment. We didn't really know what to teach beforehand, but we just said a prayer and asked for the guidance that we would need to know the needs of those we'd teach. Afterwards, we both felt prompted to teach the same principle. When we finished the lesson, we both just knew that it was exactly what they needed. We had both just felt guided in what to say and what to teach. We just followed the impressions that we felt. Everything just worked perfectly. I don't really know how else to explain it. This week I learned the importance of just following promptings that we feel in our lives. When we do that, everything just works out how it's supposed to.

This last week we had a Zone Conference. We were able to take the train to Oslo and have our Zone Leader Training. It was really amazing to get to see some familiar faces from missionaries that used to serve way up North, and then also to be able to meet new people. It was a TON of fun.

I got to visit the King's Palace and a Christmas market. We got to see a bunch of other sites along the way!
Our Barbershop Quartet... well, quartet, staged in a barbershop

There was a Christmas fireside/talent show after the conference. The Fredrikstad Elders (us) and the Sister missionaries in Sarpsborg (the town next to Fredrikstad) got together for this Christmas program and did a barbershop quartet of Frosty the Snowman! It was fantastic. Well, not our singing, but it was entertaining! We had so much fun and everyone had a lot of laughs.

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas! Have an amazing Christmas week everybody!


Elder Mickelson

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Fredrikstad Has Around 80k People

December 14, 2015

Dear Family & Friends,

Well It's sunny... but definitely NOT 75 degrees. I do have to say it's a ton warmer here in Fredrikstad than it was in Alta. So that's been a huge difference.

I literally had not seen the sun in 4 weeks. Then when I was on my train ride from Oslo to Fredrikstad, out of the train window, this strange light flooded the car... Then I realized it was the sun!

Fredrikstad has around 80,000 people I believe. It's quite larger than Alta. There's a real place to contact here. That has been a really great experience getting to talk to people in an area larger than Alta. I miss it there in Alta though.

I am blown away by how amazing the members are in Norway. They are so amazing. The branch in Alta is so incredible. They have helped me so much. Then I moved here, and they are just as amazing. The church in Norway is full of so many spectacular people.

This week has been full of new sights and people. I got to meet a lot of the ward in church yesterday. It is weird having church for 3 hours again. I got used to having just 2 in Alta! It sure is different, but it wasn't too hard to adjust to at all. There was about 70 people in church this week. I think it was about that at least. We happen to have 6 missionaries in the Fredrikstad ward. It is so cool to have so many missionaries for one ward!

My companion is Elder Mitchell. We were in the MTC together, and he is a really cool guy. We've been getting along really well. I guess that's what happens when you can sit and quote movies all day with each other.

We went to Gamlebyen in Fredrikstad today. Gamlebyen is the really old part of the city that was created a very long time ago. Well around 300 years ago. So, quite a while ago. Well we visited this part of town. It is the old part of the city full of cannons and a fortress protecting the city of Fredrikstad. It was really cool. There even was an old Anti-Aircraft gun there. It was an awesome area to visit. Oh, and we took a ferry there to Gamlebyen. I didn't know that ferries could be so fun!
A view of Fredrikstad from the ferry.

So I'd like to share what I learned this week. I've been reflecting on my experiences in Alta and how they changed who I am and how I see things. I believe that the greatest lesson I learned there was how to always be myself. I learned that we have to continue to be ourselves and not change who we are just to change to be someone that we really aren't. When we forget who we really our, we lose a part of ourselves. We lose the part of us that makes us relatable. We then become somebody that we aren't. When we stay true to who we are, that is where we see growth and change in our lives that will truly change us to help us be better people.

I hope everyone has a wonderful week! Have a great week preparing for Christmas!


Elder Mickelson

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

I'm Getting Transferred To Fredrikstad!

December 7, 2015

New Address:
Dalkleven 11
1671 Kråkerøy

Dear Family & Friends,

So this week went really well. Moves call was on Sunday morning and I found out that I'm getting transferred to Fredrikstad! It's way down South and next to Sweden. So from what I've heard, their dialect in Fredrikstad is very similar to those in Southern Sweden (I guess that makes sense considering that it's only a border that is between them). I'll be serving with Elder Mitchell. We were in the MTC at the same time. I'm really excited to go there. I've heard that the Ward there is really awesome! I'm really excited to go serve there.

But with every transfer, we have to say goodbye. These last few days have been full of goodbyes. I've made some really amazing friends here in Alta. I guess if you're in a city for three months you are bound to. So up until I leave, I'll be making my rounds saying bye. I'd really like to come back one day to visit all of them. They have been the best, and I can't really express how much I've appreciated them.

So I got asked what the food is like in Norway. So food here is pretty much like the United States. Traditional food in Norway is basically farm food, which, by the way, tastes amazing. Although, I do have to say, beef here in Norway is not like beef in the U.S. You can still buy it here, just not in great amounts and it's hard to find just slabs of beef. As a whole though, Norway's food selection is really similar. The only difference is that it's really hard to buy anything in bulk here. There's no Walmart here! It's okay though. I only have to feed myself, not an entire family so that works. Oh, and you can't buy milk in huge containers. Milk in gallon jugs don't exist as far as I know. Only 1 liter and 1.75 liter cartons. That's why I just buy a lot of cartons of milk a week! I hope that was a little bit of insight into Norwegian food/selections/stores.

One thing I've been thinking about this week has been what Christmas time means for us. Here in Norway, Christmas is a time for families to come together. It is a time for us to reflect on great times and look forward to the future. It is a time for us to enjoy what we have and enjoy one another's company. As Christmas comes closer, I'd hope all of you think about what Christmas means to you. Think about families and how we can use the Christmas season to help strengthen our family bonds. As always, think of the reason we have Christmas. It's a time for us to reflect on Christ also. Keep these thoughts in mind this week.
Ice Hotel under construction

So Alta has this really "cool" ice hotel! Sorry for the pun. We went and visited it. They're building it still, so I didn't get to go inside and see it. That was sad. But I can say I've been there! They have to rebuild it every year because it's not always cold up here! Every Winter they bring in huge construction machines and rebuild the hotel out of the fresh snow. It was pretty awesome still.
The Northern Lights Cathedral

There's a church here called Nordlyskatedralen (The Northern Lights Cathedral). It's the famous church of Alta. I've been here for four months and had never seen the inside. So we decided to go tour it before I left! It was a really nice church. It's a more abstract style, but still pretty cool.


Elder Mickelson

Thursday, December 3, 2015

My First Thanksgiving In Norway!

Our Thanksgiving dinner
December 2, 2015

Dear Family & Friends,

My first Thanksgiving in Norway! Well Norwegians don't celebrate Thanksgiving... I guess that's for obvious reasons, but we still celebrated it ourselves. So sadly, we didn't have turkey this year for Thanksgiving. I found out that turkeys come in boxes, not wrapped in plastic. So I didn't know I could buy one until after the fact. But that's ok! We ended up cooking up some whale instead. So we had some whale, mashed potatoes, more vegetables, some white gravy (tastes really good on whale by the way), and some rolls (well boller, but it's almost the same thing. I think it has some cinnamon in it though). To top off our feast, we bought ourselves some ice cream. This will definitely be a memorable Thanksgiving.

I got to attend my first District Meeting in person in Tromsø this week! We flew out Monday evening to Tromsø and stayed the night for splits. It was so fun. We had family home evening therein Tromsø with the senior couple and the other missionaries. It was really great to be all together for that. We had District Meeting the next morning. It was about family history. So we got to learn how we could help others start their genealogy work. I was surprised by how simple it is to help someone start their family history! We spent the rest of that day on splits with the Tromsø Elders. It was a lot of fun. We got to contact a ton of people in the streets and go knock on some houses. It was a really great time and I learned a lot more of how I can better teach people.

Alta's Christmas Tree
I will find out on Sunday whether or not I'm staying in Alta. So it's exciting! We'll see soon where I'll be for Christmas!

This week the Church came out with a great Christmas video. I really enjoyed it. The website is christmas.mormon.org It was an awesome video though. Check it out! We've been sharing the website with a lot of people on the streets and it's been working great. Christmas is definitely a time to be with families and enjoy each other's company. It also is a great time for us to think about the Savior and why we even have Christmas.

Have a great week everybody!


Elder Mickelson

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Christmas In Norway - Newsletter from Mission Sister Hill

In Norwegian “Merry Christmas” is translated: “God Jul”.  Happy New Year is: “Godt Nyttår”
A Norwegian Christmas is full of many celebrations and traditions, old and new. Christmas starts early in Norway, as this is the time of the year traditionally set apart to clean the house thoroughly. In England and America, we would call this “Spring-cleaning”. This is a great opportunity for missionaries to ask people if they can help with any cleaning when they are meeting people the week before Christmas – especially those knocking on doors.
Norwegians have many parties at Christmas time. In the Church we have a family party called Juletrefest (Christmas Party) - many actually have this party after Christmas, as we do in the Oslo Ward – normally during the first or second week of January. This is a good time to invite non-members and less-active members. We have a Relief Society Christmas Dinner before Christmas with well over 100 sisters attending, with fabulous food and wonderful entertainment (Oslo Ward). Many Wards have a Christmas workshop where we make decorations and cards and so on. Check with your local Ward for when these activities are because they are also great to bring non-members to.

Advent also starts the Christmas concert season. In every city, practically every choir, band and classical music group have their annual Christmas performances in churches and halls throughout the city. Also in each city a huge Christmas tree stands tall in the centre square. Usually on the first Sunday of Advent, the township gathers together for the Lighting of the Christmas Tree celebration. When the tree is lit the people hold hands and dance around the Christmas tree singing carols. Julenisse (Santa Claus) makes an appearance and hands out gifts to the children. We have a very popular Christmas Choral programme called Jul-i-toner which you should be able to get tickets to. Performances are held in Oslo, Romerike and Drammen.
You may also be able to attend a Saint Lucia celebration on the 13th December. Although it is more common in Schools, some of the Wards in Norway also do this in Church with the Primary children. Activities include a casual procession of singing children. A child is chosen to lead the procession (traditionally a blonde-haired girl), who represents St Lucia.  They are dressed in white with a red sash and a wreath of candles around their head – today they use electric lights. 
Christmas Eve (Julaften) is only half a normal working-day.  People go about their daily routines, go to work, and finish their shopping. At 4 pm the church bells ring throughout the city, which means Christmas has officially started. This also starts the first Church service for Christmas.  Christmas Eve is the main day of celebration for Norwegians at Christmas and is when presents are exchanged. The gifts are sometimes brought to the house by Santa Claus (“Julenisse”) personally. As Missionaries you will not be expected to buy gifts for members or bring anything with you when you are invited to dinner (at Christmas or any other time). Most Wards collect gifts for the missionaries serving in their Wards and these are given out on Christmas Eve.
Norwegians also have a name for the day before Julaften, which is Lille Julaften. (Little Christmas Eve) This is typically when the decorations are hung and the Christmas tree is lit in the home. Decorations include hand-made heart baskets and paper-chains, pepperkaker (gingerbread) and also a string of little Norwegian flags. Norwegians prefer to use real Christmas trees as they give off a nice smell throughout the house. During Christmas many people visit the graveyards and light candles on their families’ graves – it is a very pretty sight.
Normally “Christmas” starts around 5 pm with a large sumptuous meal of one or more of the following: roasted pork-ribs (ribbe), mutton-ribs (pinnekjøtt), ham (skinke), white Christmas-sausage (julepølser), turkey (kalkun), and served with white sweet cabbage finely chopped and cooked with caraway seeds and vinegar (surkål), vegetables, gravy, cranberry sauce and potatoes. Others may have the traditional fish dish called “lutefisk” eaten with bacon, mushy peas and sauce. It is made from aged stockfish or dried/salted whitefish and lye. It is gelatinous in texture. Its name literally means "lye fish". This dish is more common in the North of Norway. Gløgg, (mulled non-alcoholic wine with spices, nuts and fruit) is a common Christmas drink, along with regular soda. 
Rice porridge (Grøt) is the traditional dessert eaten on Christmas Eve (served with butter, sugar and cinnamon, with whipped cream mixed in!). If you find an almond in your portion you're traditionally given a marzipan pig as a reward. You actually have to show that you have found the white-blanched almond, so don’t eat anything that seems crunchy! Helping clean up in the kitchen afterwards is very much appreciated as the families have often spent all day preparing and cooking the meal.

Dancing around the tree is perhaps the most unusual tradition for foreigners. The tree is pulled out to the middle of the room and whilst singing carols, and holding hands, people “dance” around the tree (really, people walk around the tree, but some songs may include the odd hop or other action!). The favourite song for children is “På låven sitter Nissen” (Santa Claus is sitting on the barn) because when that is sung, Julenissen typically bangs on the door and comes in with lots and lots of presents. Most missionaries enjoy this tradition, and in many families one of the missionaries may also be asked to “be” Santa!

You will enjoy many different types of cakes and biscuits over the Christmas period in Norway, and a large proportion of the population still bake their own. One of the most popular is a special bread called 'Julekake' that has raisins, candied peel and cardamom in it. There are seven different sorts of cookies that are made traditionally (or you can buy them at the local store!).


Boxing Day as it is known in England is called “andre juledag” (the second day of Christmas) and is also a public holiday to relax and enjoy family; it is typically a very laid-back day. Some English/American families in Norway choose to celebrate this day rather than Christmas Eve.  The time between Boxing Day and New Years Eve is called “Romjul”. It is the quiet time of Christmas where the streets are bare and the shops have limited hours as Norwegians spend this time with family.  The local sledding hills and parks are filled with families skiing and sledding. If you are allowed, buy a cheap toboggan (akebrett) and enjoy sliding down the hills in winter.

On New Years Eve (nyttårsaften) Norwegians celebrate the new year with fireworks and parties The fireworks can begin quite early, but the standard time for setting them off is about ten minutes to midnight until ten minutes after. New Years Day (Nyttårsdag) is also a public holiday.

On the 13th January Christmas is officially over. Decorations are put away and the Christmas tree is chopped into firewood and used in the fire, or collected by the local commune. However, there is a saying in Norway that “Julen varer helt til Påske”… (Christmas lasts right through to Easter…)