Norwegian Christmas Song – Jeg Er Sa Glad

Jeg Er Saa glad was composed in 1859 by Peder Knudsen with lyrics by Marie Wexelsen. For me it is the pinnacle of Norwegian Christmas songs both because of it’s popularity and simplicity.

I remember very well as a young child in Seattle attending the Sons of Norway Sumnerslaget Christmas celebration. Hundreds of salty Norwegians would sing this song in chorus. What a beautiful sound that I quite took for granted.

Lyrics in English and Norwegian Posted Below
Jeg Er Sa Glad -Sheet Music.pdf
Jeg-er-sa-glad.mp3 – Melody Sample
jeg-er-sa-glad.mp3
This song is performed well by choirs from both St. Olaf and Pacific Lutheran University. You will find CD’s easily online if interested.
Imagine my utter shock to see these lyrics posted on a website under the general classification of “Scandinavian”. You should know that although us Norwegians are quiet, boring and stale – we are fiercely proud of our heritage. Do not count the Vikings out as they may emerge again for global domination. Norskes do not consider “Swedish” and “Danish” as a complete trilogy of our heritage as many assume. We are our own people – thick headed, muleish and the bravest of the brave.

You should also know that although Ballard, WA (largely Norwegian population) is a suburb of Seattle, very few Norskes will admit this fact. Norskes refer to Seattle as a suburb of Ballard.

PERFORMANCE
Jeg Er Sa Glad is usually written in 3/4 or 6/8 time, but has a gentle lilt that suggests 6/8. Think of falling snow, gently swishing your skis down the slope side to side – and you will have the correct feel for this traditional Norwegian Christmas song.

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NORWEGIAN LYRICS
Jeg er så glad hver julekveld,
for da ble Jesus født,
da lyste stjernen som en sol,
og engler sang så søtt.

Det lille barn i Betlehem,
han var en konge stor
som kom fra himlens høye slott
ned til vår arme jord.

Nå bor han høyt i himmerik,
han er Guds egen Sønn,
men husker alltis på de små
og hører deres bønn.

Jeg er så glad hver julekveld,
da synger vi hans pris:
da åpner han for alle små
sitt søte paradis.

Da tenner moder alle lys,
så ingen krok er mørk;
hun sier stjernen lyste så
i hele verdens ørk.

Hun sier at den lyser enn
og slukkes aldri ut,
og hvis den skinner på min vei,
da kommer jeg til Gud.

Jeg holder av vår julekveld
og av den herre Krist
og at han elsker meg igjen,
det vet jeg ganske visst.

ENGLISH LYRICS TRANSLATION

1. I am so glad each Christmas Eve,
The night of Jesus’ birth!
Then like the sun the Star shone forth,1
And angels sang on earth.

2. The little Child in Bethlehem,
He was a King indeed!
For He came down from heaven above
To help a world in need.

3. He dwells again in heaven’s realm,
The Son of God today;
And still He loves His little ones
And hears them when they pray.

4. I am so glad on Christmas Eve!
His praises then I sing;
He opens then for every child
The palace of the King.2

5. When mother trims the Christmas tree
Which fills the room with light,
She tells me of the wondrous Star
That made the dark world bright.

6. She says the Star is shining still,
And never will grow dim;
And if it shines upon my way,
It leads me up to Him.

7. And so I love each Christmas Eve
And I love Jesus, too;
And that He loves me every day
I know so well is true.

Words: “Jeg Er Saa Glad Hver Julekveld,” Marie Wexelsen, 1859; translated from Norwegian to English by Peter Andrew Sveeggen (1881-1959). Wexelsen (1832-1911) published three children’s books, among them Ketil, en Julegave for De Smaa (“Ketil, a Christmas Gift for Little Ones”), where this Christmas carol introduced a longer story. At that time she entitled it “The Child’s Christmas Carol.”

Music: “Jeg Er Saa glad” (“Christmas Eve”), Peder Knudsen (1819-1863), 1859

29 comments

  • Daniel C. Johnson

    I am a great-nephew of the translator of “Jeg er saa glad hver Julekveld/I am so glad each Christmas Eve” Professor Peder Andrew Sveeggen, for 37 years, the Chair of the English dept. at Augsburg College, Minneapolis, was the oldest brother of my maternal grandfather. My mother was his niece. PA’s translation work was not limited to this “Christmas Eve song,” he also translated a number of other pieces that have appeared in hymnbooks in America, including the Concordia Hymnal, the Lutheran Hymnary, and a couple of other songs in addition, to finding this one listed as Hymn # 69, in the LBW/Lutheran Book of Worship. Professor PA Sveeggen taught English & homiletics at Augsburg in addition to classes in Shakespeare, and poetry. I’ve personally known Lutheran pastors who had him as their instructor and also myself, had a piano teacher, who had been his student. I found it interesting how limited to Lutheran churches of Norwegian descent, the familiarity of this Christmas song is. However, it tends to be very popular among those famiiar with it. It is making it’s way into other denominations, for which, I am personally grateful, as it would be nice for other Christians to enjoy and be blessed by it’s deep and rich meaning. It not only is a Christmas song for the church, it also has an folk song element to it, and additional versus may be created, just as they have been in past Norwegian culture. It is matched with a beautiful melody, with 9 7 9 7, poetic metre. My preferred time signature of the music is either 3/4 or 6/8. At the approximate time of it’s translation, likely between 1926 and 1930, controversy stirred Norwegian Lutheran congregations, as to changing over to the English language in their worship services. I’m not so sure, that the translator’s efforts might have been quite as popular among traditionalists in the Lutheran churches, that were populated with Norwegians in his generation. I also lived across the street, in my childhood, from what was known as a Norwegian Bedehuse, Prayerhouse, or House of Prayer. Juletre Fest was commonly held there close to Christmastime in the 1950’s, 60’s and maybe into the 70’s, this song then, was the theme as it was common in Norwegian culture to decorate the tree, and upon completion, hold hands in a circle, while moving about, and around the tree, while singing “Jeg er saa glad hver Julekveld, and other Christmas songs.
    — BlesSINGS!! Daniel C Johnson, Luverne, MN 56156

  • Thank you so much for the detailed info. It is my Mother and I’s favorite song. A couple weeks ago I gave a short presentation at church where we presented three different arrangements of the piece. I love this song!

  • My favorite child hood song.

    Kaare Bye

  • Does anyone have a word-for-word translation?

  • This was always sang at the funerals of my Norwegian relatives but I never knew the words. The last of that generation died last week and I am so glad to have the translation and music. I will pass it on to my children as I have done with other Norwegian customs.

  • Tusen takk for making this song, lyrics and sheet music available!
    I grew up in Norway but am now raising a young family in Canada with an English speaking husband.
    It is difficult to keep the culture and language alive in my children, but they both love singing and hearing about julenissen and Norwegian Christmas traditions. We celebrate our Christmas in Norwegian manner on the 24th and dance around our tree.
    This year I hope to teach my daughter to play “Jeg er sÃ¥ glad hver julekveld” and “O Jul med din glede” on the piano.
    God jul!

  • My thanks as well for the posting of the lyrics and music for this song. I learned this song from my grandmother as she often sang it for my cousins and me when we were with them at Christmas in the early 1950s. She always sang it in Norwegian and though I know absolutely no Norwegian, I can still remember this clearly.
    I would also like to thank Mr. Johnson for his posting. I know that more than a few of my relatives (including my mother) had “Pa” Sveeggen as an instructor at Augsburg (she was not aware that he had translated the song, but loves the idea since she liked him very much).

  • I visited your Church site, it is really privilege for me to write you with the Will of God. I found that you have awesome and precious work of Lord Jesus Christ, May God bless your Church staff and all precious work. I belong the Christian family. I am able to do work of translation into Urdu and Punjabi, if you have any translation work so please consider for the translation work, i would love to give my service to you church as a translator. Your Church material and Word of God must be reached to unreached people who didn’t understand the English, those people can study and blessed through the Word of God. I hope that Lord Jesus will give the vision of Translation work and all funds. I will do pray to Jesus for this precious work. I will wait your reply.

    In Jesus name

    Suzina Abida

    Pakistan

  • Dear Mr. Askeland,
    I have been searching for a translation of “Jeg er saa glad hver Julekveld” for my Advent blog.
    I am Norwegian, living in Norway, but blogging with people mostly from Canada and the USA.
    I use youtube to share Norwegian Christmas Carols.
    Via Google I found your site, and would very much appreciate your permission to post your excellent translation of the song of Maria Wexelsen.
    From Felisol

  • Hello,

    I am from the Philippines,once married to a norwegian, now a widow.I lived in Norway for more than 20 yrs. I now live in Cebu,Philippines.

    I am teaching norwegian language here in the City of Cebu to filipino nurses who are applying for a job at the norwegian hospitals in Norway.

    This evening, I googled for a norwegian christmas song. EUREKA! I JUST LOVED THIS SONG! I will sing this song to my norwegian students on our JULEBORD this coming 19th.

    Oh by the way, my birthday is CHRISTMAS EVE! Is’nt it amazing?

  • Karen Opheim Dutton

    Hello:
    I am an American but have Norwegian blood on both sides of my parents. I also had a Norwegian exchange student from Oslo in 1987 & ’88. I have sung Jeg er sa Glad since I was a little girl. We still sing the first verse on Christmas Eve at my Lutheran Church in Norge, Va. We sang a choir version a few years back. The new folks haven’t used it yet! Thanks for your blog.

    Karen

  • We sang this song many years ago with a Norwegian student at Rift Valley Academy Lars Ivar Fjose and I played a counter melody on the violin. The melody has really stuck in my heart!
    David Noden

  • Pastor Duane Tollefson and his children used to sing this song in Norwegian at Christmas Eve service during the 1970s and early 80s (St Matthew Lutheran in Beaverton, Oregon). Sometimes it’s sung by choirs or congregations partly in Norwegian and partly in English.

    In the Lutheran Book of Worship (green hymnal) the carol is number 69, with six verses in English. I don’t have immediate access to the new LCMS and ELCA hymnals, but it’s probably in at least one of the new hymnals.

  • Wonderful! My choir director knows it is one of my favorites from childhood. The Norwegian Day Parade in Brooklyn, The jule celebration at the Sons of Norway Lodge, and now the complete set of words. How excited am I? All of my Norwegian relatives have passed and I am looking forward to teaching my 5 children this song. Will be singing this as a solo and hopefully have the congregation sing the English lyrics.

  • I found this site by looking for another Scandinavian hymn that we sing at Christmas services at Holy Cross Lutheran church in Madison, Wi. The hymn is Glory to God the newborn King. I won’t be able to attend this year & will miss this hymn. So I am looking for a recording of it. We do sing this hymn too & I love it. Can you help me?

  • We had a Christmas Carol sing party at our home yesterday. We sang “I am so glad each Christmas Eve” and memories came rushing back to me of my grandmother. We sang “Jeg er sa glad hver julekveld” every Christmas Eve before we opened our gifts and I was sure there was at least 14 verses to the song. Does anyone know of more verses?

  • I too am thankful for the memories this beautiful song brings to heart. my late Father would sing this each Christmas Eve and we all had eyes filled with soft warm tears. i enjoyed it most the two Christmas’ i lived in Norway with friends and relatives…..

  • My sister and I learned to sing this song for a wedding in our very Norwegian Lutheran church when I was a little girl. Thanks for providing the lyrics here!

  • Still around doing work for our past and living Norwegians.

    Still looking for Erick Erickson (BYE) children born 1870-1886 SoutWest South Dakota. Maybe some some one started using the BYE name again.
    More info is availeble email me at byekaare@yahoo.com

    801-277-5115
    Kaare

  • Does anyone know the words and translation to julverset.

  • Does anyone know the name of the girl that sang on the
    melody sample of Jer er sa glad

  • I too attended the Sunmoreslaget gatherings as a child – they were held at the Norway Center building (now demolished). The 2011 Sunmoreslaget Christmas party was held at Ballard First Lutheran Church on December 29. We did sing ‘Jeg er so glad’. Thanks for posting.

  • Jeg er saa glad hver Julekveld _ I am so happy Christtmas eve

  • I remember singing this in both English and Norwegian as a junior choir member at Bethany Lutheran Church in Rice Lake, WI. Then I would go to Grandpa’s house and sing it as a solo as Grandpa proudly grinned that his grandchild could sing in Norwegian.

  • Annemette Jørgensen

    It might be Sissel Kyrkjebø singing on the melody sample.

  • Jane Rude Truesdell

    I am so delighted to find my favorite Christmas carol from childhood! As a first generation Norwegian American, my parents conversed in Norwegian when the subject was not for children’s ears..however, many phrases/greetings/music was in Norwegian for we 3 kids. I am suggesting this carol for the annual Christmas music count-down on our CPR radio station. Quite sure they will have access because the St. Olaf choir has performed in/around Denver many times…and I’m very happy to hear it! Thank you for posting this!

  • I love how was told : in a little barn in Bethlehem was born a big king” it expresses the innocence and sacred wonder♡

  • I am so happy to have found this! My Norwegian Grandmother taught me this song and I sang it in my church Christmas program as a solo when I was 4 years old. Will never forget it! Now I will be singing it to my 4 grandchildren this Christmas. Thanks for all the wonderful posts here. Talk and God Jul.

  • Theresa Stovern Buckley

    Thank you for sharing this history and these remembrances of this beloved Norwegian hymn. Like many of you, I am an American but my grandparents immigrated from Norway. I grew up singing this hymn in church Christmas eve in Colfax Lutheran Church in Colfax, WI. We would like to sing this as a quartet in Norwegian next Christmas eve.

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