A 12-hour public television show about firewood and fireplaces reveals how important the topic is to Norwegians.
Norwegians take their firewood seriously.
So seriously, in fact, that nearly a million people – 20 percent of the country's population – tuned in last Friday to check out a 12-hour show about firewood, eight hours of which featured a fire burning in a fireplace.
The program inflamed Norwegians, who found it either a dismal mess or a delightful how-to primer for creating the ideal fire, according to The New York Times.
"We received about 60 text messages from people complaining about the stacking in the program," Lars Mytting, author of the best-selling book "Solid Wood: All About Chopping, Drying and Stacking Wood — and the Soul of Wood-Burning," which inspired the broadcast, told the Times. "Fifty percent complained that the bark was facing up, and the rest complained that the bark was facing down."
One thing that really divides Norwegians, he said, "is bark."
The program, called "National Firewood Night," began with host Rebecca Nedregotten Strand announcing the show would "try to get to the core of Norwegian firewood culture — because firewood is the foundation of our lives," the Times reported. Then began the sawing, splitting and stacking. Four hours of it.
Don't confuse Norway's epic fire story with the American Yule Log. Oh no. The Yule Log is a mere loop, replaying the same act of burning over, and over, and over.
"'National Firewood Night' burned all night long, in suspensefully unscripted configurations. Fresh wood was added through the hours by an NRK photographer named Ingrid Tangstad Hatlevoll, aided by viewers who sent advice via Facebook on where exactly to place it," the Times reported.
The millions of Norwegians who tuned in, however, didn't all give the program rave reviews. While a viewer who commented on a Norwegian newspaper's web site said that she couldn't go to bed because she was so excited about pending log placement, another, Andre Ulveseter, tossed off a sarcastic tweet. "Went to throw a log on the fire, got mixed up, and smashed it right into the TV."
The program tapped into what some find to be a deep-rooted cultural feeling about firewood.
"What I've learned is that you should not ask a Norwegian what he likes about firewood, but how he does it — because that's the way he reveals himself," Mytting told the Times. "You can tell a lot about a person from his firewood stack."