We have everything but snow. A little snow would really top the cake on this festive week. After wondering if/when/how we were going to experience a true Danish Christmas, we recently attended Brett’s holiday work party and they kindly obliged us by offering a full dose of Danish Christmas traditions.
We boarded a bus and drove an hour north of Copenhagen, to a beautiful forested area. We were taken by horse-drawn carriage, to a field where we cut down a fresh Christmas tree. We attempted to pick one of medium size, given the fact that:
A) We live in an apartment, and
B) We would somehow need to get it home by train and city bus and
It was cold, windy and muddy and when we arrived back at the great hall, there were fire pits and marshmallows to roast. I don’t think this is particularly Danish, but it sure was fun!
A beautifully decorated hall and warm, glowing lights awaited us inside, along with a buffet of “æbleskiver” (a doughnut-type thing) served with icing sugar and jam and a cup of glögg (mulled wine) for the adults. Currently, you can easily get your hands around a cup of warm Glögg and a plate of greasy æbleskiver at any Christmassy-type event or market. They are everywhere…and they are tasty.
Scandinavian Santa, or Julemand, was originally a little elf, or gnome, who delivers gifts on Christmas eve with his goat “Yuley”. This is folklore and a more “Americanized” version of Santa can be seen around Denmark these days, or as I have found, a combination of the two, as seen below, in his read coat, long stocking cap and wooden clogs.
Since these cute little gnomes are such a common sight around here at Christmas time, I decided to make some for our home. Click here for m0re on the Julenisse tradition and craft tutorial.
There seems to be the cross-cultural tradition of each child receiving a gift. I was a bit disappointed that the gifts were of the commercialized, plastic variety, but who am I to complain? It was really quite generous, and the girls, of course, were thrilled.
And then, there is the dancing and singing around the Christmas tree. When I first read about this tradition, I said to Brett, “I bet this is old-fashioned and nobody does it anymore.” Oh, how mistaken I was! Most, if not all, Danish families do hold hands and dance (or walk) around the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve, while singing traditional carols and hymns. (I have found the Danes LOVE to sing, but this is another story.) Tradition is that on Christmas eve, children will be asked to leave the room and the adults will pull the Christmas tree out to the middle of the room (some light candles on the tree) and when the tree is ready, the children come back in the room and the singing and dancing begins! This is followed by opening gifts.
Here is a video of an exaggerated version of the romp around the tree, at the party we attended. Our girls are looking rather confused there in the back and holding on to each other for moral support, but they decide to follow Santa, despite the fact that he sounded like the Swedish Chef from the Muppets and they couldn’t understand a word of what he was saying.
Even with a slight language barrier, Christmas in Denmark is proving to be a cozy and oh, so very, festive experience. More to come.