A Danish Jul
Christmas is a special time in many countries but never more so than in Scandinavia.
Here is a taster of what makes my Danish Christmas so very special.
Christmas starts on 1st Dec - Many Danes celebrate Advent and have a special round wreath with four candles, one for each Sunday in December which only gets lit on those days. The wreath is often decorated with fir & berries.
A calendar candle with the numbers 1-24 gets lit everyday but care is taken to only burn one number at time and forget your tacky chocolate calendars, traditionally Danish children get a gift calendar, with 24 presents attached, home bought and wrapped, one for each day up until the 24th Dec.
There is also a Children’s Christmas special television series each year which is divided into 24 episodes and shows one each day up until Christmas Eve.
On 13th Dec Danish schoolchildren take part in The Santa Lucia tradition, celebrating the martyr Santa Lucia. The tradition originated in Sweden but was adopted by the Danes many years ago and feature a procession of girls and boys, the girls always dressed in long white robes, singing The Santa Lucia song. The Lucia Bride leads the procession and carries a wreath with 4 candles on her head.
As well as walking the corridors of schools the children often also go to old people homes and hospitals with their procession.
The picture below is of my own daughter when it was her turn last year to be the Lucia Bride.
The Danes love partaking in Christmas lunch parties during December, which feature traditional Danish faire as well as snaps and a variety of the special Danish Christmas beers produced by the breweries each year, like for example Tuborg’s ‘Julebryg’
A trip to cut and collect the Christmas tree is also a tradition that many families often do together with friends followed by a get-together afterwards with mulled wine and warm œbleskiver (Apple dumplings).
Danes love their ’Nisser’, little mythical creatures from Scandinavian folklore, these little creatures protect us from misfortune so we decorate our homes with lots of them during Christmas time.
We love baking lots of Christmas cookies in December, most which feature cinnamon, nutmeg or cloves, all lovely warming spices, the most traditional are Brunkager, Pebbernoedder & Vaniljekranse.
24th Dec - Christmas Eve is our main day of celebration
On this evening it is said that the animals can speak so we give them extra treats to make sure they don’t speak ill of us !!
Christmas Mass in Denmark
We like to wrap up warm and attend an early Christmas Mass at our local Church. This is more a get-together and about getting in the Christmas Spirit and singing carols than a religious event.
The Christmas tree
Our Christmas tree always have a Star at the top and is decorated with Danish flags, small music instruments, pine cones and plaited paper hearts which get filled with sweets. Traditionally we have real candles on the tree which give a special lovely atmosphere and glow but this is definitely not for the faint hearted so most probably use electric now. This picture is from Christmas 2014. My tree still always has decorations made and handed down by my maternal Danish grandmother, including walnut shells painted gold and with string attached to hang on the branches.
Roast pork is the most traditional faire on Christmas Eve but goose and duck are also common. We serve the pork with plenty of crackling, boiled potatoes, caramelized potatoes, red cabbage, Brussels sprouts and a lovely meaty/creamy gravy.
Dessert is a tasty rice pudding folded with whipped cream, full of chopped almond and served with a hot cherry sauce. There is always one whole almond added and the person who gets the almond gets a special gift. This is traditionally a marzipan pig.
Presents and dancing
Dinner is normally served quite early and after we all gather at the Christmas tree which has all the wrapped presents under it. We sing more hymns and carols, one child reads the nativity and we dance hand in hand around the lit tree whilst we sing. Then we open presents and eat sweets made from marzipan and soft nougat.
Christmas doesn’t end here though; we Danes love to eat and drink and there is always a big family Christmas lunch on Christmas day and often also the day after, with any leftovers and plenty of smørrebrød, beer and snaps.
Mala Cawasjee Nee